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Study finds differential tuition can influence enrollment levels

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In some fields, charging more discourages enrollments, especially of female and minority students, study finds.

Cost Estimate Threatens Student Loan Compromise

A tentative deal reached late Wednesday night to tie interest rates on federal student loans to the market seemed ready to collapse late Thursday, after the Congressional Budget Office estimated the compromise's costs at $22 billion over 10 years, The New York Times reported. The proposal worked out in Wednesday's compromise would tie interest rates on subsidized undergraduate Stafford loans to the yield on 10-year Treasury bills plus 1.8 percentage points (rates for graduate and PLUS loans would be slightly higher), and the rates for all loans would be capped. But the carefully arranged deal, in which Congressional Democrats gave the most ground, could be threatened by the higher-than-expected cost estimate, which would make the loans unprofitable for the government. “It’s going to be difficult to find a middle ground,” one Democratic aide told the Times.

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Senators reach long-term deal on student loan interest rates

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A bipartisan group agreed late Wednesday on a change to federal student loan programs, basing interest rates on the market but including a cap.

Senate Panel Seeks Increases in Pell Maximum and NIH Budget

A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday approved a fiscal year 2014 spending bill that supports the launch of a “Race to the Top” program focusing on college affordability and calls for a significant increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies bill set discretionary spending at $164.3 billion. The bill includes $400 million to support the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative. This is a noticeable difference from last year’s budget plan, which omitted the $1 billion the administration had requested for the initiative. The funding for the program will be an incentive for states to reduce college costs and improve academic outcomes. The subcommittee would also allocate $850 million for the TRIO programs, which help low-income, first generation college students prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education. 

The Senate’s bill would also provide $31 billion to the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $307 million from last year, to fund biomedical research. The funding would allow the NIH to allocate $40 million for the new Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Under the plan, the total maximum Pell Grant would rise by $140 to $5,785.

The House has not yet introduced its version of the appropriations bill. It is considered unlikely that the two bills will be reconciled and passed. The full appropriations committee will meet on Thursday.

No Resolution In Sight on Interest Rate

WASHINGTON -- Eight days after the interest rate on new, federally subsidized student loans increased to 6.8 percent, the two parties in Congress seemed further away than ever on a compromise that could retroactively undo the increase. A bipartisan coalition of Senate Republicans, Independents and Democrats have put forward a bill for market-based interest rates that has much in common with President Obama's plan, but the Senate Democratic leadership would rather extend the current 3.4 percent interest rate for another year -- a proposal that's a nonstarter with Republicans in the House and Senate. 

The Senate will vote on the one-year extension bill today.

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Benefits access program aids community college students

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A program is helping low-income students at seven community colleges discover new avenues of financial support, in hopes of increasing college completion.

British Study: Mismatch in Parents' Education/Jobs Level Affects Students' View of College

Students whose parents have university degrees but are working in jobs that don't typically require such a degree were likelier than their peers to question the value of applying to college, a new study of British college-aged youth finds. The study, conducted by Britain's Strategies Society Centre and funded by Universities UK and Pearson, compares the college-going aspirations and behavior of a group of academically qualified and interested British students who considered not applying to a university and those who never had any such hesitation. It is published in the wake of the British government's decision to significantly increase tuition levels.

The report provides a wealth of information about which factors are likeliest to deter students from considering enrolling and from ultimately doing so. In general, the data back up the conventional wisdom that students from economically disadvantaged families are more likely than their peers to consider not applying to attend a university. But while having a parent with a university education generally made students less likely to express concern about applying to college, that pattern did not hold true for those at lower socioeconomic levels.

“It seems that when young people weigh up the costs and benefits of higher education, the experience of their parents is paramount,” said James Lloyd, director of the Strategic Society Centre.

U. of California Abandons Large Hike in Graduate Tuition

The University of California has abandoned plans for large, widespread increases in graduate and professional school tuition, The Los Angeles Times reported. The original plan would have resulted in major increases for about 14,000 students. Now only about 800 students, primarily in nursing, will be affected. And those who still face an increase would see costs go up by about $619 a year, not the $2,700 originally planned. Governor Jerry Brown had strongly opposed the originally planned increases.

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Education Department Stands Firm on PLUS Criteria

WASHINGTON — After protests from historically black colleges that new underwriting standards for Parent PLUS loans have hurt their institutions, the Education Department has told colleges it will simplify the appeals process for students who are denied loans but stands by its new criteria. In a notice sent to institutions, the department announced it would create lists of applicants who are eligible to appeal loan denials and inform applicants by e-mail if they qualify. 

Since the department tightened underwriting standards in 2011, 400,000 parents have been denied loans. The denials have fallen disproportionately on historically black colleges, leaders of those institutions have argued in asking the Obama administration to reconsider.

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Oregon Considers Income-Based Tuition Repayment System

Lawmakers in Oregon have passed legislation authorizing a study and pilot of the idea of replacing tuition at public colleges and universities with commitments by students to repay a small percentage of future income to the state, The New York Times reported. In Oregon, a class at Portland State University did extensive research on the idea. The idea has also been much discussed (but without legislative action comparable to Oregon's) in California.

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