Driving Change in Higher Education.

Policy Update

Policy update: Bill introduced that would allow current student loan borrowers to refinance

Bill introduced that would allow current student loan borrowers to refinance

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has introduced legislation that would allow student loan borrowers who are currently in repayment to refinance their debt at current interest rates. The bill would allow existing loan holders to access the same interest rates that new borrowers receive under legislation passed last summer. That legislation tied interest rates for new loans to the 10-year Treasury note. The proposed legislation would also allow those with private loans to refinance under the federal program. A companion bill was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Read more about the proposed legislation to allow current borrowers to refinance their loans at today’s rates.

Study shows that students might need to be pushed to reapply for aid

In the last several years there has been a concerted effort to get more high-school seniors to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). A new paper shows that a similar push might be needed for returning students. “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? Investigating Rates and Patterns of Financial Aid Renewal Among College Freshmen” looks at students who received the Pell Grant during their first year of college, which means they filled out the FAFSA, and who also earned at least a 3.0 GPA and are seemingly well positioned to continue college. The study finds that 18.5% of those students did not reapply for financial aid and that close to half that group did not return for their second year of school. The authors also found that two-year nonprofit college students were about twice as likely to not refile their FAFSA as their counterparts at four-year nonprofit colleges. Read more about the paper’s findings about students reapplying for financial aid.

Legislative Update: Highlights of the 2014 Minnesota legislative session

The 2014 Minnesota legislative session concluded on Friday of last week. Prior to adjournment the legislature agreed to and passed the supplemental budget bill that had been hotly debated for weeks. In the final agreement, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system received $17 million in base funding in FY2015 that is available only for faculty compensation and $34 million in ongoing funding for the 2016-2017 biennium. This was the amount requested by the system prior to the start of the session.

The supplemental budget bill also included a number of higher education-related policy provisions. One of those was language directing the MnSCU system to create an implementation plan surrounding the creation of multi-campus articulation agreements aimed at improving credit transfer. The language directs that the appropriate Charting the Future implementation team be charged with creating the plan. 

Another policy change included in the final agreement concerns the advertising of Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) opportunities by post-secondary institutions. In the E-12 Policy Bill, which was passed by the legislature earlier in the week, there was language which repealed a prohibition on colleges advertising the cost savings PSEO students might realize through the program. The bill limits the direct soliciting and recruiting of students to school districts with 700 or more students in grades 10, 11 and 12. This new language essentially keeps current practices the same, while allowing some more direct advertising to students who attend larger districts. 

There was also agreement surrounding a capital investment (or bonding) bill that will fund projects all across the state. The final bill included $159.8 million in funds for MnSCU projects with $120.7 funded by the state. The remaining amount is covered by the system office and campuses. Included in that amount is $42.5 million for MnSCU Higher Education Asset Preservation and Repair (HEAPR) projects. The final bill funds 15 of the 25 projects on the MnSCU system’s initial bonding proposal.  

Interest rates on federal student loans to rise

Interest rates on federal student loans to rise

Federal student loan interest rates are rising in the upcoming academic year. New undergraduate loan rates are increasing from 3.86 to 4.66%  and the rates for new direct loans for graduate students are rising from 5.41 to 6.21%. The interest rates for student loans are pegged to the sale of 10-year Treasury notes. Loans disbursed after July 1 will use the new rates. To read more about the increase in student loan interest rates, click here. 

Veterans struggle to get credit for experience and training

Time Magazine and The Hechinger Report recently explored the challenge many returning veterans face when enrolling in college after their military service is completed. Skill- and experience-wise, many veterans are far ahead of their classmates in programs like law enforcement and nursing, but academic institutions have struggled to recognize these abilities in the form of academic credit. Veterans enrolling in college programs often do not get credit for military courses they take during training, let alone their military experience. 

In addition to slowing down the academic progress of student veterans, taxpayers are also potentially paying more through the GI Bill. The article points to a new study that finds that veterans who enroll in college using money from the GI Bill take longer to finish than other students – a median time of five years for a four-year bachelor’s degree as compared to four years and four months for non-veteran bachelor’s degree seekers. The article highlights some interesting programs in Washington and Florida to address this issue. Click here to read more about the issues that veterans face receiving credit for experience and training.

You can read more about programs that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities have for translating prior learning and military education into credits for veterans by clicking here.

Policy Update: MnSCU Board of Trustees names Educators of the Year

MnSCU Board of Trustees names Educators of the Year

The MnSCU Board of Trustees honored four faculty members with the Educator of the Year Award for Excellence in Teaching.  Deanna Forsman of North Hennepin Community College, Cheryl Neudauer of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Sandra Seller-Wee of Riverland Community College and Cheryl Tefer of Anoka-Ramsey Community College received the award. The recipients were selected from a pool of 30 outstanding educators put forward by the presidents of MnSCU institutions. Read more about the Educator of Year award winners.

Google stops scanning student and faculty emails for advertising

After years of pressure from privacy advocates and in the face of upcoming legal challenges, Google announced that it will no longer scan the emails of students and faculty using the Google Apps in Education suite for advertising keywords. Many users on college campuses may not have known that this scanning was occurring because the on-campus edition of Gmail did not display ads inside the app. Instead the scanning was used to serve ads when users visited other websites. Google’s decision effects more than 30 million Google Apps in Education users who will now have email scanning turned off. Read more about Google turning off email scanning for higher ed.

Legislative Update: Senate Capital Investment Committee releases its bonding bill

The state legislative session continues to move toward its conclusion. The House and Senate conference committee continued to meet through the weekend on the Omnibus Supplemental Budget bill (SF3172), but was unable to complete its work. 

Last week, some discussion occurred in this committee surrounding the higher education policy provisions. Of note, the committee did adopt language aimed at improving credit transfer between system colleges and universities. The provision reflects the language found in SF2771 (Miller) with additional language directing that the report must come out of a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) Charting the Future workgroup.

This morning, the Senate Capital Investment Committee met and released a $850 million bonding proposal. There is also a proposal for a "cash only" capital bill, which would mostly be used for renovations of the state capitol building. 

The Senate proposal calls for approximately $172 million in projects for the MnSCU system. Of that amount, $42.6 million would be funded by the system and campuses. This proposal calls for $45 million in HEAPR funds, which allow campuses to repair and renovate current facilities. The committee will likely meet again on Tuesday afternoon of this week to finalize the bill.

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