DC Shuttle: House Hearings Focus on STEM, Student Loans; British Report Calls Attention to New Ed Models

Boosting STEM education. On Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Research held a hearing on industry and philanthropic initiatives to boost science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Education. Every year, the federal government allocates over $3 billion to 13 federal agencies to fund STEM education initiatives, and the subcommittee is working on the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. As part of the 2012 reauthorization, the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Subcommittee is developing a five-year strategic STEM education plan and identifying the role federal agencies should have in funding STEM education initiatives. Chair Larry Bucshon (R-IN) said using these funds efficiently was crucial, including cooperation with private efforts.

Student loan hearing. On Wednesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing on keeping college within reach by examining opportunities to strengthen federal student loan programs. The hearing addressed the need for a long-term solution to the problem of Stafford Loan interest rates. Congress has approved temporary extensions of subsidized interest rates and under the current extension, the lower rate will expire on June 30, 2013. Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), testified that “scrambling to keep interest rates down” was leading to Congress reducing eligibility for subsidized Stafford loans. Setting a market-based interest rate for new student loans was also discussed.

Higher education “avalanche.” Earlier in the week, the Institute for Public Policy Research, a British think tank, released a report on the future of higher education globally. The report, entitled “An Avalanche is Coming: Higher Education and the Revolution Ahead,” calls for governments to reform their methods for regulating and funding higher education institutions as new education providers, including massive open online classes, and new learning methods abound. The report details what many educators predict is an impending wave of higher education changes. “I think that kind of middle universities that have nothing special about them and don’t exhibit bold imaginative leadership will suffer,” said lead author Michael Barber.

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 March 18, 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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