Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 8, 2014

Davidson College announced Wednesday that it is ending free laundry service -- in which students could drop off dirty laundry and have it returned, clean and folded. The college has offered the service for decades but officials said that it makes more sense to spend the college's resources on academics. The Charlotte Observer reported that Davidson will save about $400,000 annually.

 

May 8, 2014

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)

3.86%

4.66%

Graduate Direct Loans

5.41%

6.21%

Direct PLUS Loans

(Grad PLUS & Parent PLUS)

6.41%

7.21%

 

May 8, 2014

Longwood University put on a graduation ceremony for one senior this week, ahead of this month's commencement, so her dying father could see his daughter graduate, WRIC News reported. President W. Taylor Reveley IV and other university officials put on their academic robes and regalia. Brittany Inge, a senior majoring in elementary and middle school education, put on her cap and gown for the ceremony. Her father has stage four lung cancer and has been told he has very limited time. “I could not ask for anything more," Inge said. "I’m forever grateful to all the Longwood staff who made today so special.”

May 8, 2014

Low-income community college students who transfer to highly selective four-year institutions can succeed academically if they receive adequate financial aid, according to an analysis by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's Community College Transfer Initiative. The foundation has funded transfer support efforts at 14 selective institutions during the past eight years. The analysis found that community college transfer students collectively maintained a 3.0 GPA while enrolled at four-year institutions, became campus leaders and made it to graduation.

May 7, 2014

College students fail to eat or exercise in ways that would reduce their chances of cancer later in life, according to a study by Northwestern and Northeastern Illinois University researchers. The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, found that 95 percent of college students fail to eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables (at least five servings a day), and more than 60 percent report not getting enough physical activity.

May 7, 2014

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. 

May 7, 2014

In today’s Academic Minute, King Davis, director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, discusses his research from the Central Lunatic Asylum for the Colored Insane. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
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May 7, 2014

Stanford University, which has the fourth-largest endowment of any American college, will stop directly investing in coal mining companies. The university announced its limited divestment plan Tuesday citing decades-old investment principles that tell Stanford’s trustees to make as much money as they can but also give trustees the option to avoid investing in companies that “create substantial social injury.” The burning of coal is considered a major contributor to global climate change.

Stanford’s trustees and an advisory panel concluded “coal is consistent with this policy given the current availability of alternatives to coal that have less harmful environmental impacts,” the university said.

Other universities, such as Harvard University, have resisted pressure to divest from fossil fuel stocks, citing their obligation to make money and what little effect their investment decisions might have. Stanford’s endowment of $18.6 billion in the 2013 budget year is just over half of Harvard’s. It’s not clear how much Stanford has invested in coal companies currently.

“Moving away from coal in the investment context is a small, but constructive, step while work continues, at Stanford and elsewhere, to develop broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future,” Stanford President John Hennessy said in a statement.

Stanford did not prevent itself from investing in other fossil fuel stocks, including oil and natural gas. The burning of both gas contributes, to varying degrees, in the greenhouse gas effect. Oil and natural gas stocks have risen substantially over the past several years at the same time coal stocks have plummeted. Stanford said the new policy applies to investments it manages directly but that it would also encourage its external money managers to divest from coal too.

May 7, 2014

Boston College is offering to return to the interview subjects oral history recordings that were made about "the Troubles," a period of intense protest and violence in Northern Ireland from the 1960s until the 1980s. British authorities (with backing from their U.S. counterparts) fought in U.S. federal court to obtain the recordings for use in possible prosecutions, and in the end obtained some recordings that many believe led to a recent detention for questioning. The use of oral history recordings in this way, in violation of confidentiality requirements made by researchers to the participants, has alarmed many scholars.

While Boston College was under court order to turn over some recordings, it currently is not under any such order. So the college issued this statement: "If Interviewees in the Belfast Project express their desire to have their interviews returned to them, Boston College will accommodate their request upon proper identification. Given that the litigation surrounding the subpoenas has concluded, we believe that it is the appropriate course of action to take at this time."

Chris Bray, a historian who written on the case (and criticized Boston College for not protecting the confidentiality of the recordings), said he believed the college's offer was unrealistic. Some of those recorded would be revealing their identities if they come forward to get the tapes, and the college could then be forced to reveal their identities, he said via email. "Since at least some of the interviews can't be safely returned to unidentified interviewees, and since BC can't guarantee that it will refuse to cooperate with future fishing expeditions in the collection, I think the collection should be immediately and entirely destroyed," he said.

 

May 7, 2014

With more than 500 member colleges, the Common Application remains a key force in admissions, even after taking a lot of hits in the last year for a botched launch of a new software system. But a competitor, the Universal College Application, is seeing growth. In the last year, as problems hit the Common Application, Universal added 12 new members, bringing its total to 43. Today, Universal is announcing six more members: Brandeis and Colgate Universities, the College of Mount Saint Vincent, the Universities of Chicago and Rochester, and Wilson College.

 

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