‘Paycheck’ aid shows promise

Disbursing student aid in smaller amounts every two weeks, “Aid Like a Paycheck,” encourages low-income college students to work harder in school and manage money better, a new study shows.

At a Hamilton Project forum today, participants presented new ideas for redesigning Pell Grants, income-based loan repayment and college cost calculators. 

Credentials without college

“Skill-based credentials,” such as digital badges, offer a cheaper, more flexible route to a better job for adults who can’t afford the traditional college path.

The cost of Pell Grants for low- and moderate-income college students increased by 158 percent, adjusted for inflation, in five years.

Obama: Link student aid to college value

President Obama proposes rating colleges on tuition, student loan debt, graduation rates and graduates’ earnings so students can shop for the best value. Eventually, Congress will be asked to reward higher-performing colleges with larger Pell Grants and lower-cost loans for their students.

College costs will continue to rise, predicts an economist.

57% of students get federal aid

For the first time,  a majority of undergraduates — 57 percent — are receiving Pell Grants and other federal student aid. Forty-one percent are taking out student loans, also a record.

College learning provides social mobility for disadvantaged students.

States link financial aid to academic progress

Every year states hand out $11 billion in college aid — usually without tracking whether students earn a degree. That’s changing. Some states are linking financial aid to students’ academic progress.

To really improve college access and success, double or triple the average Pell Grant, recommends financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz.

Selling Obama’s ‘preschool for all’

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is trying to persuade Republican governors to persuade Republicans in Congress to back $75 billion in new tobacco taxes to fund President Obama’s “preschool for all” initiative, reports the Washington Post.

“The average disadvantaged child comes to kindergarten a year to a year and a half behind other kids,” Duncan said. “And we spend all this time and money trying to catch them up. And we wonder why we have an achievement gap.”

The plan doesn’t really offer preschool to “all.”  States would get federal grants to fund preschool for 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. The federal share would diminish from 91 percent to 25 percent after 10 years. Obama also is seeking $15 billion for programs for babies and toddlers.

Georgia has funded its own preschool program. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal wants some of the money spent on Head Start, the federal preschool program for poor children. “We could do a better job of it because, frankly, our program is better,” Deal said.

Without new taxes, there isn’t enough money, Duncan responded. “I’m talking about a massive influx of resources . . . Our goal is to dramatically expand access.”

If Duncan is serious about high-quality preschool, he’ll offer Republicans more than a new federal tax, writes Mike Petrilli.

Cut the TRIO programs, which (as a recent Brookings paper shows) don’t work at preparing disadvantaged high school students for college. That’s $1 billion a year.

Cut Title II of ESEA, which is a big slush fund for school districts to spend on “teacher stuff” and class-size reduction—with no evidence of results. $3 billion a year.

Cut Pell grants, many of which are flowing to remedial-education courses from which disadvantaged students never escape. Introduce some minimal standards so that only students who are college-ready—a very low bar for community colleges, it turns out—can receive the aid. I bet you could shave $5 billion a year easy—a big chunk of it currently landing in for-profit universities.

Cut $9 billion and then ask Republicans to pitch in $1 billion in new money, Petrilli suggests.

Head Start hasn’t produced lasting benefits for low-income children. I think Duncan’s first step is explaining why “preschool for some” will be more effective. And why not let states expand their preschools with Head Start funding?

Ready or not, students get college aid

Pell Grant recipients, who come from lower-income families, often start college in remedial classes and drop out before earning a degree. Requiring evidence of college readiness, such as SAT scores of at least 850 (verbal and math) and a 2.5 grade point average in high school, would boost success rates, but limit access.

California leads the nation in poorly educated adults and in low-income workers, not a coincidence. Should community colleges take over adult education? 

Not broke! Pell will run surplus till 2015

Pell isn’t broke! Changes designed to cut the cost of aid to low- and moderate-income students have turned a projected deficit into a surplus that will last till 2015.

Students must take more credits, use aid for fewer semesters and forego summer courses, unless they pay their own way.

Redesigning college aid — without spending more

A “more understandable effective and fair” student aid system doesn’t need to cost taxpayers more money, concludes a new report that calls for shifting funding and incentives to help needy students and encourage speedy completion of degrees.

Federal grants to college students should be replaced with grants to states, which would have to match the money, recommends another report.

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.