America No Longer Running on Duncan

DC Shuttle …

Arne Duncan to Step Down in December from Education Secretary Position. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced he will step down at the end of December. He has served since the beginning of President Obama’s first term, almost seven years. Obama will name John B. King Jr., currently deputy secretary of education in the Education Department, as interim secretary to serve until the end of the president’s term, the Boston Globe reported.

Student Loan Default Rates Drop. The U.S. Department of Education announced that the share of federal student loan borrowers who default on their debt within three years of entering repayment dropped for the second year in a row. The national default rate on student loans made by the government fell to 11.8% from 13.7% last year, according the department data.

New Accreditation Model Bill Introduced. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill that would create a new outcomes-based accreditation system. The proposed legislation would allow alternative education providers and traditional colleges and universities to access federal financial aid programs if they can achieve high student outcomes including student learning, completion and return on investment.

Students Before Profits Act Reintroduced in Senate. Democratic Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced the Students Before Profits Act. The bill targets for-profit colleges and was introduced by Murphy in the last Congress with former HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin. Under the legislation, civil penalties could be assessed on colleges that misrepresent their cost, admission requirements, completion rates, employment prospects or default rates. The fines would go into a fund for defrauded students, according to the Dupage Policy Journal.

STEM Education Act Passes House and Senate. The House of Representatives unanimously passed the STEM Education Act (H.R. 1020). The bill was introduced by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT). The legislation expands existing federal grants and programs related to STEM education to include computer science education. The legislation was approved by the Senate the previous week and now heads to the president for signature.

Federal Perkins Loan Program Expires. The Federal Perkins Loan Program expired on Oct. 1. The Senate made a last-ditch effort to save the Perkins, but failed to gain unanimous consent as it was objected to by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The House had passed legislation (H.R. 3594) extending the program by one year. Alexander said that the money could be better used to make federal financial aid programs more sustainable, such as increasing Pell Grants, according to the Chronicle of Higher Ed. The Congressional Budget Office said the program would cost $5 billion over 10 years. Congress agreed to sunset the program during the last Higher Education Act reauthorization. The failure of the legislation also means the end of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, the Chronicle of Higher Ed reports.

Education Department Overview Hearing. Under Secretary of Ted Mitchell testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Oversight Committee for a hearing on “A Review of the Department of Education and Student Achievement.”

HEA Status. HELP Chair Alexander had aimed to put out a bipartisan bill with ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) by the end of September, but that didn’t happen. According to aides, Alexander hopes to have a bill out of committee by the end of the year. The legislation may also depend on the Success of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) reauthorization. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was expected to organize Republicans behind the conference bill, but with his resignation, the path for ESEA is also dimmed.

Graduation Data.  The National Student Clearinghouse released a report showing that for 2013-14, the number of students receiving their first college credential fell, even as the number of students earning a second or third undergraduate credential continued to increase. The number of new college graduates in the U.S. fell for a second straight year, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Colleges Join for New Admissions Process. Eighty leading colleges and universities announced a plan to build an online platform to streamline planning for and applying to college. The institutions will reform the admissions process by forming a membership organization bound by specific requirements, building a shared application system, and engaging high-school students earlier with new online college-planning tools, the Washington Post reports.

ACE Reports on Innovation in Connecticut High Schools. The American Council on Education released two reports examining curricular innovation led by systems and states. One of the papers focuses on a developmental education redesign in Connecticut, which passed a law in 2012 changing how institutions assess and place students in remedial courses and limiting enrollment to one semester. The case study advises lawmakers to invest more resources in research, empower colleges, engage institutional leaders and consider involving intermediary organizations. It urges institutions to develop a professional governmental relations staff, proactively offer solutions, respect the role of state government and create a periodic “state of higher education” conference.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Oct. 5, 2015. 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:



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