College Access

Oversold?

January 29, 2008 - 7:00pm

In Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius's Democratic response to President Bush’s final State of the Union Speech Monday night, she touted a new law to “reduce the costs of college loans” as one of the major accomplishments of the new Democratic Majority in Congress. She was referring to enactment of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, which among other things reduces interest rates on federally subsidized student loans. It was a big pat on the back for Congressional Democrats, who made cutting student loan interest rates in half a central part of their 2006 campaign. But Democrats should be careful not to oversell their achievement, as very few borrowers will get the full interest rate cut promised.

To be fair, under the new law, borrowers will also benefit from increased loan forgiveness for work in public service, substantially increased Pell Grant aid, and a decreased financial aid penalty associated with student work and savings. Indeed, the new law represents a significant increase in federal student aid. Higher Ed Watch has lauded it in the past.

Turning up the Heat on Endowments

January 28, 2008 - 7:00pm

As the old adage goes, you reap what you sow. For many years colleges and university endowments, which receive very advantageous government tax breaks, have grown at extraordinary rates. Now, two high-powered senators are starting to ask questions about just what these wealthy institutions have been doing with their funds. While we applaud Congress’ efforts, we are afraid that too much of a focus by the Senators on tuition, rather than low-income student access, could lead to more improperly tilted financial aid policies — and an increasingly bifurcated educational system.

[slideshow]What prompted this latest attention to school wealth was the release of the 2007 Endowment Study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Going beyond the massive returns already disclosed by individual colleges, the study found that schools with endowments over $1 billion earned an incredible 21.3 percent rate of return for the 2007 fiscal year, only slightly more than the 19.3 percent return for colleges with endowments between $500 million and $1 billion. Even in aggregate, the 785 schools surveyed reported an average return of 17.2 percent.

On Down From the Ivory Towers

January 15, 2008 - 7:00pm

Recent announcements by Harvard and Yale universities to expand financial aid are good news for the small number of students helped, but do little to dispel the impression of an ivory tower still removed from regular people.

Here’s a primer for those who may have missed the flurry of media coverage on the Ivory aid plans. Harvard’s plan, announced in December, would spend $22 million to cap parental contributions at 10 percent of income for all students coming from families making between $120,000 and $180,000 a year. Yale’s new policy, released on Monday, is slightly more complex, using over $24 million to cap parental income contributions to less than 10 percent for families making $120,000 or less, while significantly reducing expected contributions of families making between $120,000 and $200,000. The Yale plan would result in reductions of one-half to one-third for affected families.

Roundup: Week of January 7 - January 11

January 10, 2008 - 7:00pm

New York Unveils Ambitious Plan to Boost Prestige of Public Colleges

New York needs to significantly increase spending on its state college systems and hire thousands of new professors if it hopes to compete with other prestigious public universities, according to a

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

Pell Grants Cut

December 17, 2007 - 7:00pm

In October and again in November, we warned that Congress might try to cut the Pell Grant program for low-income college students. We argued that after passing a new law in September that rightly whacked excess student loan bank subsidies to increase Pell Grant funding, Congress might later…

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

Roundup: Week of December 3 - December 7

December 6, 2007 - 7:00pm

Dodd Bill Proposes to Make Private Loans Dischargeable in Bankruptcy

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) announced last week that he plans to introduce legislation that would allow private student loan borrowers who have taken on unmanageable…

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

A Good Year for Pell Grants, A Great Year for Earmarks

November 28, 2007 - 7:00pm

When Congress returns from its recess next week, unfinished fiscal year 2008 education funding legislation will be high on the agenda. Fiscal year 2008 began on October 1 and funding subject to appropriations for the fiscal year has…

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

Baby Carrots and Twigs

November 14, 2007 - 7:00pm

Yesterday, a key Congressional education committee took a groundbreaking albeit modest step on a top flight concern of parents and students - ever escalating college tuition.

For years, the federal government's main role in higher education finance has been to…

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

Roundup: Week of November 5 - November 9

November 8, 2007 - 7:00pm

More Questionable Spending Uncovered at PHEAA

Gummy brains, brass clocks, and peppermint candies were among the promotional giveaways the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) spent $2.2 million on over a five-year period, the Patriot-News of…

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

Questions Colleges Need to Answer

November 6, 2007 - 7:00pm

With Congress providing a significant increase in Pell Grant aid, federal lawmakers have some pressing questions to ask colleges about how they spend their institutional aid dollars. Will colleges use the influx of Pell Grant dollars to supplement their aid and insure that low-income students don't have

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

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