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Minority-serving colleges top peers in economic mobility, report finds

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Lower-income students who attend minority-serving colleges are more likely to move up in economic status, according to a new report, despite the fact that those colleges tend to have less money.

California Higher Ed Leaders Oppose PROSPER Act

The leaders of the three California public higher education systems on Monday issued a statement opposing the PROSPER Act, House Republicans' proposal to overhaul the Higher Education Act.

"Our public institutions of higher education are committed to providing affordable, accessible, and equitable pathways to success for our students and increasing the well-being of all Californians. HEA reauthorization provides an opportunity to develop federal education policies that promote these goals. Unfortunately, we have significant concerns with many of the changes proposed in the PROSPER Act, which we believe would undermine our efforts and increase college costs for California’s students and families," wrote University of California president Janet Napolitano, California State University chancellor Timothy White and California Community Colleges chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

The three cited elimination of federal student aid programs, termination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, reduced consumer protections and lower funding for minority-serving institutions among their objections.

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Higher Education Act

Report outlines flaws in aid award letters

Report finds many colleges leave out key points -- or present information in confusing ways. How many ways can you say "loan"?

Report on Confusion Created in Aid Award Letters

In a report today, New America and uAspire call for a new effort to standardize financial aid award letters to make them more transparent to college students and their families.

Researchers from the organization examined more than 500 award letters from colleges and universities and found they were inconsistent and often didn't offer financial aid sufficient to cover the cost of attendance.

Among the key findings from the analysis: award letters often use confusing jargon and terminology; more than a third did not include the complete cost of attendance; most letters fail to distinguish between different types of aid such as grants and loans; Parent PLUS loans are sometimes packaged misleadingly, making aid appear more generous; and about half of letters did not include clear information about what action to take on the award offers.

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Financial aid

GOP lawmaker and former community college leader weighs in on the endowment tax

A Republican member of the House education committee and former two-year-college leader explains why he wants to repeal the college endowment tax and also describes where higher education is falling short.

Walmart to Offer Debt-Free Degrees to Employees

Walmart employees will soon be able to earn degrees in business or supply-chain management for as little as $1 a day.

In partnership with education platform Guild Education, Walmart will offer its 1.4 million employees access to subsidized associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. Employees will also be able to convert completed job training into college credit.

The degrees will be offered online through the University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University -- nonprofit institutions that already work with Guild Education and employers such as Chipotle, Lowe’s and Lyft.

“Walmart is making a significant investment in its workforce that will not just help the company, but help shift how our society moves towards more affordable and accessible pathways for individuals to be recognized and rewarded for their work-based skills and knowledge,” Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, said in a press release.

Lumina will be evaluating the initiative to research and measure its impact and effectiveness.

This is not the first time that Walmart has partnered with universities to offer education opportunities to its employees. The company teamed up with the American Public University System in 2010.

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Mostly Positive Effects of a 'Last-Dollar' Scholarship

New research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia analyzes the impact of a scholarship offered by Rutgers University-Camden. The Bridging the Gap scholarship is a "last-dollar" financial aid program that grants mostly lower-income first-year undergraduate students from New Jersey a full or partial tuition discount after all need-based federal, state and institutional grants are applied. This form of aid is common among free college programs. But some experts prefer first-dollar versions, which issue scholarships before other forms of aid are counted.

The new study found largely positive impacts of the last-dollar approach by Rutgers. The scholarship substantially boosted enrollment of lower-income New Jersey students at the university. Students also reported less financial stress, reduced reliance on student loan debt and the ability to work fewer hours at jobs.

However, the researchers also said the "bureaucratic nature" of the financial aid system, including challenges with the program's implementation, was frustrating and sometimes discouraging for the scholarship's recipients.

"These challenges may have muted the program’s effect on persistence and credit completion for eligible lower-income students," the study said.

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Study: For-profits raise tuition as Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit grows

A new working paper finds that as Congress increased Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, for-profit colleges raised tuition.

New Accreditation Panel on Nonprofit Conversions

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which oversees the country's higher ed accrediting bodies, voted Thursday to have a subcommittee study oversight questions involved in for-profit colleges seeking to reclassify as nonprofit entities. 

The decision followed several hours of input from organizations critical of for-profits schools as well as representatives from the sector. Critics have argued institutions -- among them Ashford University, Grand Canyon University, and others -- have sought to reclassify their tax status so they can avoid scrutiny and regulation without fundamentally changing their governance structures.

Congressional Democrats had pressured NACIQI members to examine standards for the conversions as accreditors are one of several regulatory bodies that must approve the applications. 

"If nobody else is doing something, we need to figure out what we can do, if anything, to try to fix this — improve this situation," said John Etchemendy, a former Stanford University provost and NACIQI committee member. "If nothing else, its a consumer protection issue. It's a transparency issue. It's an integrity issue." 

Etchemendy though said the committee was not prepared to figure out what steps to take this week and proposed a subcommittee to make possible recommendations on the matter. 

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Western Governors' New Fund-Raising Arm for Scholarships

Western Governors University is a fully online, competency based institution that now enrolls about 100,000 students. The nonprofit on Thursday announced the creation of a new fund-raising arm that will seek to pay for scholarships for students to attend WGU and to "accelerate innovation on behalf of our students," Allison Barber, the chancellor of WGU Indiana, who will lead the new WGU Advancement, said in a web video.

The fund-raising organization will work with foundations, corporations, associations and individual donors to raise money, WGU said. Early supporters include the Strada Education Network and the Lumina Foundation.

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