Submitted by Paul Fain on December 18, 2014 - 3:00am
A coalition of 46 student, consumer, veterans and civil rights groups on Wednesday wrote to the Obama Administration and U.S. Department of Education to oppose the proposed sale of 56 Corinthian Colleges' campuses to ECMC, a nonprofit student loan guarantee agency.
"The terms of the proposed sale to ECMC would not give students the choice of completing or a fresh start, while leaving the campuses in the hands of a troubled entity with no educational experience," the groups wrote. They called on the department to exercise more flexibility in allowing Corinthian students to seek loan discharges. The letter also suggests stricter terms for an ECMC deal, such as requiring that the campuses meet "gainful employment" regulations for seven years.
The sale, which department officials back, is expected to close in January.
The consumer bureau shut down one company and sued another over what it said were predatory practices amounting to a "scam." The feds say the companies tricked borrowers into buying services they could have received free.
The federal panel tasked with advising the U.S. Department of Education on accreditation issues on Thursday released a draft set of recommendations for changing accreditation during reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity has been working on an updated set of recommendations since earlier this year. The panel previously made a series of recommendations in 2011 and 2012, but the Education Department has asked members of the committee to update those documents.
“This is not a final document in any sense,” said Susan Phillips, who chairs the panel and is vice president for strategic partnerships of the State University of New York at Albany and senior vice president for academic affairs of the SUNY Health Science Center in Brooklyn. She said the panel would continue working on the recommendations with the goal of producing a more final product during its next meeting in June.
Among the ideas in the draft recommendations:
Convert all accrediting agencies into national accreditors and eliminate regionally focused ones.
Allow for alternative accrediting organizations.
Simplify the recognition process for accreditors by establishing common definitions across various different accrediting agencies
Allow NACIQI reviews to be focused on “the health and well-being and the quality of institutions of higher education and their affordability, rather than on technical compliance with the criteria for recognition.”
Give accrediting agencies greater authority to create different tiers of approval of institutions.
Require colleges to produce self-certified data on “key metrics of access, cost and student success” (such as dropout rate, student loan burdens, repayment rates, and job placement rates for vocational programs).
Establish a range of accreditation statutes that provide differential access to Title IV funds, which would move away from the current “all or nothing” system.
Submitted by Paul Fain on December 11, 2014 - 3:00am
A group of 13 Senate Democrats want the U.S. Department of Education to discharge federal student loans for some current and former students of Corinthian Colleges. In a letter to Arne Duncan, the Senators urged immediate discharges for any borrowers who are covered by lawsuits filed by federal and state agencies against the troubled for-profit chain, which is being dismantled.
The group, which includes Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the department has the legal authority to forgive loans when students have legal claims against their colleges. They said lawsuits in California and Massachusetts directly relate to lending to Corinthian students, as well as to the education they received.
Kent Jenkins, a spokesman for Corinthian, said it would be unjust for the federal government to act on unproven allegations that are being contested in court. "Their letter argues that court is an unnecessary formality," he said in a written statement, "and its disregard for basic fairness and due process is deeply troubling."
Obama administration clarifies that young people in juvenile detention facilities are eligible for Pell Grants, a move that advocates say will help ease offenders' transition out of the the criminal justice system.
With the country’s focus on college access and success, policy leaders are taking a close look at the Pell grant program, which is our country’s principal college financial aid program. This issue is especially timely with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act on the horizon. One policy expert, Complete College America, has recommended moving Pell Grant eligibility for full-time status from a required course load of 12 credit hours to 15.
In a research brief by Complete College America called “The Power of 15 Credits,” the group makes a good case (citing data on first-time enrollees) that the larger credit load does, indeed, have an impact -- and improved students’ chances of earning a degree.
But is it that true for everyone?
What about the nontraditional or adult learner? Only 16 percent of higher education enrollments are 18- to 22-year-old full-time undergraduate students residing on campus. Adult students over 25 years old make up 38 percent of the college population. For these adult students, a 15 credit-hour load per semester is not realistic given current student supports.
Many of these students are returning adults with some college, but no degree. They are often juggling full-time jobs and family obligations that they must balance against their dreams of a college degree. In fact, almost a third of college students are working full-time. Should all these students be required to quit their jobs and take on more debt than what they already have so they can take 15 hours of classes? Requiring them to take 15 hours might cause them to give up their studies altogether.
Promoting the 15 hours per semester message for all students comes with a real risk. Most jobs of the future will require workers to possess postsecondary credentials. If we insist on requiring 15 credits for financial aid to the 80 million working adults who do not yet have a degree, we could seriously damage our nation’s workforce productivity by cutting off access to education and training for low-income workers. Instead of creating more obstacles, we should be looking for ways to address the challenges already facing adult students by:
Increasing financial aid support to reduce the need to work full-time to cover living expenses
Including in eligible expenses under Pell grants innovative approaches that help adults accelerate their path to a degree or credential
Providing incentives for adults to maintain their momentum over a longer time to degree
Encouraging institutions to structure their programs to better serve adults
At the end of the day, we can all agree on the importance of having a college education. We can also agree that having a more educated population is an overall advantage for our country. However, we cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to the number of semester hours students should take. While encouraging students to finish their studies as soon as possible, we should also be finding ways to promote success at a pace that is reasonable for them.
Pamela Tate is president and CEO of Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.