Tax reform that harms graduate students and university employees

The competing House and Senate tax reform bills are large, complex, and often difficult to understand.  The Senate bill, for example, is a 479-page document that was passed early in the morning last Saturday and that included last-minute, hand-written passages as shown to the right.  There are numerous parts of each bill that have a large impact on colleges and universities in the country, as well as their students.  One estimate calculated after the House bill was passed is that if enacted into law, it would cost students and their families $71 billion over the next ten years.  Now that both chambers have passed bills, a conference committee will try to hash out the differences and agree on one bill to be passed by both the House and Senate and sent on to President Trump to be signed into law. Continue reading “Tax reform that harms graduate students and university employees”

Why DACA matters to USF and the nation

Photo of Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Screen grab from nytimes.com

Earlier this week, under the direction of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.  Under his order the approximately 800,000 registered DACA individuals will see their legalized status in this country end in six months, subjecting them to deportation and other administrative actions.  The president encouraged Congress to pass legislation that would provide a permanent legalization of the status of DACA registrants, but only if it did so as part of a comprehensive immigration reform plan – something Congress, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans, has been unable to do for decades.

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Why would a high school encourage its students to apply to 100 colleges?

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article titled, “They each applied to more than 100 colleges. That may be the problem” (the article is behind the Chronicle’s paywall; here’s a link to it that will be available for a limited period of time). The article’s lede states:

Anisah Karim was by all measures a good student – she earned high grades, took part in her high school’s selective dual-enrollment program, launched her own culinary nonprofit, and participated in a slew of extracurriculars.

But when her college counselor told her to apply to 100 colleges so she could have a chance at becoming a “million-dollar scholar,” a coveted term her school uses to honor students who receive more than a million dollars in scholarship offers, Ms. Karim said she found herself getting pulled out of class and faced with disciplinary action during her senior year for not meeting application requirements.

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President Trump’s first budget guts (sic) funding for higher education

President Donald Trump has submitted his first budget to Congress, an event many have been waiting for anxiously.  President Trump's Tweet about his budgetCandidate Trump, during the presidential campaign last fall, spoke frequently about reducing the size of the federal government and “draining the swamp” of Washington, so this budget was among his first emphatic statements in support of those pledges.

There is a lot to discuss about this FY18 budget, including the fact that virtually every Cabinet and other agency included in the budget – with the exception of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs – is seeing a decrease in funding from FY17 levels ranging from 1 percent (NASA) to 31 percent (EPA). There are my details still missing, however, as this is known as a “skinny budget,” typical of that submitted by first-term presidents who do not have much time to put the budget together.  My particular  and admittedly selfish interest is how this budget is likely to affect the nation’s roughly 4,600 degree-granting institutions of higher education.  Here’s the spoiler, for those who don’t want to bother reading this entire post: The news is not good.

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New York Governor Cuomo’s proposal for free college – still a bad idea

Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined other politicians who have proposed free college programs. As I have pointed out about similar proposals made by President Obama and formerGov. Cuomo and Sen. Bernie Sanders presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, there are numerous problems with these programs.  In a commentary in The Hechinger Report, I outline why this is still bad public policy.

Why any discussions of college affordability need to start with Pell Grants

image-20160729-25643-134ilqThere has been a good amount of discussion on the presidential campaign trail about the issue of college affordability and student loan debt.  I have written in previous blog posts about some of Hillary Clinton’s proposals, as well as those of Martin O’Malley.  This week, I wrote a column for the website The Conversation, where I described why any discussion of college affordability needs to start with the role of Pell Grants, the foundation of the federal government’s student aid programs.

Candy, escort services, and college financing

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Courtesy Wikipedia

Earlier this year, I wrote about the student at Duke University who reported she was paying for college by acting in pornographic movies. Her story received a lot of publicity, including much that decried the need for this woman to resort to a career in pornography to pay her tuition bills. As I asked at the time,

A telling story of the state of college affordability in the nation? Not at all. It is simply the story of the choices made by one young woman, and we should not attach any importance to what she has done.

This school year, a similar story is making the rounds, most prominently in an article in The Atlantic last fall, “How Sugar Daddies Are Financing College Education.” According to the story, a website called SeekingArrangement.com reports it has over 2 million women members (“Sugar Babies”) who join the site “where beautiful, successful people fuel mutually beneficial relationships” in order to meet “Sugar Daddies.” This might sound like any other dating website, albeit one for people who have a self-inflated image of themselves. But The Atlantic article alleges that this site differs from others in that the women there are looking to get paid for their relationship with the men on the site, or to put it more directly, they are offering escort or prostitution services. A follow-up article in The Atlantic this month highlights colleges and universities across the country that have a proportionally large number of women registered on the site. Other media have covered the phenomenon of sugar babies and sugar daddies as well.

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Free community college for all students: Not a good idea

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Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images

Earlier this month, President Obama began releasing previews of some important proposals he will be making in his State of the Union speech tonight. Included is the idea of providing the first two years of community college for free for all students in the country. While this may sound like an intriguing idea, in an op-ed on The Conversation website I explained why this isn’t the best use of federal funds.

A look inside federal higher education proposals

kivaIn the last month, the Department of Education and President Obama have released two important proposals affecting higher education. The first, released by the department last month, was for the long-awaited college ratings plan that the president had first proposed 16 months earlier. This plan would evaluate over 6,000 colleges that participate in the government’s Title IV federal student aid grant and loan programs.

President Obama’s more recent policy idea was one he offered up January 9 in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he suggested that the first two years of community college be offered for free to all students in the country. Under the president’s plan, the costs would be covered through a federal-state partnership, where the federal government would pick up 75 percent of the tuition and participating states the remaining 25 percent.

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The Department of Education’s college ratings plan: Stay tuned

Obama-college-cost-227x150
Jessica Kourkounis, Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Education has finally released the outline of its college ratings plan, 16 months after the idea was first proposed by President Barack Obama. When he first suggested the plan, he said, “Bottom line is this: We’ve got a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt. … It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results and reward schools that deliver for American students and our future.”

The plan – and it truly is just a plan, not a fully-formed program – focuses on many of the measures that department officials have been talking about over the ensuing period. This includes such metrics as average net price (after taking into account financial aid), the net price paid by students from families of different income levels, proportion of students receiving Pell Grants (the primary federal need-based grant program, an indicator of how many low- and moderate-income students a college enrolls), proportion of first-generation college students, graduation rates, and loan repayment rates.

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