By Benjamin Wermund | 05/19/2017 10:00 AM EDT
With help from Kimberly Hefling and Michael Stratford
STATES PICKING UP FIGHT FOR FREE COLLEGE: The push for free college didn't die when Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in November. Rather, the movement championed by Democrats last year has maintained momentum in what has been a big year for free college advocates. At least five states, including some red ones, have adopted or expanded programs to cover tuition for students, and more could still win approval. "It was a huge year for the movement," said Martha Kanter, a former Education undersecretary under Barack Obama who is now executive director of the College Promise Campaign, which helps build and expand tuition-free programs.
- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign a bill soon expanding the state's well-known free college program to older adults. The program is currently available only to students who just graduated from high school. Lawmakers in New York last month approved a plan to provide free public college for students from families making $125,000 a year or less. The Hawaii legislature provided funding for free community college, as well, and Arkansas and Indiana approved programs to waive tuition for students pursuing degrees in desirable fields such as those in science, technology, engineering and math (so-called STEM fields). A grant program to cover tuition for some college students won approval in Montana, though lawmakers have yet to allocate funding for it. Rhode Island could be next. Lawmakers there are considering a statewide free college proposal.
- "This has really caught fire with a lot of people," said J. Noah Brown, president of the Association of Community College Trustees, who is also a College Promise Campaign board member. But the reality is it's cheaper for states to expand free college programs than it is to reinvest in higher education, said Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at Columbia University's Community College Research Center. Many of the programs, including in New York, Tennessee and Oregon, provide so-called "last dollar" scholarships, meaning the state only chips in funding after students have used all of the federal and other aid they may get to help cover tuition and fees. "It may be gaining steam politically," Jenkins said. "I'm not sure it's going to benefit students that much. It's free access to underfunded, low-quality institutions." We've got the full story here.
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COLLEGES RAISE CONCERNS ABOUT PROPOSED VISA QUESTIONS: The State Department wants some visa applicants to answer a slew of new questions, including about their social media profiles and their last 15 years of travel, employment and addresses. The department says it's an effort to "more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism," but higher education groups, including the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, say the questions are "burdensome" and "could lead to unacceptably long delays in processing and negatively impact the ability of students and scholars to obtain visas for study in the U.S. this fall." The proposed rule change drew 120 comments, many of which were in opposition, citing concerns of colleges. You can peruse them here.
DEVOS: GAO FINDINGS ABOUT ED GRANT MONITORING 'APPALLING': In a report requested by Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, the GAO found the Education Department did not properly monitor more than $20 million in discretionary grants awarded in 2015. Alexander said Thursday that "I hope Secretary [Betsy] DeVos will use this report as an opportunity to make some serious improvements at the department." DeVos "finds this report appalling and unacceptable and is committed to ensuring the U.S. Department of Education delivers on its commitment to serving students while prudently safeguarding taxpayer dollars," Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said afterward. More on the GAO findings here.
PATH AHEAD FOR GI BILL: Nearly 40 groups with a stake in veterans' education spent three hours at the American Legion Thursday combing through 17 pieces of proposed legislation to improve the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which has paid out $75 billion in benefits to Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans and their families. Will Hubbard, vice president for government affairs with the Student Veterans of America, said in a statement that he feels confident the group will provide a plan to Congress to improve the popular benefit by this summer that a majority of veterans' and military service groups support.
- "Today was a healthy and well needed discussion about the future of the GI Bill," Hubbard said. "We left our egos at the door and simply concentrated on how to better the GI Bill for future generations. This is how we're supposed to work for veterans." The Military Times reported last month that there had been upheaval in the veterans' community over a proposal to charge future active duty troops for improvements to the benefit. The veterans groups would like to see certain Reservists now excluded from the benefit made eligible and more money to fund scholarships for families of troops killed on duty, but finding the funds to do so is a challenge.
SUPPORTING STUDENT STARTUPS: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, Rep.
ICYMI: TRANS RIGHTS BILL PASSES NEW JERSEY SENATE COMMITTEE: As several states have pushed efforts this year to restrict transgender bathroom use, a bill is making its way through the New Jersey legislature that would require the state education commissioner to protect transgender students. The bill, which calls for state guidelines requiring schools to maintain safe, supportive learning environments, and to address the use of restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students advanced out of the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. But even if it passes the state Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, the measure is not expected to be signed by Gov. Chris Christie. POLITICO New Jersey's Linh Tat has more.
EDU-PINION: The Trump administration's proposed elimination of federal funding that helps schools and districts improve teacher and principal quality "runs counter to how successful businesses operate," Deb Delisle, executive director of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and a former Education Department official under the Obama administration, argues in Ed Week . "As of 2012, American businesses spent more than $164 billion a year on training and talent development, according to Sarah Perez, who leads the M.B.A. for executives program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill," Delisle writes. "These businesses know that helping employees develop technical skills and advance their careers improves retention, motivation, engagement, and productivity. Profits at companies that invest heavily in training grow, on average, three times as fast as those of companies that fail to do so."
- Miami-Dade police trying to bond with high-crime community's youngest members: Miami Herald.
- Schools in New Hampshire are doing away with 'grades': EdSurge.
- Researchers and advocates are split over reclassifying English language learners in California: EdSource.
- Forty million Americans do yoga, but you can only earn a master's degree in yoga studies at one university: The L.A. Times.
- Wake County pastors say high schools shouldn't hold graduation ceremonies on Sundays: The News & Observer.
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