Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 18, 2017

A bipartisan group of influential U.S. senators released a bill Monday that would overturn the ban on a federal student-level data system that would allow for the tracking of employment and graduation rates. A bipartisan companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives followed Tuesday.

The House version, introduced by Representatives Paul Mitchell, a Michigan Republican, and Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, is dubbed the College Transparency Act of 2017. It closely mirrors the Senate version, with the bill's sponsors saying it would help students and families with "actionable and customizable" information on student outcomes, while also securely protecting students' privacy. Some of the opposition to dropping the 2008 ban, from both sides of the aisle, is based on privacy concerns. The largest private college group is against this push for a federal data system, but public higher education groups back it.

“It has long been a priority of mine to ensure students and families have the necessary tools to make informed decisions about their future,” Mitchell said in a written statement. “As soon as I assumed office, I began working on legislation to increase transparency to enable students to make decisions that will put them on the path to success. This bill will streamline and update current data practices to arm students with information to make the best choices, while reducing bureaucratic burdens on universities.”

May 18, 2017

Racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented among higher education staff members and are on the losing end of a pay gap, according to a new survey from an association of higher education human resources professionals that covers staff age, gender, race, ethnicity, pay and tenure.

Only 29 percent of higher ed staff members are racial or ethnic minorities, CUPA-HR’s annual Staff in Higher Education Salary Survey found. Minority staff members are better represented in some types of positions than in others, holding about 40 percent of service and maintenance positions versus only 16 percent of skilled craft positions.

They also generally earn less than their white counterparts. The pay gap between minority and white staff members is largest among service and maintenance staff members -- minority service and maintenance staff members only earn 90 cents on the dollar compared to white staff members. A pay gap exists in all types of positions except for office and clerical positions. Asian staff members are paid at or above equity levels for all positions except for service and maintenance positions, however.

Women are paid less than men in nearly all types of staff positions, with the exception of office and clerical work. The largest gender pay gap exists among women and men service and maintenance workers. Women working in that area take home just 86 cents on the dollar in comparison to men.

Higher ed staff members collect annualized median pay of $35,000. Skilled craft workers collect the highest annualized median pay, $47,000. Service and maintenance workers have the lowest, $30,000.

Over all, the median tenure in higher ed staff positions is four years. Salaries are highest in the Northeast and lowest in the South. CUPA-HR also found a lack of young skilled craft workers.

The survey was based on data for 169,358 staff members at 737 higher ed institutions.

May 18, 2017

The U.S. is not adequately developing and sustaining a skilled technical work force, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The report includes recommendations for colleges on how they can improve education and training for this segment of workers, who include medical laboratory technicians, computer support specialists and installation and repair technicians. Gaps are particularly evident in health care and manufacturing, according to the report.

Community colleges and other institutions that offer credentials in these areas will need incentives to create more flexible and integrated programs, the report said, and to offer supportive services.

"To raise awareness of the value of and demand for skilled technical workers, the report recommends that an alliance of stakeholders -- industry, trade, academic, and civic associations and labor unions, in cooperation with the U.S. departments of Labor and Education -- organize a nationwide public-private communication campaign," the academies said in a written statement. "This campaign should be customized to recognize local variations in skilled technical work force education, training and labor market requirements."

May 18, 2017

More high school seniors had applied for federal student aid by this month than the previous year's seniors had by June 30 last year, the National College Access Network said Wednesday.

Data released this month by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid showed that 1.98 million high school seniors completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid by May 5, 2017. That was about 5,000 more than during the entire 2016 aid cycle.

"Meeting this benchmark eight weeks earlier than last year is a positive sign that the early FAFSA is working," said Carrie Warick, NCAN's director of policy and advocacy.

Last fall, the Department of Education moved the start of the financial aid application cycle from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1, partly with the hope of getting more students to apply for federal aid.

May 18, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Ali Haghani, professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Maryland, determines if school bus routes could be made more efficient. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 17, 2017

Voters in Bonneville County, Idaho, on Tuesday approved a measure to turn Eastern Idaho Technical College into a full community college, to be called the College of Eastern Idaho, The Post Register reported. The measure, which required a two-thirds majority to pass, received 71 percent of the vote. As a community college, Eastern Idaho will add general education programs and associate degree offerings that will provide transfer opportunities to four-year institutions.

May 17, 2017

Democrats in the House and Senate introduced new legislation Tuesday that would permanently index the value of the grant to inflation, while making funding for the program mandatory and expanding or reinstating access for a number of student groups.

Senators Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii and Patty Murray of Washington and Representatives Susan Davis of California and Bobby Scott of Virginia introduced the bill, the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act. Murray and Scott are the ranking Democrats on their chambers' respective education committees.

The senators say the Pell Grant would remain fixed at the current maximum of $5,920 in fiscal year 2018 without additional fixes, eroding the value of the grant. And they say making funding for the program mandatory, rather than discretionary, would protect it from cuts during spikes in demand. The bill would also extend access to Pell Grants to "high-quality, short-term" job-training programs, raise the income threshold for the grant, and increase lifetime eligibility to 14 semesters. It also would reinstate or expand access for defrauded students who make successful borrower-defense claims, Dreamers, incarcerated students and students with drug-related convictions.

While Pell Grants have received bipartisan support -- evidenced by the reinstatement of year-round Pell in the 2017 omnibus funding package -- the bill will likely struggle to get Republican support. It's part of a higher ed campaign House Democrats announced Monday focused on access, affordability and completion.

Democrats launched a similar campaign last year -- called In the Red -- that went nowhere.

May 17, 2017

A new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finds that more than 90 percent of defaulted student loan borrowers aren't enrolled in income-driven repayment plans within nine months of rehabilitating their debt. And half of those high-risk borrowers end up defaulting again within three years if not enrolled in income-driven repayment, the report finds.

The CFPB says administrative, policy and procedural obstacles prevent those borrowers from enrolling in more affordable repayment plans. And it says policy makers should re-examine the process for borrowers to transition from default to income-driven repayment as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

May 17, 2017

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton included a higher education budget bill in a spate of vetoes Monday, arguing the legislation does not spend enough on the state's universities and student aid while criticizing several other provisions.

Dayton, a Democrat, is embroiled in a budget standoff with Republican leaders in charge of the Minnesota Legislature. Minnesota faces a key budget deadline in less than a week, but Dayton decided to veto appropriations bills while warning Republicans not to embed policy changes in spending measures.

In a veto letter on the higher education bill, Dayton wrote that the Legislature funded less than 39 percent of his requested $318 million investment. He specifically called out smaller investments in need-based aid than he proposed. Dayton went on to call out a “lack of investment in core mission support” at the University of Minnesota and a lack of investment in campus support at Minnesota State. Further, Dayton criticized the Republican bill for setting tuition at Minnesota State instead of leaving tuition-setting powers in the hands of appointed trustees, which, he argued, would likely lead to layoffs, fewer course offerings and diminished support services.

The governor also took issue with provisions related to health training and cybersecurity, among others.

Republicans have said they are not willing to write a blank check to the governor without policy reforms and that inserting policy provisions in spending bills is not unusual, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

May 17, 2017

Today on the Academic Minute, Lorie Vanchena, associate professor in the department of Germanic languages and literatures at the University of Kansas, looks back at the Great War and the literature that described it. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.


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