DC Shuttle: PARCC, Pell, PISA … And That’s Just the P’s

Pell Grants subject of House hearing on Higher Ed Act. The House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing on Pell Grants as part of its series of hearings on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. House Republicans expressed some doubts about recent expansions of the Pell Grant program, while Democrats vowed to defend it. The Obama administration has lowered eligibility requirements for Pell Grants and increased the maximum award, but the program has been a frequent target of Republican’s who highlight its budgetary shortfalls.

PISA results released. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which was administered last fall to assess the competencies of 15 year olds in reading, mathematics and science. The Washington Post reported that scores for American students stayed relatively the same, while scores of students in other developed countries increased.

House panel approves grant program for new technology. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee endorsed, by voice vote, legislation (H.R. 2981) that would establish a grant program to promote commercialization of technology developed at universities, research institutions and federal laboratories.

Student debt report. The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) released a report detailing student debt. The average debt of student loan borrowers at graduation continued to rise, climbing to $29,400 for the class of 2012. This year’s figure is up by almost 10% compared with the group’s estimate last year of $26,600 and increased an average of 6% each year from 2008 to 2012, the report says. Based on the findings, the New York Times reported a large variation in debt rates by school and state.

CFPB extends oversight of student loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it would extend its oversight of student loans to student loan servicers. Servicers are companies that do not lend money to students but collect payments from borrowers for lenders. Under the new rule taking effect in March, the CFPB will have oversight power over a nonbank that services more than 1 million student loan accounts, reported the Associated Press.

Afterschool STEM. A report from the Afterschool Alliance says that the afterschool environment provides a space for rigorous, hands-on STEM learning and there is potential of “STEM-rich institutions” to serve as partners to make this learning a reality. The report calls for partnerships with STEM-rich institutions, such as science centers, aquariums, STEM-focused businesses or even federal agencies like NASA.

PARCC  approves data privacy policy. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing group, a federally funded assessment consortium, approved a new policy intended to safeguard personally identifiable information about students that is collected as part of states’ Common Core assessment regiments. Information “will never be provided by PARCC to the federal government without written authority from a state, or unless legally required to do so by subpoena or court order” the consortium announced.

National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. The National Center for Education Statistics of the Education Department released the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. The report looked at the out-of-pocket costs to attend public and private colleges for a semester, measured as a college’s sticker price minus all forms of financial aid. The study found that average out of pocket costs have risen by $800 since 2007-08.

New SAT delayed. The College Board announced that the newly redesigned SAT that is more closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards will not debut until the spring of 2016. The new test had been intended to debut in 2015. College Board President David Coleman said the delay would allow schools two years to prepare for the revised test and assess the newly revised Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). The newly revised PSAT/NMSQT will roll out in the fall of 2015, as planned, Inside Higher Ed reported.

DOE program to promote alternative models of higher education. The Department of Education (DOE) published a notice requesting feedback on how to relax regulations governing federal financial aid for initiatives experimenting with alternative forms of measuring student learning, including competency-based education. The department will exercise its authority under the existing “experimental sites” program to give colleges and universities more leeway to experiment with new educational approaches in a less regulated environment. Officials are soliciting suggestions on what those experiments should look like. The department suggested that it may approve competency-based education, dual enrollment of high school students in higher education, and prior learning assessment.

Higher ed spending on research and development. The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a report on university spending on research and development based on the NSF Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey. The survey found that expenditures rose slightly in current dollars, to $65.8 billion from $65.3 billion in 2011, but when adjusted for inflation actually declined by 1.1%.

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 Dec. 9, 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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