New Data Released on Returns of a College Degree. A report released this week showed new findings on the return-on-investment of a college degree. The report, released by the College Board, shows, amid other research indicating that students and their families are questioning the worth of a college education, that a bachelor’s degree significantly increases median lifetime earnings by about $400,000. The report, updated every three years, states that high school graduates earn just over $800,000 over their lifetime, whereas college graduates make more than $1.2 million. And in 2018, college-educated, full-time employees made a median of $24,900 more than high school graduates. “A higher education is an investment that pays significant dividends over the course of a lifetime—even for students who accumulate some debt to obtain a degree,” the report’s co-author Jennifer Ma, senior policy research scientist at College Board, said in a statement. Read more in Education Dive.
Report Shows High-School Completion Rates for Black Students Have Reached that of White Students. For the first time in 40 years, the completion rate for black 18- to 24-year-olds was “not measurably different” from that of their white counterparts, a new study from the National Center for Education Statistics reported. The report measures “status completion rate” or the number of 18- to 24-year-olds who are high schoolers as compared to those of the same age who are not enrolled in school. The report, Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States, compiles the most recent data on dropout and completion rates and summarizes the trends in and characteristics of those who drop out or complete high school. From 1977 to 2017, the status completion rate gap between black and white students decreased from 12.8 percentage points to no longer statistically significant; in addition, the white and Hispanic gap narrowed from 28.1 percentage points in 1977 to 6.4 points in 2017. These changes contributed to an overall status completion rate of 93.3% nationwide. The report notes this as a positive development, as those who drop out of high school tend to be in worse health, make less money and spend more time in jail than their “status completed” peers. Read more in Politico.
Tool Highlights Empty Inspector General Position at Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education’s Inspector General role has remained vacant for more than 400 days, the sixth-longest vacancy across all federal agencies, based on findings posted by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. The new website from the council tracks vacancies among departments’ inspectors general and records the number of days the office has operated without a permanent leader. Following the resignation of Kathleen Tighe at the end of 2018, the administration tapped longtime Education Department attorney Phil Rosenfelt to assume the watchdog role in early 2019, but quickly changed course following Democratic backlash. Read more in Politico.
House Votes to Overturn Department of Education’s “Borrower Defense” Rule. The House of Representatives voted 231 to 180 to pass legislation that would overturn the Education Department’s changes to the 2016 “borrower defense” rule. The policy proposed by the department, scheduled to go into effect on July 1, would implement stricter guidelines regarding the wiping of student loans after students claim to have been deceived by a college. Specifically, the rule change would require borrowers to demonstrate financial harm as a result of the claimed deception, and would require claims to be filed within three years of a student leaving an institution; the House legislation (H.J Res. 76) would stop this policy from taking effect. “By passing this resolution, the House made it clear that we care more about defending defrauded students than enriching predatory schools,” said Rep Susie Lee (D-NV). who sponsored the House resolution. A Statement of Administration Policy released on Monday said that passing the resolution “would undermine the Administration’s efforts to protect students and taxpayers.” Read more in Congressional Quarterly and Newsweek.
Administration Announces Protections for Religious Institutions. The White House announced that it would take steps to further protect religious organizations that receive federal funds. The new guidelines, released in nine parts in an Office of Management and Budget memo, ease requirements for religious groups receiving federal funds, seek to protect against religious discrimination at all levels, and increase protections for prayer in public schools. Specific changes include the Education Department’s plan to put forth new guidance that will require schools to certify they have no rules that conflict with students’ right to pray, and to notify the department if there are complaints related to it. The department also plans to remind schools of students’ and teachers’ right to prayer, and that religious groups in schools should get equal access to public resources in order for the school to qualify for federal funds. “Our actions today will protect the constitutional rights of students, teachers and faith-based institutions,” said U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The new guidelines come as a federal court is deliberating on a case in Maine related to religious schools and state funds. In a 1981 statute, Maine allows school districts without a high school to pay for their students to attend surrounding private or public schools, so long as the school is not religiously affiliated; three families are suing to get the state to continue paying tuition to religious schools. Read more in The Washington Post and the Bangor Daily News.
IRS Offers Tax Relief to Students with Discharged Loans. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Department released new guidelines allowing more people with discharged student loans to receive tax relief. Under the new rule, certain taxpayers with loans that were discharged by the Department of Education will not have to report the amount of their discharged loan as gross income on federal tax returns. The Education Department discharges loans when a school closes, or if a student establishes that “a school’s actions would give rise to a cause of action against the school under applicable state law,” the IRS said. The guidance also applies to taxpayers whose private loans were discharged as a result of legal settlements against colleges and certain private lenders. The new guidance follows recent policy by the two agencies that allowed similar relief to former students owing loans to for-profit institutions that had closed, such as Corinthian Colleges or American Career Institutes Inc. Read more in The Hill.
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 Jan. 21, 2020. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.