Report: Fed aid drives up college costs

Federal student aid hasn’t helped lower-income students go to college, concludes a report by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Instead, federal aid has enabled colleges to raise tuition.

Simplifying student aid

A two-question postcard would replace the 108-question Free Application for Financial Aid (Fafsa) under a bipartisan bill proposed in the Senate. Students would get an estimate of their financial aid eligibility before they apply to colleges.

Pell aid goes up, but so does tuition

The near-doubling of Pell Grant funding hasn’t decreased borrowing by low-income students, who are supposed to be the beneficiaries. States have cut funding and colleges have raised tuition using federal aid to make up the difference.

For-profits offer flexibility — at a price

For-profit colleges charge $35,000 on average for an associate degree, on average, more than four times the cost at the average community college. Why does anyone choose a for-profit college? Students cite flexibility and convenience. Most use federal student aid to pay the bills.

Colleges rattled by Obama’s rating plans

President Obama’s college rating proposal has “rattled” college presidents, who fear it will be simplistic and misleading. It didn’t help when a top education official said it would be “like rating a blender.”

Obama wants Congress to link student loans and grants to college ratings, which will be based on graduation rates, student debt, graduates’ earnings and other factors. Highly selective universities are likely to do very well, but most students can go to college only if they can afford a not-very-selective or open-admissions college or university.

Choose your education story

Course choice lets students learn from providers that might range from universities or community colleges to local employers, labs or hospitals. In Expanding the Education Universe, Fordham’s Michael Brickman looks at the policy questions, including student eligibility, course providers, funding, quality control, and accountability.

Course choice is coming to higher education too as new accrediting groups consider quality reviews of online courses. The proposed HERO Act would extend federal aid to students who choose postsecondary courses from a variety of providers.

Making college affordable

Are there better ways to pay for higher education? One proposal would guarantee every high school graduate two free years at a public college or university.

Colleges fail older, part-time students

Recent high school graduates enrolled full-time at residential colleges make up only 15 percent of college students.  Colleges are failing their older, working, part-time students who make up the “new majority.”

Community college leaders worry that President Obama’s college ratings system will penalize open-access schools. Part-time students, who make up the majority at community colleges, aren’t tracked by the federal data system. Some students — nobody knows how many — say they’re seeking a degree to qualify for federal aid when they’re really trying to learn a job skill.

Should college aid be linked to readiness?

Pell Grants help low- and moderate-income students go to college, but graduation rates are low. Should Pell dollars be targeted at college-ready students? That would lower the college-going rate significantly.

A new private scholarship fund will help “dreamers” — undocumented immigrants brought here as children — attend low-cost colleges to pursue work-oriented degrees.

Student aid reforms proposed

A House education subcommittee heard proposals for reforming Pell Grants.

Income-based repayment gives the largest subsidies to borrowers who go to graduate or professional school and people in “public service” jobs. One in four jobs qualifies as “public service,” but working for a for-profit company is a disqualifier.