DC Shuttle …
Supreme Court to Hear Religious School Case. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley. Trinity Lutheran had requested a grant from the state of Missouri for recycled tire scraps to resurface its preschool playground, but the state denied the request, arguing that state aid to a church violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. The court’s ruling could have widespread implications for religiously affiliated schools, determining whether or not the Constitution prevents government funds from going to religious projects. The case will be heard by the court this term and a decision will be released by the end of June. Read more in Education Week.
Obama Administration Proposes Pell Grant Expansion. The U.S. Department of Education announced two new proposals to expand the Pell Grant program. One would allow students to receive Pell Grants for a third semester, meant to help students afford classes over the summer. The other would give Pell Grant recipients a $300 reward for taking at least 15 credit hours a semester. Both proposals will be included in the Obama administration’s budget proposal next month.
New FAFSA Procedure Draws Critics. Inside Higher Ed recently reported on unintended consequences of a new login procedure for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Last year, the Department of Education changed online login procedures for FAFSA applications, requiring a username and password instead of the four digit PIN number it had used in the past. While meant to enhance student security, many groups are now complaining that the new protocols are making it much harder to create and log in to an account, and are disproportionately hurting low-income families, who tend to have limited internet access and less technological literacy. The problem is becoming more relevant now, as more high school seniors begin to apply for financial aid.
Senate Committee Approves School Nutrition Bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved a bill to reauthorize child nutrition programs. The new bill would replace the current Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The bill would ease some of its predecessor’s regulations, such as those regulating sodium and whole-grain levels in school meals. It would also create new funding for school kitchen upgrades and establish new verification requirements for students on free or reduced-price meal programs. Education Week has more on the bill.
Colleges Crack Down on International Fraud. The Boston Globe reported on new steps colleges and universities are taking to crack down on application fraud from international applicants.
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. 25, 2016. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.