Higher Ed Lobby: Congress Should Address Athlete-Union Issue

The American Council on Education, the umbrella lobbying organization for colleges and universities, on Wednesday said that allowing college athletes to unionize would produce a litany of bad consequences.

In a letter to Representative John Kline, the Republican who chairs the House education committee, Molly Corbett Broad, the group’s president, took issue with a decision last month by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board to classify Northwestern University football players as employees.

Broad said that such an issue should be addressed by Congress rather than be decided by an administrative agency. Her letter came as Kline, who has been critical of the NLRB decision, is set to hold a hearing today billed as an inquiry into allowing “big labor on college campuses.”

Broad also made the case against allowing athletes to unionize by citing “a range of negative and troubling consequences” that would flow from such a decision. Athletic scholarships would become taxable income under the Internal Revenue Code, and would therefore potentially cost athletes money, she said. In addition, if college athletes were able to collectively bargain with their colleges, such negotiations would “undermine the collegial, academic culture” on campuses. And, if college athletic unions were successful in increasing the compensation of their members, the reallocation of resources “would jeopardize institutions’ ability to offer other sports and the educational opportunities they provide to male and female athletes who may not receive athletic scholarships,” the letter said.

Proponents of letting college athletes unionize have also been taking their case to Capitol Hill in recent months. The College Athletes Players Association, which represents the Northwestern players, has been holding meetings with lawmakers, seeking to garner support and fend off any legislative attempt to stop their organizing efforts.   

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Interest Rates on Federal Student Loans Set to Rise

The cost of borrowing money from the federal government to pay for college will increase in the coming academic year.

Interest rates on most federal student loans are now set to rise following Wednesday’s sale of 10-year Treasury notes, the government debt to which rates are tied.

The interest rate on new loans for undergraduate students will increase to 4.66 percent, up from the current 3.86 percent. The cost of new direct loans for graduate students will jump to 6.21 percent from the current 5.41 percent.

A bipartisan accord struck in Congress last year pegged the interest rates on federal student loans to the government’s borrowing cost. The government now sets student loan interest rates each year based on the last auction of Treasury 10-year notes prior to June 1.

Loans disbursed starting July 1 will reflect the new rates, which are fixed for the term of the loans. The interest rates on existing federal direct loans are not affected by the changes, though some Democrats in Congress this week said they were pushing legislation that would allow borrowers to refinance their existing loans at current rates.

The following are current and future rates for student loans issued by the U.S. government:


Current-Year Rate

(2013-2014 AY)

New Rate

(2014-2015 AY)

Undergraduate Direct Loans

(Subsidized & Unsubsidized)



Graduate Direct Loans



Direct PLUS Loans

(Grad PLUS & Parent PLUS)




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Democrats Propose Student Loan Relief Bill

Congressional Democrats on Tuesday announced legislation to allow existing student loan borrowers to refinance their debt at lower interest rates.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and 22 of her Democratic colleagues introduced a bill that would let borrowers who took out both federal and private loans before 2013 to refinance that debt at the current interest rate on federal student loans. “Exploding student debt is crushing young people and dragging down our economy,” Warren said in a statement. “Allowing students to refinance their loans would put money back in the pockets of people who invested in their education.”

Representatives George Miller of California and John Tierney of Massachusetts plan to introduce identical legislation in the House. The refinancing program would be paid for under the Democrats’ proposal by enacting the so-called “Buffett Rule,” which would end some tax breaks for millionaires. That’s likely to face stiff opposition among Republicans.

The proposal is part of a broader election-year effort by Democrats to focus on college affordability and rising student loan debt. Other proposals by Senate Democrats would seek to hold colleges more responsible for student loan defaults.  

Under a bipartisan agreement reached last year, interest rates on federal loans are now tied to Treasury notes. For the current academic year, interest rates were set at 3.86 percent for undergraduates and 5.41 for graduate students. The Congressional Budget Office projects that those rates will increase for the coming academic year to 5.09 percent and 6.64 percent, respectively. The rates will be officially set after a Treasury note auction this week. 

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Tufts Recommits to Title IX Settlement

After withdrawing last week from a signed agreement with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to resolve a Title IX complaint, Tufts University has recommitted to the agreement, a spokeswoman confirmed on Friday.

“We consider the signed agreement to be in effect,” Kimberly M. Thurler, a university spokeswoman, said in an email.

The university had “revoked” its signature on the agreement on April 26 -- nine days after first signing it -- once the OCR said it was going to find the university’s current policies out of compliance.

University officials said they were “surprised and disappointed” in that finding and that they had signed the agreement under the pretense that the OCR had only determined a previous violation of Title IX, not a current issue of noncompliance.

That led the OCR to take the unusual step of warning the university that it might have sought to terminate federal funding to the institution if it did not resolve the issue within 60 days.

More than 100 students rallied on Thursday to protest Tufts’ decision to withdraw from the agreement.

Following that rally, the university said in a statement Thursday that it acknowledged the OCR’s position that the university had breached its agreement by withdrawing from it.   

The university further said it had “had productive conversations with OCR regarding the issue of Title IX compliance” and that it expected “those conversations will move toward a successful conclusion in the very near future, well within the sixty-day period that has been stipulated.”

Anthony P. Monaco, the university’s president, will travel to Washington next week to discuss the university’s Title IX compliance issues with OCR officials in person, Thurler said.

The university also said that, in spite of its disagreement with the OCR it was pushing ahead, on a voluntary basis, with an array of projects aimed at combating sexual assault on the campus. One element of the OCR agreement that was unusual was monetary compensation to the female student who filed the Title IX complaint that alleged the university mishandled her sexual assault case, which started in 2010.  

The lawyer representing that student, Colby Bruno of the Victim Rights Law Center, said in an interview this week that monetary compensation mentioned in the OCR agreement was governed by a private arrangement the university previously struck with her client. It was therefore not affected by the university’s dust up with the OCR last week, she said.

The OCR’s finding that Tufts’ current policies are out of compliance came last week as the Obama administration promoted its efforts to push colleges to clamp down on sexual assaults. In addition to urging colleges to do more on the issue, the administration also publicly named, for the first time, all of the 55 colleges that the Education Department is probing for their handling of sexual assault cases.

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Republicans spar with administration over gainful employment and college ratings

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Arne Duncan goes to Capitol Hill and gets an earful from House Republicans on gainful employment, the college ratings system and state authorization.

Virginia to Give Some Undocumented Immigrants State Student Aid

Attorney General Mark Herring of Virginia announced on Tuesday that under state law, Virginia residents who qualify for the federal government's "deferred action" program for immigrants without legal documentation can qualify for state financial aid. The attorney general's announcement, which his office made in Hindi and Korean as well as Spanish and English, comes weeks after the state's legislature rejected a bill that would have established a state "Dream Act," won support from Gov. Terry McAuliffe but some criticism from Republicans in the state.

Nearly 20 states have established some sort of tuition equity for undocumented immigrants.


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Obama administration will move ahead with controversial new rules on teacher preparation programs

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Obama administration officials say they are moving ahead with a controversial proposal to more tightly regulate programs that educate teachers.

Congressional Democrats Call for Tighter Debit Card Rules

Two dozen Democratic members of Congress on Wednesday called on the Education Department to enact tighter regulations on campus debit cards. In a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the lawmakers urged the department to create rules that would prohibit any college-affiliated debit cards that students use to access federal student aid from charging fees. They also urged the department to enact a ban on revenue-sharing arrangements between debit card providers and colleges.

A negotiated rule making panel is meeting in Washington this week for the second of four scheduled sessions aimed at hammering out rules on campus debit cards, among other issues.  If the panel does not come to unanimous agreement on the package of rules, the Education Department is free to proceed with new regulations on its own. 

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College Loans/Costs Top Money Issue for Young Adults

A new poll by Gallup has found that paying for college or paying student loans is the top financial problem for adults who are 18-29 years old, with 21 percent citing the issue. That issue beats out lack of money/low wages (15 percent) and housing costs (14 percent). Paying for college or students was also the top issue cited by those 30 to 49 years old, but the percentage citing the issue was smaller (14 percent).

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Consumer Protection Bureau says some private loan borrowers face co-signer issues

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Federal officials say that some lenders, when a student's loan cosigner dies, declare an automatic default -- with no chance for the student to pay off what is owed.


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