Obama Calls for Delaying Sequester

Mandatory cuts to domestic and defense spending are scheduled to take place March 1, but President Obama called on Congress to postpone the cuts Tuesday with a "smaller package of tax cuts and spending changes." The large-scale mandatory cuts, known as sequestration, were originally scheduled to take effect at the beginning of this year, but were postponed as part of the year-end tax deal.

Obama did not specify what types of cuts he'd like to see. Several higher education programs (although not the Pell Grant) would see cuts of 5.1 percent should the across-the-board spending adjustments take effect, and colleges report that federal research funding has already slowed as a result.

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Study: Lack of Aid Deterred College-Going By Students With Drug Offenses

A federal law barring the awarding of federal financial aid to students with drug convictions negatively affected the college-going rates of affected students, in many cases delaying their enrollment in college after high school and in other cases appearing to deter enrollment altogether, a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes. The researchers, from Cornell University, use evidence from the temporary ban on aid for those with drug offenses to make the case that "eligibility for federal financial aid strongly impacts college investment decisions."




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Florida's Top Court Backs Legislature's Authority to Set Tuition

Florida's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the state Constitution gives legislators ultimate authority to set tuition, presumably ending a six-year legal fight over whether that authority lay instead with the state's higher education governing board.

The former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, along with other politicians and some university leaders in the state, had argued that a 2002 constitutional amendment creating a statewide Board of Governors transferred tuition-setting power to the new body. (They believed the state's major public universities were underpriced on national terms and viewed legislators as unwilling to raise tuition.) A judge embraced their legal arguments early in 2011, but a state appeals court overturned that ruling later that year.

In its decision Thursday, the state Supreme Court backed the appeals court's ruling. "Nothing within the language of [the Constitutional amendment] indicates an intent to transfer this quintessentially legislative power to the Board of Governors," the high court's ruling said. "Accordingly, we conclude that the challenged statutes by which the Legislature has exercised control over these funds are facially constitutional."

The legal battling may be over, but the fight over tuition-setting continues. Legislators have proposed (and continue to propose) bills that would allow the University of Florida and Florida State University to raise tuition significantly, while Governor Rick Scott has not only rebuffed those but argued for lowering tuition rates.

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New America paper on financial aid calls for changes to loans, Pell Grant, tax credits

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The latest white paper in Gates-funded effort to rethink financial aid calls for a shored-up Pell Grant, streamlined student loans and the end of higher education tax credits.

As Congress prepares to take on immigration, DREAM advocates are hopeful

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President Obama is poised to propose immigration legislation, some of which has big implications for higher education.

ITT Tech Expands Scholarships

ITT Technical Institute is the latest for-profit higher education provider to go big with scholarships. The institute's holding company announced in an earnings call on Thursday that it hopes to expand a pilot program to all of its campuses by the end of the year. Company officials said early returns showed that discounting tuition has had a positive impact on student enrollment. The scholarship reduces net tuition to $28,000 from $44,000, according to a written statement from Trace Urdan, an analyst with Wells Fargo Securities.

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Study examines what works and doesn't in student aid policies

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Drawing on 50 years of studies, two economists urge policy makers to simplify delivery and design and link aid to performance in college -- conclusions other scholars challenge.

Plea to President Obama to help the poor afford college (essay)

The Honorable Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C.  20500

Dear Mr President:

Abolition.  Emancipation. 

I hereby enter these words into the public debate for your second term.  Whatever you say later today in your own Second Inaugural, you have my word that I will be loud and relentless with these words during your second term:  Abolition. Emancipation.   

Why? By my count, our country has more Americans enslaved in your presidency than the 4 million slaves counted in the 1860 U.S. Census.  I am looking at the 9.4 million students on Pell Grants, with little hope of an education even close in quality to yours at Columbia and Harvard or mine at Williams and Yale. 

My outrageous analogy follows the federal math no one has any plans to change.  This nation first counted slaves as three-fifths of a person. That’s 60 percent. The maximum Pell Grant for these students is $5,500, while the federal subsidies to all undergraduates at your Columbia and my Williams are often five times that – two-fifths.  In federal tax benefits alone, Mr. President, every undergraduate at Columbia and Williams receives benefits ranging from $15,000 to $35,000 depending on your assumptions.  For here I’ll pick $25,000 and call it two-fifths. 

As the start of my “relentless” campaign I repeat:  No one has any plans to change this situation in the most basic need for a just society:  education. No one has any plans, even though everyone in the chambers and offices behind you this morning knows the outcome for these people and for the nation of this plan. 

As the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, the chains are gone. Enslavement remains, as death by poverty. You and I both know that these students, working 30 hours a week and more in unsteady jobs and raising families, have little hope of graduating. 

What’s my evidence for the outcome? I don’t know what you were doing last Monday.  I spent from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. setting up and volunteering at a food bank at Bunker Hill Community College, a place filled with these Pell Grant students.  Mr. President, these students have little to eat.  These students are on food stamps.  Our Massachusetts governor, who knows better, was on the campus for a MOOC press conference with Harvard and MIT on the day of our December food bank.  He wouldn’t visit the food bank.  You and I both know, Mr. President, that failing to look at hunger will not eliminate the hunger. 

Amid the Oscar din for "Lincoln," let’s admit that the 13th Amendment has failed.  I refer to the Constitutional prohibition of “involuntary servitude” and the legal provisions today that exempt student loans from bankruptcy laws. 

Preposterous?  Not at all in the 21st century.  Why is the wealthiest county on Earth allowing powerful corporations to scam teenagers and others who, remember, don’t have a college education yet, into such financial shackles? 

Let’s look at Section 1.  “Nether slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

You’re a lawyer, Mr. President. Declare the student-loan bankruptcy trap unconstitutional.  Of course informed citizens have a responsibility to repay loans.  The bankers who made these loans and the college CFOs who cashed the checks are the one to answer for these bad debts, not the entrapped students.  President Lincoln didn’t know if the Emancipation Proclamation would stick.  You may just win on this one. 

Are my arguments here preposterous? Outrageous? How I wish they were, Mr. President. How I wish they were. I think you realize, Mr. President, that things for millions in the U.S. today are this bad for millions. I’m a sometime teacher, sir, and one of the nation’s leading obscure columnists.  I can only proclaim, not issue proclamations. 

With words – abolition, emancipation, enslavement – I sometimes can make people stop and think.  That the 9.4 million students on Pell Grants, most of whom may have little to eat today, live in a building rather than a shanty in Nairobi’s Kibera makes no one a hero. 

Are my arguments preposterous? May I send you a copy of The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander?  We, the people, are failing on the 13th Amendment.  This book is about the massive prison population in the U.S.  That’s a group intertwined with poor college students at food banks.  As Alexander writes, “We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” 

Mr. President, the Department of Justice is considering how private colleges can meet together to discuss, without violating antitrust laws, what the colleges believe are constraints in awarding need-based aid.  Listen to Alexander: “What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it.”  Mr. President, would you wake up Attorney General Holder? 

“Need-based aid” is just the new Jim Crow language trick.  “Need-based aid” means giving money to blacks, other minorities, and the poor in general. Absence of financial aid is among the final barriers to college.  Have you seen The Central Park Five?  About the fate of the five young men falsely convicted of rape in New York?

I have an idea for you:  Lead the next March on Washington. Why can’t the President lead the march? Tactics so far have done little to move Congress. 

As you look down the Mall today toward the Lincoln Memorial, imagine crowds even bigger than at your first inauguration -- students in a march on Washington led by you.  Pick a day for the march when Congress is in session.  In your inspiring way, ask the students to turn around, toward the Capitol.  Ask them to march on Congress to demand that every student be entitled receive the same federal aid for college.  If the Pell Grant has to stay at $5,500, so be it.  No more federal subsidies via tax deductions for skyboxes, indoor golf nets or new buildings. (Click here for why.)

Have the marchers demand from Congress that federal law includes student loans in federal bankruptcy protection.  Add on that students on Pell Grants receive federal free and reduced lunch, too, for the duration of your second term?

Abolition.  Emancipation.  Mr. President, that’s the job of your second term.

Wick Sloane writes the Devil's Workshop column for Inside Higher Ed. Follow him on Twitter: @WickSloane.

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Union College offers a free last semester to increase retention rate

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Union College in Kentucky typically loses half its freshman class before the second year begins, so its new president has made students a promise: If they stay, work hard, and get involved, they won't see a bill for their last semester before graduation.

California Republicans Want 7-Year Tuition Freeze

In a major victory for California public higher education, voters in November approved a plan by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, to raise some taxes for seven years. Brown and others campaigned for the tax increase by saying that it would allow the public universities to avoid tuition increases. Republicans have now responded by proposing legislation that would freeze tuition for seven years, the duration of the tax increases, The Los Angeles Times reported. While unlikely to pass, the proposal is seen as a way to shape the debate over spending priorities in the state, the newspaper said.



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