Federal Policy & Reform
When Yehimi Cambron crossed the U.S. border from Mexico with her parents, they told her she would not have documented legal status in this country. But as a third-grader, she had no concept of how that would affect her.
It wasn’t until she was 15 and denied a $50 prize in an art competition because she didn’t have a Social Security number that she grasped its meaning.
Do tests or high school grades better determine whether a student is ready for college-level math and reading? For public universities and community colleges, increasingly the answer is both – or no tests at all, reporters learned during a seminar hosted by the Education Writers Association in Los Angeles last month.
Jeb Bush & Higher-Education Reform: Forget ‘Free College’
Andrew Kelly and Jason Delisle for National Review
Federal higher-education policy is in shambles. The strategy of the past 40 years — to increase student aid, watch tuition rise, and increase student aid again — has reached a breaking point. Federal loans flow freely with few questions asked, giving colleges every incentive to raise tuition and enroll more students, but less reason to worry about whether those students learn anything. Tuition at the average public four-year college has nearly quadrupled since the early 1980s, pushing more students into debt.
Nearly everyone agrees that tuition tax benefits do little to expand college access. But the benefits are popular with the middle class, so policymakers won’t touch them. This brief by the New America Foundation examines who qualifies for the most generous benefit – The American Opportunity Tax Credit – and finds the biggest beneficiaries to be better-off students, and students attending for-profit colleges.
Income-based repayment plans are supposed to make student loan repayment more manageable for low-income borrowers. But critics say the programs offer a windfall to high-income, high-debt professionals, and encourage graduate schools to raise tuition. This paper by the American Enterprise Institute suggests steps to reduce this “moral hazard” and target the programs’ benefits to the neediest students.
Education reformers have long argued that more should be done to hold colleges accountable for the billions they receive in federal student aid. In Tough Love, Ed Trust proposes a system that would cut off aid to institutions with the lowest enrollment of low-income students (which it dubs “engines of inequality) and the worst graduation and loan- repayment rates (“dropout factories” and “diploma mills”).
President Obama’s revamped College Scorecard has been criticized for many things, not least the limitations of the data that underlie it. In this report, the former head of the Education Department’s statistical arm and another researcher find flaws with the Scorecard’s salary data and suggest some steps for fixing its shortcomings.
The College Board’s annual “Trends” reports are the go-to for statistics on student aid and college costs. The latest iteration of “Trends in Student Aid” shows that total student borrowing declined for a fourth straight year in 2014-2015, while grant aid continued to climb. Even so, borrowers continue to struggle with student debt, with nearly one in ten completers (and one in four drop-outs) defaulting within two years of entering repayment.
With the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act looming, stakeholders from all corners are offering lawmakers their wish lists. This white paper, by a broad coalition of stakeholders, calls for linking federal aid to student outcomes and creating a more “flexible” student aid system. It also calls for making college accreditation more transparent and rigorous, and creating “safe spaces for experimentation” with new models of quality assurance.
What new techniques and practices should higher education embrace to ensure that more students graduate? Join the Education Writers Association September 16–17 at Arizona State University to explore cutting-edge innovations that aim to address financial, academic, and social barriers. More on the seminar theme.
This annual seminar is one of the largest gatherings of journalists covering postsecondary education. Network with others covering this beat and step up your coverage for the upcoming academic year.