Higher Education Quick Takes
Capella University has received approval from its regional accreditor to proceed with a pilot program in competency-based education that does not rely on the credit hour standard, an approach called "direct assessment." The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools approved the for-profit institution's "FlexPath" bachelor of science in business and master of business administration. University officials said the direct assessment tracks could reduce the cost of a degree and the time needed to complete it.
WASHINGTON -- The fight over student loan interest rates, which will double to 6.8 percent on federally subsidized Stafford loans on July 1 if Congress doesn't act, grew messier on Wednesday with a promise from the Obama administration to veto a House of Representatives plan for a long-term change to interest rates. The White House, Congressional Republicans and Congressional Democrats have now offered widely divergent plans to avert the rate hike. The Obama administration favors a long-term fix that would base interest rates for student loans on the government's cost of borrowing, while Congressional Democrats want to extend the current interest rate for a year or two in order to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
Like the Obama administration's plan, the House Republican plan called for basing the interest rate on student loans on the 10-year yield on U.S. Treasury bonds. But the House Republican plan would allow rates to vary from year to year over the life of the loan. (Senate Republicans introduced a plan closer to the administration's: rates would vary from year to year for new loans, but they'd be fixed over the life of the loan, like a traditional mortgage.) The truly variable rate was unacceptable, the White House said in a policy statement Wednesday. The administration is also concerned that the plan doesn't provide lower interest rates for subsidized student loan borrowers, who are financially needy, and that it doesn't expand income-based repayment programs. If the bill passes in its current form, senior advisers would advise the president to veto it.
The House is expected to consider the bill today.
A Dallas woman who has enrolled in and dropped out of 13 colleges since 2009 -- regularly applying for and keeping federal financial aid -- was indicted Tuesday on six counts of financial aid fraud, The Dallas Morning News reported. When some of the colleges asked her to return aid funds, she refused, and when one college cut off her aid, she filed an appeal.
The U.S. Education Department today published its annual compendium of all the data you'd want to know about American education: "The Condition of Education 2013." The report, published by the National Center for Education Statistics, includes special focus sections on the employment rates of young adults (noting that those with bachelor's degree are far likelier than high school graduates to be employed) and on various aspects of student debt.
Students, joined by civil rights lawyer Gloria Allred, on Wednesday filed complaints against Dartmouth and Swarthmore Colleges, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California over their handling of complaints of sexual assaults, The Los Angeles Times reported. The complaints -- filed with the U.S. Department of Education -- charge that the institutions have failed to adequately investigate reports of sexual assault or to accurate report such incidents as required by federal law. The charges are similar to those made recently with the Education Department about Occidental College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. College officials, while acknowledging periodic missteps, have generally said that they make every effort to comply with the relevant laws.
The University of Minnesota at Duluth has fired Rod Raymond as wellness director over numerous charges that he denies, The Duluth News Tribune reported. During the last four years, two students filed sexual harassment complaints against Raymond and he was facing other, unspecified charges. A university statement said that he was dismissed for, among other things, “violation of the Regent’s Policy on Nepotism and Personal Relationships;" “inappropriate sexual conduct with a UMD student on university premises and during work hours,” and "untruthfulness during an Office of Equal Opportunity investigation." Raymond has denied all charges, and vowed to challenge his dismissal.
The University of Georgia will soon begin offering “soft benefits” – voluntary dental, vision and life insurance – to domestic partners of employees, it announced this week. Approximately 35 percent of the 150 couples to apply for the benefits are same-sex, a university spokesman said. Although law and policy prohibit state money from funding domestic partner benefits in Georgia, the extension of voluntary, employee-paid soft benefits to domestic partners of employees of state institutions, including Georgia State University and Georgia Institute of Technology, dates back to 2002. "The majority of our peers do it, and it's a competitive matter; it's the ability to compete for talent," said Tom Jackson, vice president for public affairs at University of Georgia. The decision followed a recent vote by the University Council to extend full benefits to domestic partners. In a statement, President Michael Adams said that offering full benefits to domestic partners using private funds "will, unfortunately, require further study."
The number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities was 1.6 percent lower in 2011-12 than it was the year before, but the number of degrees conferred by those institutions was up 5.1 percent, new data from the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics shows. The statistics, published in a report that also presents data on tuition levels, show that colleges that award federal financial aid enrolled a total unduplicated headcount of about 29 million students in 2011-12, down from more than 29.5 million in 2010-11. The biggest drops came among public two-year (down about 250,000 students) and private for-profit (about 200,000 students) colleges, with public four-year universities gaining about 100,000 students and private four-year colleges up slightly. The declines for men and women were roughly proportional.
But despite the smaller pool of students, degree completion increased. The colleges awarded slightly more than 1 million associate degrees (nearly 8 percent more than in 2010-11), and nearly 1.8 million bachelor's degrees, 4.3 percent more than the year before.