Shifts in Major Aid Program for Black Students

The National Merit Scholarship Program has announced that it is phasing out its National Achievement Scholarship Program, which has provided aid to black students since 1964. The National Merit Scholarship Program has been widely criticized for picking semifinalists for its program based on PSAT scores, and black students, on average, do not score as highly as white or Asian students on that test. The program announced that the program for black students -- after meeting commitments to current scholars -- would be transferred to the UNCF. That organization will run a new program to provide assistance to high-achieving college graduates from underrepresented groups.

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U.S. inspector general criticizes accreditor over competency-based education

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Education Department's Office of Inspector General criticizes a regional accreditor over its review of competency-based education programs, citing faculty role.

Financial need an aid priority for most states

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States are growing their need-based aid at a much faster rate than other types of aid.

Arne Duncan to Resign as Education Secretary

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will step down as the nation's top education official in December, an Education Department source confirmed Friday morning.

Duncan has overseen a department that has taken an activist role in higher education policy making, from revamping the student loan programs to aggressively cracking down on for-profit colleges and sexual assault to turning up the accountability pressures on colleges.

As has been true with many U.S. education secretaries, whose backgrounds have universally been in K-12 education, Duncan has sometimes not appeared to be the primary driver of the policy changes themselves.

Other news organizations report that President Obama plans to appoint John B. King Jr., the deputy secretary focused on elementary and secondary education, to replace Duncan. A news conference is scheduled for this afternoon to discuss the changes.

A more expansive article on Duncan's resignation will appear later on this site.

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U.S. Financial Aid Advisory Panel Apparently Terminated

The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which since 1986 has advised the Education Department and Congress on student aid matters, has apparently provided its last advice.

Congress failed to pass legislation by Wednesday's end of the 2015 fiscal year that would have extended the life of the panel. (The legislation would also have sustained the Perkins Loan program, which supports low-income students.) Congress specifically slipped the renewal of another federal higher ed panel, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, into a continuing resolution earlier this week, but did not do so for the financial aid committee.

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Obama administration backs easier bankruptcy path for private student loans

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Obama administration backs a legislative effort to make it easier for private student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy, a change long sought by consumer and student advocates.

Congress Lets Perkins Loan Program Lapse

The U.S. Senate failed to take action on a last-ditch effort to renew the federal Perkins Loan program, letting the program lapse.

Both houses of Congress needed to pass legislation renewing the program by Sept. 30, the last day of the 2015 fiscal year, and the House of Representatives did so on Tuesday.

But at the urging of Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican who has argued for the program's elimination as part of an effort to simplify and streamline the federal government’s student loan programs, the Senate did not follow suit.

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Student Loan Default Rate Drops

The proportion of student loan borrowers who defaulted on their debt within three years fell to 11.8 percent for those entering repayment in 2012, down sharply from 13.7 percent the year before, the U.S. Education Department announced today. Department officials credited the Obama administration's various efforts to protect borrowers, including its push to encourage borrowers to enter its income-based repayment program, for some of the decline in the default rate.

A list of institutions that could face the loss of eligibility for federal student aid programs because of their high default rates is below. The list contains no historically black colleges and universities, but the department appears not to have taken the extraordinary measures it took last year (when it adjusted the data of some institutions facing the loss of federal aid to protect them, drawing sharp criticism) once again. In a separate statement, the department said, “As of September 2015, all 101 eligible HBCUs have official … three-year cohort default rates that fall below regulatory thresholds,” and credited the historically black colleges with using “innovative approaches” to keeping their default rates down.

The cohort default rate, as this measure is known, has been the federal government's primary way of holding colleges accountable for how their students fare postgraduation, despite widespread dissatisfaction with the rigor of the default rate tool. The Education Department recently published data on the loan repayment rates of individual colleges' borrowers, which some see as a tougher and better way of gauging the fate of student loan borrowers.

Institutions subject to loss of aid:

  • Umpqua Community College, Oregon
  • Eastern West Virginia Community & Technical College
  • Ohio State College of Barber Styling, Ohio
  • Guti, the Premier Beauty and Wellness Academy, Florida
  • Capstone College, California
  • L T International Beauty School, Pennsylvania
  • Florida Barber Academy
  • Jay’s Technical Institute, Texas
  • Memphis Institute of Barbering, Tennessee
  • Northwest Career College, Nevada
  • Northwest Regional Technology Institute, Pennsylvania
  • Coast Career Institute, California
  • San Diego College, California
  • Profile Institute of Barber-Styling, Georgia
  • United Tribes Technical College, North Dakota
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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Eyes New Rules for Student Loan Servicers

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Armed with a new report outlining student loan servicing problems, the consumer bureau says it's exploring tougher new regulation of the industry.

Bill Targets For-Profit College Executives

A handful of Senate Democrats on Tuesday introduced new legislation that would give the U.S. Department of Education greater powers to hold the executives of for-profit colleges accountable for fraud committed by the institutions they run.

The bill -- which is sponsored by Democratic Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio -- calls for enhanced civil penalties against the executive officers of colleges that misrepresent information, such as job placement rates, to students.

It would allow the Education Department to hold college executives personally liable for any federal student aid funds that must be returned to the government because of a finding against the college. And the legislation would also bar the board members and executive officers of colleges against which the Education Department has taken an enforcement action from leading another college that receives federal aid.

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