White House to Consult Higher Education on Affordability Policy

The Obama administration will consult independent colleges while developing the president's proposed financial aid overhaul, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. Noting that two external barriers to affordability include decreased state appropriations for higher education and the pressure that college leaders face to spend on new facilities that make their institutions more attractive to potential students, the administration says it will engage in an "honest and open dialogue" with the entire higher education community.

Higher Education State Support Falls 7.6% in 2012 Fiscal Year

Total state support for higher education declined 7.6 percent from the 2011 to the 2012 fiscal years, according to an annual report from the Grapevine Project at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. Reports a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, state spending on higher education is now nearly 4 percent lower than it was in the 2007 fiscal year. Twenty-nine states appropriated less for colleges this year than they did five years ago. The current year's large decline was due in part to the expiration of about $40 billion in federal money given to the states to prop up spending on education.

Obama Proposes Plan to Link Aid for Institutions to Affordability

President Obama has proposed a financial aid overhaul that for the first time would tie institutions' eligibility for campus-based aid programs to the institution's success in improving affordability and value for students, reports The New York Times. Under the plan, the amount available for Perkins loans would grow to $8 billion from the current $1 billion. In a speech last week at the University of Michigan, Obama announced a $1 billion grant competition that would reward states that take action to keep higher education costs down, and a separate $55 million competition for individual institutions to increase their value and efficiency. All of the proposed changes will require Congressional approval.

President Obama Puts Colleges and Universities 'On Notice'

"If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down," said President Obama last week to colleges and universities during his State of the Union address. "You're on notice," he told them, calling for plans to reduce the interest rate on student loans, extend popular tax credits and shore up support for community colleges job training programs. While he did not mention Pell grants, reports the Inside Higher Ed article, Obama urged Congress to forestall a planned increase on the interest rate on federal student loans (which will double to 6.8 percent in July if no action is taken) and proposed doubling the number of federal work-study jobs in the next five years.

U California System Considering 'No-Tuition' Student Proposal

A plan to replace tuition with post-graduation payments proposed by a group of students at the University of California, Riverside is being studied by the University of California system president and his staff. Calling themselves Fix UC, the student group's no-tuition proposal would require most graduates to pay 5 percent of their wages (not investments) for 20 years. It would offer discounts for transfer students, graduates who work in public service careers and those who stay and work in the state.

Duquesne U to Promote Campus Diversity

In a response to a Campus Climate Survey, Duquesne University’s (PA) Council on Diversity has announced plans to host more events and programs that showcase diversity. The survey revealed that students and faculty are in favor of actively promoting gender, racial and religious equality. Goals include monitoring the campus social climate; planning events to celebrate and promote diversity on campus; and recruiting and retaining minority faculty, staff, administrators and students.

Ivy League Students Protest Elite Financial Recruiters

Ivy League students recently crashed a handful of investment banking firm recruiting sessions at Harvard (MA), Brown (RI) and Princeton (NJ) universities, reports an Inside Higher Ed article. "...we protest the campus culture that whitewashes the crooked dealings of Wall Street as a prestigious career path. We are here today as a voice for the 99 percent, shut out by a system that punishes them just for being born without privilege," a group of 18 Princeton students said collectively during one recruiting session. "What we need is not a university for the 1 percent, but a university in the nation's service, and in the service of all nations." The tactic marks a shift for the college Occupy movement, says the article, "which up to this point had primarily targeted either their institutions or Wall Street as a whole."

Michigan State U Appoints Access Expert as New Education Dean

Michigan State University's College of Education has named Donald E. Heller, a national expert on higher education access issues, as its new dean. The former director of Pennsylvania State University’s Center for the Study of Higher Education has spent much of his career studying how government and institutional policies affect college access and choice for low-income and minority students. At a time when both the state and federal governments are stepping up their focus on higher education financing, accessibility and outcomes, says Michigan State University’s provost in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, "someone who understands education policy and the role of the university in helping to shape that policy is extremely attractive."

Rising Low-Income Student Population Poses Challenge for Colleges

The president of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities announced at a recent conference that the state's population of students in dire financial need grew by half in the 2009-2010 academic year, reports a Washington Post blog. This is a crisis for colleges, says the article, because while the federal government's Free Application for Federal Student Aid has determined that many more students bound for Wisconsin colleges should have their expenses covered entirely through aid, it hasn't stipulated where that aid will come from. The neediest students are eligible for $5,550 in federal Pell grants. Beyond that, grant and scholarship dollars come mostly from individual schools.

U Calif. Los Angeles Receives Record Number of Diverse Applicants

A record high of 91,512 students from diverse ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds applied for fall 2012 admission to the University of California, Los Angeles. Latino applications grew by 15.6 percent over last year, while African American and American Indian applications increased by 13.7 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively. The university also continued to experience gains among students from low-income families.

U South Sewanee Announces Tuition Cost Freeze

In an effort to make education more affordable and accessible, Sewanee: The University of the South (TN) has announced that it will freeze the cost of tuition, room and board for the next four years for the class entering next fall. Tuition and fees for these students will remain level through spring 2016. The university previously announced a 10 percent reduction in tuition and fees for the current 2011-2012 academic year, which will remain in effect for returning students next fall.

Lumina Debuts $7.2 M Higher Ed Access Initiative for Latinos

The Lumina Foundation has launched a collaborative partnership to strengthen ventures in metropolitan areas that show promise in improving the higher education access of Latino students, the fastest-growing student population in the U.S. Lumina will provide a total of $7.2 million over a four-year period to 12 partnerships in 10 states with significant and growing Latino populations. The partnerships will leverage community leaders across policy, education, business and nonprofit sectors to build, implement and sustain place-based efforts that capitalize on their local talents and ingenuity. Participating institutions include Georgia-based Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah State University and Savannah Technical College, which will work to double their percentage of graduated Latino students.

Minority-Serving Institutions Essential to Bolstering Economy

A new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy says that a focus on minority-serving institutions is essential to transforming our educational system, meet workforce demands and bolster the economy. To meet the Obama administration’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, those working in the areas of college access should address this largest-growing demographic, says the report. Minorities, whose rates of college attainment are the lowest, are expected to climb from 31 percent today to 52 percent by 2050 in the U.S.

Tuition Discounts Rising in Step with Increasing Costs

As tuition revenue per student continued to climb between the fall of 2010 and the fall of 2011, tuition discounts grew as well, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article sites the third annual analysis of tuition revenue by Moody's Investors Service based on responses from 257 of the institutions whose creditworthiness Moody's rates. Noting that discounts "are becoming increasingly important in attracting and retaining students in light of growing pricing sensitivity," the analysis revealed "more and more public institutions are following the private colleges' lead on discounting." About 42 percent of public universities increased their discount rates during the analysis period while nearly 54 percent of private colleges increased their discount levels.

5 Private Institutions Profiled for Tuition Cost Cuts

“A stagnant economy and declining attendance has prompted some colleges and universities to cut tuition costs for the first time in many years,” reports a recent article on Investopedia.com. The article profiles the affordability measures of five private institutions across the country including Cabrini College (PA), which cut tuition and fees by 12.5 percent; Lincoln College (IL), which cut tuition by 24 percent; Seton Hall University (NY), which cut tuition by 61 percent; Sewanee: The University of the South, which cut tuition by 10 percent; and the University of Charleston (WV), which cut tuition for new students by 22 percent.

Council of Graduate Schools' Annual Meeting Examines Diversity

Appealing to a more diverse group of students was discussed as one strategy for helping institutions adapt to economic realities and rapidly changing demographics during the Council of Graduate Schools annual meeting, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. A major concern among the hundreds of graduate school deans and administrators in attendance was the difficulty of achieving diversity and maintaining quality in graduate programs at the same time they are also cutting costs.

Grand Valley State U Approves Gender Neutral Housing

Grand Valley State University (MI) has announced plans to offer a gender neutral housing option on the 2012 student housing application. The new policy will provide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students with a supportive roommate situation. The Student Senate initially passed the resolution in March and a student-led Gender Neutral Housing Coalition has been actively seeking equality since early 2011.

UC Berkeley to Step Up Financial Aid to Middle-Income Students

Described as the "most significant such move by a public institution," the University of California, Berkeley has announced plans for more financial aid offerings to middle-class students starting next fall, reports a recent New York Times article. In an effort to grow the number of students from middle-class families, which has remained stagnant over the last several years, families earning up to $140,000 a year will be expected to contribute no more than 15 percent of their annual income. The program is expected to cost $12 million a year and will be paid for from out-of-state and international student tuition, as well as private donations.

Valencia College Wins First $600K Aspen Prize for CC Excellence

In recognition of the strength of its graduation and transfer rates, especially among minority students, Valencia College (FL) has earned $600,000 as the first recipient of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. Announced at the White House Summit on Community Colleges in 2010, the competition recognizes outstanding academic and workforce outcomes on the basis of graduation, retention and equity measures. Runners-up institutions include Lake Area Technical Institute (SD), Miami Dade College (FL), Walla Walla Community College (WA) and West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

Vincennes U Offers Reduced Tuition for Middle-Income Students

Vincennes University (IN) has introduced a new scholarship that will offer a 15 percent reduction in tuition fees for students from middle-income families who do not traditionally qualify for financial aid. The introduction of the Middle-Income Hoosier Scholarship is part of a larger university strategy to help Indiana increase the number of college graduates. To qualify, students cannot be eligible for any state or federal funds, must have an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000, be a full-time student and maintain a grade point average of 2.5.

Ball State U Announces Cost-saving Tuition Incentives

Ball State University (IN) has announced four new cost-saving options designed to encourage students to earn a diploma in four years. New incentives include a $500 "completion scholarship" for in-state seniors on track to graduate within four years; the reduction of summer tuition by an average of 18 percent; the reduction of minimum credit hours to 120 from 126; and new "hybrid schedules" that allow students enrolled in 12 credit hours per semester to take up to six more credit hours, on campus or online, at no cost. The university's president says that the package of incentives will save a typical student $6,000 over four years.

California Students Launch the 'Bucks Start Here' Campaign

In an effort to convince state lawmakers to reinvest in higher education, the California State Student Association (CSSA) has launched the "Bucks Start Here" campaign. Students at all 23 California State University campuses are sending their "bucks" to California Governor Jerry Brown in time for CSSA's advocacy day in March 2012. The mock $650 million bills, which represent this year's cuts to the state university system, each include a student's personal story about how the cuts have impacted their life.

Obama Administration Issues Guidance on Higher Ed Diversity

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice have jointly issued guidance stating that diversity is an important educational goal and that colleges should be able to use a variety of methods, including the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions, to achieve diversity. As reported in a recent Inside Higher Ed article, the guidance represents a reversal from 2008 guidance issued by the Bush administration that stressed the limits on the rights of colleges to consider race in admissions. The guidance outlines the way the Obama administration would consider complaints it receives about admissions policies and addresses various ways that colleges can promote diversity.

Obama Leads Effort to Improve American Indian, Tribal Education

President Obama has issued an executive order establishing an effort to improve educational opportunities for American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as to enhance tribal colleges, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. The U.S. Departments of Education and Interior will collaborate on delivering grants to higher education institutions, as well as tribal elementary and secondary schools. The initiative will also develop a national network of organizations to promote ideal education methods for American Indian and Alaska Native education.

Update: Obama Meets with College Leaders to Address Affordability

Reports from the private meeting with President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last week with college and university leaders say that there was "good discussion" about driving down tuition and what the role of the federal government should be, reports The New York Times. As additional financing for education will be scarce in the coming years, higher education leaders were challenged to help improve affordability and graduation rates by questioning strongly held assumptions and encouraging faculty to think differently about teaching. The meeting also included a discussion about what the federal government can do to support innovation with incentive money and increase accountability in student aid.

William Peace U Lowers Tuition

William Peace University (NC) trustees have voted to decrease tuition by 7.73 percent for the 2012-13 academic year. The university's president said that colleges have to become more cost-effective to continue to keep the doors open to families hurt by the economy. The lowered tuition is part of an overall strategy to increase enrollment.

Education Secretary Urges Action to Contain College Costs

“As Occupy movement protests helped push spiraling college costs into the national spotlight,” reports a recent New York Times article, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called for urgent action to contain costs and reduce student debt. Duncan outlined three department initiatives including plans to replace the expiring Perkins loan program with campus-based, low-cost student loans; incentive grants rewarding changes that increase completion rates and close achievement gaps; and a fund to support programs that use innovation to accelerate learning and hold down tuition. The article references the Occupy Student Debt Campaign, which spawned recently from Occupy Wall Street and asks for zero interest on student debt, federally financed public higher education, and the forgiveness of all existing debt.

Protesters Rally Against CUNY Tuition Increase

About a thousand students, faculty members and sympathetic supporters recently marched in opposition to a tuition increase that the City University of New York's Board of Trustees has approved. A Chronicle of Higher Education article reports that some protestors came in order to address the university's response to confrontation between campus security officers and protesters, which ended in 15 arrests. Other protestors said they understood the financial complexities behind the increase, but believed the student movement deserved their support. The long-term tuition plan will increase costs by $300 annually for five years, with the first year's increase already in effect.

U California Board of Regents Urged to Lower Tuition

Students and faculty members recently addressed the University of California's Board of Regents to discuss the state's budget problems and gradual retreat from supporting higher education, reports a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article. Held by teleconference to hear public comment, people urged board members and administrators to support the "ReFund California Pledge," which calls for raising taxes on the wealthiest Californians, closing tax loopholes and lowering tuition.

White House Gathers College Leaders to Address Affordability

Inside Higher Ed reports that President Obama has called the leaders of 10 colleges and state university systems to a "highly unusual" meeting at the White House to discuss affordability and productivity in higher education. "Amid an increasing focus on student debt and college prices, the event seems to signal that the Obama administration will make those issues a focus going into the 2012 campaign," says the article. The guest list is drawn largely from public institutions and includes leaders of large state systems, public universities, a statewide community college system and two private institutions.

Cornell U Students Call for Transgender Friendly Bathrooms

In support of the transgender community on campus, Cornell University's (NY) Student Assembly has passed a resolution that calls for the conversion of every single-stall bathroom on campus to a gender-neutral facility. The resolution, which will now go before administrative bodies on campus, also prescribes the inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms in all future university buildings.

Student Debt, Rising Tuition Protests Heat Up in U.S. and Canada

A recent story in The Christian Science Monitor profiles the wave of protests on U.S. college and university campuses that are being held in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. With rallies and walk-outs from classes, students are protesting rising costs of tuition, student debt and weak job prospects. Stating that students at more than 120 institutions have participated in protests so far, the article compares the galvanizing issue to the civil rights and Vietnam War student protests of the 1960s. On the West coast, the University of California, Davis was home to one of the most controversial incidents as students staging a peaceful sit-in were pepper-sprayed by police officers. Students at the University of California, Berkeley who were setting up an Occupy tent city on campus were beaten and arrested by police in riot gear who broke up the encampment. On the East coast, protesters from the Occupy Boston movement, local unions and area colleges marched with the message that higher education is becoming too costly for all but the privileged. Roughly 50 New Jersey City University faculty, staff and students also rallied in protest of state cuts to higher education and the high cost of student loans. In Canada, tens of thousands of university students in Quebec recently demonstrated against a proposed tuition increase of $325 a year over a five-year period. Tuition fees have been frozen for 33 of the past 43 years in Quebec. The planned hike would provide the province with $850 million more in operating revenues. Students boycotted classes during the largely peaceful protest.

Yale Medical School Actively Recruiting Gay Applicants

In an effort to increase an underrepresented demographic group as physicians, Yale University's (CT) School of Medicine is actively recruiting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender applicants for the first time. The university has created a brochure aimed at those applicants and is considering adding a section to the application where students can identify their sexual orientation.

Average Student Loan Debt Grew 5% in 2010

A recent report by the Project on Student Debt has revealed that students who graduated from college in 2010 with student loans owed an average of $25,250, up 5 percent from the previous year, reports The New York Times. The report is based on data from more than 1,000 colleges, representing half of all public and private nonprofit four-year schools. The article points out that the average amount of debt would be even higher if the report included profit-making schools, where almost all students take out loans and, according to federal data, borrow about 45 percent more than students at nonprofits. The average debt - once again the highest on record - came as the class of 2010 faced an unemployment rate for new college graduates of 9.1 percent, the highest in recent years. The burden of student loans and the rising default rate has become a central concern of the nationwide Occupy protests.

Occupy Movement Comes to California Campuses

Arguing that banks created the country's economic collapse that decimated state budgets and led to massive tuition hikes in recent years, a union-backed group recently organized protests at more than a dozen college campuses in California. The protests are calling on leaders of California's public universities to pledge support for higher taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals as a way to restore funding for jobs and education.

Student Aid Petition Gathers Thousands of Signatures

A "Statement of Support" from the Student Aid Alliance that calls on Congress to protect Pell Grants, student loans and other financial aid programs from budget cuts has gathered more than 37,000 signatures. The petition will soon be delivered to members of the Super Committee, a bipartisan panel charged with cutting $1 trillion from the nation's budget by the end of November. Signers include students, faculty and administrators from all sectors.

U Charleston Announces 22% Tuition Cut

In a deliberate move to attract students who might otherwise be unable to afford college, the University of Charleston (WV) has announced a tuition cut of 22 percent for next year's incoming first-year and transfer students. The university is also guaranteeing at least $5,500 in aid for all returning students.

Yale School of Management Forms Diversity Advisory Group

Yale University's (CT) School of Management has launched a Diversity Advisory Group with the goal of boosting diversity in the student body. Composed of 21 students, three faculty advisers and the associate director of admissions, the new committee will be driven by students from multiple areas of the school who will work with administrators to create and implement policy.

U Winnipeg Earns National Recognition for Indigenous Scholarship

A 2011 ranking of institutions by Maclean's magazine has recognized the University of Winnipeg (MB) as one of Canada's most innovative and successful campuses in fostering indigenous scholarship. The university, which saw a 24 percent leap in indigenous student applications from the last academic year, offers a graduate degree in development practice with a focus on indigenous development, and an urban studies program with courses that examine the urban indigenous, immigrant and refugee experience.

New York State Announces $2.5 M in College Access Grants

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced $2.5 million in College Access Challenge Grants to programs that will help thousands of low-income students obtain a college degree. The grants were awarded by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation to 15 community-based organizations statewide that provide academic support for students at risk of dropping out; training for high school guidance counselors serving low-income students; and college financing workshops.

Obama Announces Programs to Ease Student Loan Burden

President Obama announced two new programs last week to lower monthly student loan payments and consolidate at a lower interest rate. The president is using his executive authority to expand the existing income-based repayment program with a "Pay as You Earn" option that would allow graduates to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income after 20 years and have the rest of their federal student loan debt forgiven, says a New York Times article. The announcement follows a petition with more than 30,000 signatures that asked for student debt relief and a Trends in College Pricing Report 2011 that reveals the current severity of the higher education affordability problem.

Hispanic CC Completion Rates Increase 440% in 20 Years

Minorities have shown triple-digit jumps in enrollments and credentials awarded at community colleges in the past 20 years, according to a new policy brief from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Hispanics saw the highest jump in earned credentials with a 440 percent increase. Enrollments according to race and ethnicity increased 17 percent for whites, 137 percent for African Americans and 226 percent for Hispanics.

Vancouver Island U Adds Gathering Place for Aboriginal Students

Vancouver Island University has opened a new meeting place for aboriginal students on campus. Designed to resemble a traditional Coast Salish longhouse with sustainable features including a green roof, the 3,900-square-foot Shq'apthut building is one of 27 being created at public postsecondary institutions across British Columbia through a $13.6 million investment by the province.

California's 'Dream Act' Becomes Law

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that will allow illegal immigrants who graduated from high school in-state to receive state financial aid for college, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Known as the California Dream Act, the law will allow undocumented students to apply for state grants, fee waivers at community colleges and institutional financial aid at public universities, starting in 2013. In related news, the governor vetoed another bill that would have allowed public colleges to consider race in admissions.

Rhode Island Approves In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students

The Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education has approved a measure that allows undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at the state's public institutions. Under the new policy change, in-state rates will be available to undocumented immigrants' children who have attended a high school in the state for at least three years and graduated or received an equivalent degree.

Rising Tuitions Incite National Student Protests

Students on nearly 100 campuses participated in walkouts and rallies to protest rising tuition and shrinking academic programs, reports a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article. While many of the largest student walkouts and rallies were in the Northeast, a small group of students at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrated against proposals to increase tuition by as much as 81 percent over the next four years. Students are worried, said a student organizer at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne: "I have amassed $20,000 so far in debt...many students are not certain that they're going to get jobs, and that's why we're here."

Chronicle of Higher Ed: U.S. Seeking Foreign Student Diversity

There is a growing effort by higher education institutions in the U.S. to attract a more geographically diverse group of foreign students, according to a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article. By recruiting more students from underrepresented countries including South Asia and Latin America, admissions officers hope to enrich campus culture, help undergraduates prepare for globalized workplaces and hedge against the risk of a sudden drop-off in foreign enrollment.

NY Times: Higher Ed Seeking Out Students Who Can Pay Full Price

More than half of the admissions officers at public research universities said in a recent Inside Higher Ed survey that they have been working harder in the past year to recruit students who need no financial aid and can pay full price, reports the New York Times. According to the survey of 462 admissions directors and enrollment managers, 22 percent of admissions officials at four-year institutions said the financial downturn has led them to pay more attention in their decision to applicants’ ability to pay. Admissions directors at many public universities said in the survey that recruiting more out-of-state and international students, who pay higher tuition, was their top strategy. At community colleges and private institutions, admissions officers were more likely to say that providing aid for low- and middle- income students was their focus.

Kentucky CTCS Earns National Accolades for Diversity Efforts

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) has announced that it will receive the Central Regional Award for Equity from the Association of Community College Trustees. KCTCS has earned the recognition with several new diversity initiatives designed to create an inclusive community of learners and increase the college-going rate of underrepresented populations.

U Colorado Boulder Sees 9% Increase in Students of Color

The University of Colorado at Boulder's current student body is the most diverse ever, according to results from a campus census that show the number of students of color increased by 9 percent this fall over last year. The university credits campus recruiting and retention programs for the gain as minorities now make up 17 percent of the school's student body.