DC Shuttle: College Affordability Lists, DREAM Act … and Other Higher Ed News from Washington

The Education Department released College Affordability and Transparency Lists on Thursday. The 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act requires the Education Department to produce six lists, with three examining tuition and fees and three examining each institution’s average price of attendance minus grants and scholarships. The lists are also divided by type of institution (public/private, two-year/four-year, etc.). The top 5% of colleges and universities whose tuition increased by the highest percentage will be required to justify the increase to the Education Department. Even as the lists were being released, many institutions were pointing to robust student financial aid programs and the volatility of state education budgets to explain their tuition increases. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said of the lists, “We hope this information will encourage schools to continue their efforts to make the costs of college more transparent so students make informed decisions and aren’t saddled with unmanageable debt.” Skeptics have pointed out that because the net-price measurement only looks at first-time freshman students enrolled full time and many four-year schools give out significantly more aid during the first year, the measure may not accurately reflect the costs of attending a school for all four years.
Friday, July 1, marked the deadline by which career and for-profit colleges must comply with new Education Department “gainful employment” regulations. Schools offering programs subject to the gainful employment rules published in October 2010 must now report the following information to prospective students:

  • average loan debt incurred by program graduates;
  • job placement rate for program graduates;
  • on-time graduation rate; and
  • total tuition and fees, including book costs and room and board, where applicable.

Read the Program Integrity Rule.

On Thursday, the Labor Department announced $17 million in grants for two programs to provide job training to at-risk young adults ages 18 to 24. The grants will focus on juvenile offenders and high school dropouts in high-poverty and high-crime communities. YouthBuild USA based in Somerville, Mass., and the Mid-Atlantic Network of Youth and Family based in Pittsburgh, were awarded the grants through a competitive process. Each program will receive $8.5 million to help the at-risk individuals obtain industry-recognized credentials and prepare them for employment.

Senate Democrats renewed a push to pass the DREAM Act, legislation (S. 952) to grant a path to citizenship to those undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who attend college or serve in the U.S. military. At a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, Secretary Duncan urged lawmakers to support the bill in the interests of debt-reduction and job creation. He said that by 2018, the U.S. will have 2.6 million science and math jobs open which DREAM Act students could help fill. Secretary Duncan also cited a Congressional Budget Office report which found that if passed, the legislation would provide a net revenue gain of $1.4 billion over ten years. “Educating the individuals who would be eligible under the DREAM Act would benefit our country,” he said. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano added that law enforcement pursuit of the undocumented young people affected by the bill was “siphoning resources from other, more pressing needs.” Subcommittee Chair and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) re-introduced DREAM Act legislation in May with 34 cosponsors after it failed to overcome a Senate filibuster during the 111th Congress. Similar legislation passed the House last year, but this year’s House companion bill (H.R. 2164) is likely to be blocked by House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX). He is strongly opposed to the measure, which he said would “prevent Americans from getting jobs since millions of illegal immigrants will become eligible to work legally in the United States.”

From the New England Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, July 5, 2011. NEBHE is a member of the Council and will publish this column each week.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit www.newenglandcouncil.com.


Comments are closed.