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.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, speaking at Yale University forum on Tuesday, criticized that institution for how it has addressed sexual assault cases.
Responding to a question about how students should organize to fight racial, economic, and sexual inequalities, Carter said that Yale was one of several institutions that "has been identified by the Department of Education as being a problem" with regard to sexual assault cases.
He then cited a Huffington Postreport from last year that said the university in 2013 found six students guilty of "nonconsensual sex" but did not expel any of them.
"You can just warn a boy and chastise him. That doesn't help," Carter said. "Expulsion is a very difficult thing for universities to accept as a policy."
Yale President Peter Salovey, who was moderating the forum, said that the university was "working hard on this issue" and seeking student input. "I think our policies and procedures have changed over the last year or two," Salovey added.
(An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that President Carter said Yale was under federal investigation for its handling of sexual assault cases. In fact, Yale is not currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education for sexual assault. The university in 2012 entered into an agreement with the government to resolve a Title IX investigation relating to sexual discrimination.)
Submitted by Paul Fain on December 3, 2014 - 3:00am
Student-loan borrowing at public institutions has increased the most in states where government support for higher education has declined, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress. In states with the largest per-student decline in funding, for example, median student borrowing increased by $1,781 between 2008 and 2012. The center called for federal investment, matched by money from states, to help curb increasing student debt levels.
The U.S. Department of Education plans to explore new approaches to how it services federal student loans, a top official said Monday. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell, addressing a Federal Student Aid conference in Atlanta, suggested that the government may move away from its current system -- or at least elements of it -- of contracting with four companies to manage payments for the bulk of its federal student loan portfolio.
"Given our extensive experience with the current multi-servicer, multi-system, contract model, we are particularly interested in hearing about alternative approaches," Mitchell said in prepared remarks posted on the department's website. The department last week formally solicited public input on its loan servicing system.
He said that the department is considering stopping loan servicing companies -- like Navient (a spin-off of Sallie Mae), Nelnet, Great Lakes and Pheaa -- from promoting their own brands when they manage payments for federal loan borrowers.
The Education Department, which has been under fire from consumer groups, unions, other federal agencies, and some Senate Democrats over loan servicing issues, had previously defended its approach to managing payments for the growing share of borrowers who have federal direct loans.
James Runcie, the chief operating officer of the Federal Student Aid office, told Congressional lawmakers in March that the department was satisfied with the current model of having loan servicing companies compete among themselves for a share of federal loans.
Mitchell also said Monday that the department plans to establish in the coming months a new system for receiving consumer complaints. He said that officials would draw upon existing complaint systems at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Veterans Affairs.