College Students to Benefit from Proposed Regulations Targeting Troubling Practices in Rapidly Expanding College Debit, Prepaid Card Marketplace

The U.S. Department of Education announced proposed regulations, available for public inspection today in the Federal Register, aimed at protecting as many as 9 million college students receiving $25 billion in federal student aid by providing tougher standards and greater transparency surrounding agreements between colleges and companies in the rapidly expanding college debit and prepaid marketplace. The proposed regulations are intended to safeguard students from excess fees and provide students the freedom to choose how to access their federal student aid funds when paying for college. The action by the Department would bring much needed reforms to a sector that has operated without sufficient transparency, putting taxpayer dollars at risk of financial loss.

“It is critically important to ensure that students can freely choose how to receive their federal student aid refunds,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “Students need objective, neutral information about their account options. For example, students should be able to choose to receive deposits to their own checking accounts and not be forced to utilize debit cards with obscure and unreasonable fees.”

Full story of proposed benefits to student troubling college debt at ed.gov

 

Statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on 2015 Building a Grad Nation Report

More young people are graduating from high school today than ever before—and gaps in graduation rates are closing—even as standards are rising. The credit for these gains goes to educators, students, parents and community partners. Yet we know that, in today’s knowledge-based economy, a high school diploma isn’t enough. So while we should be encouraged by projections like the one in this year’s Grad Nation report, we know that more hard work remains to truly prepare all—not just some—students for success in college, careers and life. Education must be the equalizer that can help overcome the odds stacked against too many of our students.

Full story on the grad nation report at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Announces $60 Million Available for First in the World Grant Competition

As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to drive innovations in higher education and increase college completion, affordability and quality outcomes, the U.S. Department of Education today announced the availability of $60 million in Fiscal Year 2015 in the First in the World (FITW) program. FITW grants will fund the development and testing of innovative approaches and strategies to improve postsecondary education attainment. Of the $60 million available this year, the competition has a set-aside of $16 million for institutions designated as minority-serving institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“Through the First in the World program, the Obama Administration is calling on colleges and universities to help develop the most promising approaches to improve outcomes for students, particularly for those who are underrepresented, underprepared or from low income backgrounds,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.” We look forward to hearing from institutions as they seek to pioneer new and innovative ways to increase college success.”

Full story of first in the world grant competition at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Awards More Than $24.8 Million in Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Grants

The U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $24.8 million to 67 schools districts in 26 states across the country to establish or expand counseling programs. Grantees will use funds to support counseling programs in elementary and secondary schools. Specifically, the new Elementary and Secondary School Counseling grant awards will aid schools in hiring qualified mental-health professionals with the goal of expanding the range, availability, quantity and quality of counseling services. Parents of participating students will have input in the design and implementation of counseling services supported by these grants.

“School counselors are a vital resource for students and educators, and play a key role in creating safe and productive learning environments,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These grants will enhance school-based counseling programs, which have proven to be a great source of help for students and families with mental health and emotional issues.”

Full story of ED awarding counseling grants at ed.gov

141 Students from Across the Country Named 2015 U.S. Presidential Scholars

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced the 51st class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 141 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics or the arts.

“Presidential Scholars demonstrate the accomplishments that can be made when students challenge themselves, set the highest standards, and commit themselves to excellence,” Duncan said. “These scholars are poised to make their mark on our nation in every field imaginable: the arts and humanities, science and technology, law and medicine, business and finance, education and government—to name a few. Their academic and artistic achievements reflect a sense of purpose that we should seek to instill in all students to prepare them for college, careers, civic responsibilities, and the challenges of today’s job market.”

The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by President Obama, selects honored scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high ideals. Of the three million students expected to graduate from high school this year, more than 4,300 candidates qualified for the 2015 awards determined by outstanding performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, and through nominations made by Chief State School Officers or the National YoungArts Foundation’s nationwide YoungArts™ competition.

Full story of students named to presidential scholars at ed.gov

White House Honors 2015 Teacher Of The Year: Shanna Peeples

Shanna Peeples works at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas. Most of the students come from poor families. Some are refugees from East Africa — coming through the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

The week’s news also includes this – the White House honored the national teacher of the year. She is Shanna Peoples. She works at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas. Most kids at that school are poor and many are refugees. Amarillo is popular for resettlement because feedlots and slaughterhouses provide jobs, but that reality also provides challenges for teachers like Peoples. Jennifer Schmidt reports.

JENNIFER SCHMIDT, BYLINE: When East African refugees began arriving at Palo Duro High School a few years ago, Shanna Peoples went online to learn more about them.

Full story on the 2015 teacher of the year at NPR

The Plan To Give E-Books To Poor Kids

Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see?

I see a blue horse, a purple cat, and a new program — unveiled today by President Obama — with one goal in mind:

To put good books in the hands of low-income kids.

More specifically, $250 million worth of e-books available to young, low-income readers — free. The effort will work through a new app, being developed by the New York Public Library, that has the buy-in of all the major publishers.

“Children should not be unable to get reading materials because their parents don’t have money,” says Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, which has offered up all of its titles for kids from 4 to 14.

Full story of e-books to poverty children at NPR

To Get More Students Through College, Give Them Fewer Choices

How many different flavors of jam do you need to be happy?

In 2000, a famous experiment showed that when people were presented with a supermarket sampler of 24 exotic fruit flavors, they were more attracted to the display. But, when the sample included only six flavors, they were 10 times more likely to actually buy.

This experiment contributed to the literature of what’s known as “the paradox of choice.” Too many choices can lead to feelings of frustration, dissatisfaction and paralysis, which is especially bad in cases where not making a choice is the worst one of all.

Full story of student choices to finish college at NPR

Could It Be? Researchers Find A Hiring Bias That Favors Women

Think, for just a moment, about the last job you applied for.

If you didn’t get the job (apologies), did you get an interview? If not, did you feel some hidden forces, beyond your control, working against you?

Perceived hiring biases against women working in science, technology, engineering and math have been around as long as women have been graduating from STEM programs. From 2008 to 2010, women received the majority of doctorate degrees in life and social sciences but only 32 percent of the open assistant professorships.

Now comes a study that offers something of a counter-narrative — that, given the chance, universities would rather hire women for STEM tenure-track positions.

Full story of a hiring bias that favors women at NPR

Debt Collectors Lose Lawsuits Against Education Department

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Education brought by four of its contracted student loan debt collectors after the department decided not to award them additional business.

Judge Francis Allegra of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims tossed the lawsuits in a sealed order, court filings show. Most of the documents in the case are either secret or heavily redacted. The Huffington Post was unable to obtain a copy of the court order on Tuesday.

Coast Professional, Enterprise Recovery Systems, National Recoveries, and Pioneer Credit Recovery sued in March after the Education Department said it wouldn’t send them any more accounts under their current contracts. The Education Department said Feb. 27 that the four firms and West Asset Management had misled distressed borrowers “at unacceptably high rates.”

Full story of debt collectors lawsuit against ED at Huffington post