DC Shuttle …
Student Data Bills. This Congress, several lawmakers have introduced legislation to protect student data, with two such bills in May. The first bill came from the Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who had previously introduced the legislation last Congress. It would prevent education companies from selling or using student data to target ads and require those companies to meet certain security requirements when handling student data, according to The Hill. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) also introduced a bill, called the Student Privacy Protection Act. According to a press release on Vitter’s website, the bill “would ensure that parents and students retain control of education records.” Like the Hatch-Markey bill, Vitter’s would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The bill is similar to legislation introduced in late April by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), called the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015, as reported in the New York Times. The White House has approved that bill. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) and Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA), chair and ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, respectively, also drafted legislation, releasing a discussion draft in early April of a bill that would also amend FERPA, according to Education Week. Many Congress-watchers also expected Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to release a draft.
CFPB Focuses on Student-Loan Servicers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it is requesting public input on student-loan servicers. In its request for input, the agency noted that over 40 million Americans are repaying more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding loan debt. The Hill reported that the CFPB is working with the U.S. Treasury and Education Departments to improve the student-loan experience. The CFPB is requesting feedback from students and other stakeholders on their experiences with student-loan servicers. Feedback will be accepted until July 13.
Interest Rates on Student Loans to Drop. Following the U.S. Treasury’s recent sale of 10-year notes, interest rates on federal loans are set to drop more than a third of a percentage point, to 4.29% from 4.66%, on both subsidized and unsubsidized undergraduate direct loans. For graduate direct loans, the rates will drop from 6.21% to 5.84% and for PLUS loans (both parent and graduate), the rates will fall from 7.21% to 6.84%. Inside Higher Ed reports that the new rates for the 2015 to 2016 academic year will take effect July 1 and will not affect borrowers with older loans.
State Funding. A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that state funding for higher education remains below pre-recession levels in many states. In 47 states, funding levels per-student remain below 2008 levels. The Hill reported that the only states listed as spending more than in 2008 are Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming. Governors in Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana and Wisconsin have made increased cuts in state institutions or are considering them, according to Politico. Funding in other states is on the uptick though, as the report found 37 states have increased funding per student at public universities at an average rate of 3.9% in the last year. The average state is spending $1,085 per student, about 20% less than before the recession.
Reports Show Changing Enrollment, Graduation Rates. Two recent reports are providing more insight into U.S. students. The first report from GradNation, reports that, for the third year in a row, high school graduation rates are on track to meet the 2020 goal of 90% on-time graduation. This year’s on-time graduation rate was 81.4%. The report also includes policy recommendations to help keep the country prepared to meet the 90% goal. The second report is from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. It shows that postsecondary enrollments fell 1.9% this spring from last spring. The drop was highest for four year private institutions at -4.9%. Enrollment at public four year institutions was the only category to experience an increase, up 0.1%.
Nearly Half of Grads Underemployed. Among college graduates from 2013 and 2014, 49% labeled themselves “underemployed” on a recent Accenture survey. The graduating class of 2015 was much more optimistic about their futures, with 80% saying they believe their education prepared them well for the workforce, according to Inside Higher Ed.
DCCC Launches Attacks on College Affordability. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a new campaign last week to discourage Republicans from voting against college affordability. Called “Diplomas Not Debt,” the program aims to target vulnerable Republicans who will participate in graduation events this spring.
Kline Requests Head Start Input. House Education and Workforce Committee Chair Kline requested feedback on the Head Start program as he continued work on his ESEA reauthorization. Kline previously introduced the legislation onto the House floor but the vote was suspended due to unrelated matters and has yet to be rescheduled amid a lack of support from Democrats and conservative Republicans.
Native American Schools. The House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on Native American schools last week, the second of this Congress. Kline noted in his opening remarks that deplorable conditions face many Native American schools and that the purpose of the hearing was not to assign blame, rather to help lawmakers better understand the causes of the problems facing Native American schools and learn more about possible solutions.
SAT Breach. The SAT test administered in the U.S. on May 2 may have been compromised, according to The Washington Post. A Post reporter and the nonpartisan organization FairTest were both emailed a supposed copy of the test on May 1, one day before American students were to take it.
Report Questions Competency-Based Ed Regulations. Regulation may be failing to encourage, and even hurting, competency-based education (CBE), according to a recent report from the American Enterprise Institute. The report includes several policy suggestions to help lawmakers encourage CBE.
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 May 18, 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: www.newenglandcouncil.com.