Indiana may tie college aid to state exam

Students will have to pass Indiana’s graduation exam to qualify for state-funded college aid under a bill moving through the Legislature, reports the Indianapolis Star. Those at risk of failing the state exam will be offered remedial courses in 12th grade.

Students can graduate without passing the exam by getting a waiver. More than a quarter of Indianapolis Public Schools graduates needed waivers to earn diplomas last year, reports the Star.

“The bill is intended to break a cycle in which a student achieves a high school diploma, enrolls in a college, is given a placement exam and then told they need remediation,” said Dan Clark, executive director of the Education Roundtable. “Then they must use their financial aid to pay for it.”

. . .  “Sometimes they go into debt to pay for these courses,” Clark said, “and the evidence is clear very few students who have this cycle ever graduate from an institution of higher education.”

Older students enrolling in college would have to pass placement tests to qualify for state aid under the bill. “I’m worried that this is one more road block,”said Jeff Terp, a senior vice president at Ivy Tech Community College.

The bill’s advocates say students should catch up on basic skills in high school or in adult education courses, rather than taking remedial courses in college.

37 million college dropouts

Some 37 million Americans have “some college” but no credential. What would help more reach their goals — and boost the economy?

Financial aid should be redesigned to help needy students, says the National College Access Network.  That means dumping subsidized loans and tax credits for families earning $100,000 or more. The savings could fund Pell Grants for low- and moderate-income students.

$100,000 in debt for a dream college?

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, writes a graduating senior at New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High. After earning top grades, test scores, etc., the well-rounded student got into three dream universities — but the financial-aid offers were meager. She’d have to borrow $100,000 over four years or ask her near-retirement-aged parents to drain their life savings.

. . .  I could either take on the debt for a brand-name school and pray to the deities of the job market that I’d get a job lucrative enough to pay it off (which is what many of my peers are doing, I learned), or I could graduate debt-free from a less prestigious school and hope that I’d get hired despite my not-nearly-as-impressive-but-decent undergraduate credentials.

She’s heading for a state university, where she plans to graduate at the top of her class with minimal debt, get a good job and start saving so her kids can go where ever they want.

She’s bitter about having to say no to her dream schools, but she’ll enjoy the freedom to do the work she wants. It’s no fun being a debt slave.

If your parents can’t afford private-college tuition, but are paying your state university bills, don’t whine about it, advises Ann Althouse. “The culture has truly tipped, with everyone feeling entitled to things they can’t pay for and assuming somebody else over there will pay somehow, some time.”

Dem platform lauds new standards, skips RTTT

The Democratic platform hails Common Core State Standards, allegedly a bipartisan state initiative, as an Obama administration achievement, notes Ed Week’s Politics K-12. Race to the Top, the administration’s signature education initiative, isn’t mentioned by name.

Republican convention-goers already fear “Obama Core” is “being used by the president to take over the nation’s educational system,” writes Andrew Ujufusa.

Not surprisingly, the platform praises teachers.

The party notes that Obama has acted to “save” more than 400,000 educator jobs, and that he wants to prevent even more layoffs while also “rewarding great teachers.” This is an apparent reference to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (known as the stimulus) as well as the Education Jobs Fund.

On the subject of evaluations, it tip-toes around sensitive issues (read: low-performing teachers who get fired) with the following language: “We also believe in carefully crafted evaluation systems that give struggling teachers a chance to succeed and protect due process if another teacher has to be put in the classroom.”

The platform also praises the government takeover of college loans, the increase in Pell Grants for low- and moderate-income students and Obama’s threat to reduce their federal aid to colleges that fail to control costs and double work-study jobs.

Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau, who didn’t apply for a NCLB waiver, was given a speaking slot. Though otherwise obscure, she’s a Native American.

Ed Week rounds up the education talk in the first-night speeches. President Obama is responsible for a low-performing Massachusetts K-8 school lengthening its school day (state funding) and using experiential learning, said Gov. Deval Patrick.

“Today’s Republicans and their nominee for president tell us that those 1st graders are on their own: on their own to deal with poverty, with ill-prepared young parents … with a job market that needs skills they don’t have, with no way to pay for college,” Patrick said.

I’m not surprised they don’t have job skills. They’re in first grade, for pete’s sake!

Without Pell, summer enrollment slips

Summer enrollment is down at many community colleges now that low-income students can’t get federal aid. In a bipartisan compromise last year, the “year-round” Pell Grant was cut from the budget to keep the maximum grant at $5,550.

Students pay for fee-heavy debit cards

Convenience can be costly: Students who receive financial aid via college-sponsored debit cards pay heavy fees.

California lawmakers have advanced two bills that could give college students access to low-cost online textbooks.

‘Pell runners’ steal $1 billion in aid

“Pell runners” — scammers who scram once they’ve collected their federal grants — are having a tougher time, but they still manage to steal an estimated $1 billion in aid annually.

If you fund it, they will spend

When financial aid flows to affluent students, college raise tuition to capture the dollars, writes Andrew Gillen of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. However, aid to low-income students, such as Pell Grants, is unlikely to push up tuition, he writes in an Inside Higher Ed essay.

Aid restricted to low-income families allows students who were previously priced out of higher education to attend, without giving colleges the ability to raise tuition without again pricing these students out of higher education. That is not the case with aid given to relatively affluent students who will attend college regardless of price.

Not all colleges will raise tuition, when aid rises, he adds. Instead, “many colleges will instead grow their applicant pool, allowing them to become more selective” and move up in college rankings.

“Don’t leave money sitting on the table” was the ethos, when he attended meetings with university administrators to discuss tuition, writes Peter Wood in a Minding the Campus discussion.

The metaphoric table in question was the one on which the government had laid out a sumptuous banquet of increases of financial aid. Our job was to figure out how to consume as much of it as possible in tuition increases. . . . A substantial portion of the money we captured would be reallocated as “tuition discounts” or “institutional aid.”

. . . And we did all this in the pursuit of educational excellence. It was a large private university in the shadow of world-ranked neighbors and it was attempting to pull itself up in the world of prestige and influence by its bootstraps. There were townhouses that needed buying; laboratories that needed building; faculty stars that needed hiring; classrooms and residence halls that needed refurbishing; symphonies that needed performing; grotesque modern sculptures that needed displaying; and administrators that needed chauffeuring.

Herbert London adds a quote from Derek Bok, a former Harvard president:  “Universities share one characteristic with compulsive gamblers and exiled royalty: there is never enough money to satisfy their desires.”

The federal government should provide college aid only to low-income students with performance criteria to weed out mediocre students, proposes Richard Vedder, Gillen’s colleague at CCAP.

Make the college absorb some of the risk for loan defaults — a lesson we should have learned from the financial crisis. Give Pell Grants as vouchers directly to students, not schools. Reinstate private lending options. Unveil new human capital contract approaches that reduce debt reliance. Downsize and reinvent federal programs and allow market discipline to operate more.

Student lending needs to be rethought, write Vedder and Gillen in a Chronicle of Higher Ed commentary.

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Federal financial aid is geared to full-time, degree-seeking students, complained Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s audience at Tallahassee Community College. Colleges can’t train 2 million skilled workers without aid for people seeking short-term job training or part-timers who need literacy or English classes to qualify for a job.

College leaders fail Obama’s tuition plan

College leaders don’t like President Obama’s tuition-control plan, reports AP. In his State of the Union speech, the president threatened to cut some forms of federal aid to students at colleges that raise tuition or fail to provide “good value.”

Fuzzy math, Illinois State University’s president called it.

“Political theater of the worst sort,” said the University of Washington’s head.

States have reduced higher education funding, forcing public colleges and universities to raise tuition, university presidents say.

Under the president’s proposal, colleges would be judged on “responsible tuition policy,” either by “offering relatively lower net tuition prices” or “restraining tuition growth,” reports College Inc. In addition, the Education Department would evaluate how well colleges prepare graduates to get jobs and repay student loans, and their performance in enrolling and graduating low-income students.

The aid that colleges stand to lose under the president’s plan is not the Pell grant, the largest source of federal funds to students, but rather a package of “campus-based” programs that the federal government delivers to colleges. They are Federal Work Study, an initiative that subsidizes the expenses of campus jobs for needy students at 3,400 colleges; Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, a supplement to the Pell grant that awards needy students $100 to $4,000 a year; and the Perkins loan program, which delivers low-interest loans to students.

Obama is proposing to expand all three programs to the tune of about $10 billion — enhancing the Perkins program from $1 billion to $8 billion and augmenting Work Study and Opportunity Grants by a combined $2 billion.

While some believe higher education funding should be tied to performance, Obama’s proposal would deny aid to needy students, critics charge. “Ultimately, who you are punishing with this is the students,” said Haley Chitty, spokesman for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. “They’re the ones who get this aid.”