DC Shuttle: Grants Would Connect Schools, Employers, Colleges in STEM; U.S. Report Shows Degrees Rose

STEM education. On Thursday, Rep. Bill Foster (R-IL) introduced the 21st Century STEM Competitive Jobs Act, cosponsored by Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY). The bill would support collaboration between schools and employers in order to help prepare students for careers in high-demand technical fields. The legislation would provide competitive grants to school districts that connect students and their coursework with future employers. To receive a grant, a school district would need to work with a local, regional or national employer and an institution of higher education to develop the curriculum and program metrics. Every program would need to include an internship or apprenticeship component, and be dual-credit so that students receive both high school and college credit for their coursework. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a hearing on STEM education and the development of a high-skilled American workforce.

U.S. education data. On Thursday, the U.S. Education Department released The Condition of Education 2013. Published annually by the National Center for Education Statistics, the data showed that enrollment in higher education institutions has gone down slightly in the last year (by 1.6%), but the number of degrees awarded has increased (by 5.1%). The report also presents data on tuition levels and student debt.

House passes student loan rate bill. On Thursday, the House passed the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911) by a vote of 221 to 198. The bill would tie the interest rate on federal student loans to market rates. Without Congressional action, the interest rates on Stafford Loans are set to double on July 1 to 6.8%. The Smarter Solutions for Students Act would set the interest rate at the 10-year Treasury note rate plus 2.5 percentage points for undergraduate loans and plus 4.5 percentage points for graduate loans. Those rates would be capped at 8.5% and 10.5%, respectively, and the interest rates would be calculated yearly. Republican supporters of the bill said that it would allow students to access low rates when they are available, while many Democrats argue that it would leave students susceptible to drastic rate increases. Four Democrats voted in favor of the measure, while eight Republicans voted against it. The White House issued a veto threat against the bill Wednesday.

As a member of New England Council, we publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington. This edition is drawn from the Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, of May 28, 2013.

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.




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