Federal Policy & Reform
Today, the US Department of Education announced a critical error in the way it had previously been calculating repayment rates across the more than 4,150 institutions that receive federal loans each year. A coding error meant that many borrowers were incorrectly considered to be paying down their loans when in fact they were not making principal payments. As a result, many schools’ repayment rates are on average a third lower than originally reported.
The outgoing Obama administration placed for-profit colleges under a great deal of scrutiny. This includes gainful employment regulations that will require graduates of vocationally-oriented programs to meet debt-to-earnings requirements and borrower defense to repayment rules (which will likely be quickly abandoned by the Trump administration) designed to help students who feel they were defrauded by their college.
I examined data from the Department of Education between the 2007-08 and 2014-15 academic years to look at how many for-profit colleges are close to the 90 percent threshold. As the table below shows, a sizable percentage of for-profit colleges get between 80 percent and 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid. In 2007-08 (the last year before the Great Recession), 23 percent of colleges were in this category.
With just days remaining in office, the Obama administration is still leaving its regulatory footprint, this time by releasing new data that show that nearly all of the career programs running afoul of federal student debt-to-earnings regulations are for-profit colleges. Scrutiny of the for-profit sector has been one of the signature drives of the Obama administration. How these institutions fare under President-elect Trump’s White House could be a key issue for the next four years.
It’s shaping up to be a contentious year on the education beat, fueled in part by Donald Trump’s upset victory in the presidential election.
Kate Zernike, The New York Times’ national education reporter, discusses what’s ahead on the beat in 2017. How will President-elect Donald Trump translate his slim set of campaign promises on education into a larger and more detailed agenda? What do we know about the direction Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, will seek to take federal policy if she’s confirmed? Zernike also offers story ideas and suggestions for local and regional education reporters to consider in the new year.
What’s Next for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics?
A Q&A With Outgoing Executive Director Alejandra Ceja
Alejandra Ceja has been the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics since 2013 — a position she’ll give up at noon on Jan. 19, the day before the presidential inauguration. I recently sat down with her at the U.S. Department of Education to talk about the state of Latino education, the Initiative’s first 25 years, and what we can expect from the Initiative under the next administration.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length.
Veteran education reporters from the Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post discuss Betsy DeVos, the billionaire school choice advocate nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. David Jesse of the Detroit newspaper sheds light on DeVos’ Michigan track record on legislative causes, and what is known about her tactics and negotiating style. Plus, he explains how DeVos’ strong religious beliefs have influenced her policy agenda. Emma Brown of The Washington Post details why Trump’s proposal for $20 billion in school vouchers might be a tough sell, even to a Republican-controlled Congress. And she sheds light on the potential for the next administration to dismantle President Obama’s education initiatives, including scaling back the reach of the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department.
Benjamin Wermund of Politico discusses the uncertainties ahead for the nation’s colleges and universities following the presidential election. While Donald Trump has offered few specifics on education policy, his surrogates suggest he will reverse course on many initiatives put in place under President Obama. That could have a significant impact on areas like Title IX enforcement, federal funding for research, and more. Higher education leaders are also facing a surge in reports of hate crimes and harassment on campuses that were already struggling with issues of free speech and diversity.
At EWA’s forum on the 2016 election outcome, a panel of experts discuss the future of pre-K-12 education policy with members of the media.
- David Cleary, Office of Senator Lamar Alexander
- Vic Klatt, Penn Hill Group
- Alyson Klein, Education Week
- Bethany Little, EducationCounsel
- Erik Robelen, Education Writers Association
At EWA’s forum on the 2016 election outcome, a panel of experts discuss the future of higher education policy with members of the media.
- Lindsey Burke, Heritage Foundation
- Kevin Carey, New America
- David Cleary, Office of Senator Lamar Alexander
- Terry Hartle, American Council on Education
- Kenneth Terrell, Education Writers Association
With colleges and universities under increased pressure to ensure that more students earn degrees without amassing mountains of debt, journalists are at the forefront in examining how these institutions measure up. But there’s one major obstacle that both colleges and reporters share when it comes to making sense of how well these schools are meeting their goals: insufficient data.
The best data are often the hardest to parse. Sure, a neat snapshot of three or four variables is easy on the eyes, but to really dig deep and find important and surprising trends, you’ll probably have to wade through dozens of variables.
Or in the College Scorecard’s case, 2,000 variables.
Two numbers haunt the college landscape: $1.3 trillion and 40 percent.
The first is the ever-increasing debt Americans are shouldering to pay off the cost of a degree. But a growing chorus of experts believes that extraordinary sum obscures another crisis: For many, those debts wouldn’t be as devastating had they earned a degree. But only 40 percent of Americans complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.
The upshot is that millions of Americans earning meager wages are on the hook for thousands of dollars with almost nothing to show for it.
“There’s a lot of talk about the student debt crisis and I’m going to tell you that I don’t think there really is a student debt crisis,” said Debbie Cochrane, vice president at The Institute for College Access and Success. “What there are are multiple student debt crises.”
During the Democratic presidential primaries, the debate was over whether to make public colleges tuition-free or debt-free for students. Now that Democrat Hillary Clinton has picked up the tuition-free banner, how might her proposal affect higher education? Meanwhile, Republican nominee Donald Trump has suggested he might change the federal government’s role in lending to students altogether. Experts address what the candidates’ ideas could mean for colleges and students.
What will it take for the federal government to provide American Indian and Alaskan Native students with the schooling and services they’ve long been promised?
The Obama administration is rolling out an experimental program that will allow employers and training programs to partner with accredited universities to teach students work-related skills. This pilot will enable students to receive federal financial aid for programs such as coding boot camps that typically are ineligible for these funds.
In June, the U.S. Department of Education released a 530-page set of proposed regulations on the topic of ‘defense to repayment.’ Although this sounds like an obscure topic (and reading the document is no picnic!), these proposed rules, if adopted, could allow students to be able to have their student loan debt forgiven if colleges misrepresented themselves to students. The Department of Education is currently working through this process forformer Corinthian Colleges students, and tens of thousands more students could be eligible under the proposed rules.
For education reporters, coming up with fresh ideas for back-to-school stories is an annual ritual. And if you’re balancing the K-12 and higher education beats, it can be an even bigger challenge.