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Policy Update

Policy Update: President Obama takes executive action to expand income-based repayment

President Obama takes executive action to expand income-based repayment

At a White House event Monday, President Obama will sign an executive action to expand the law that caps borrowers’ loan payments at 10% of their income. The expansion will allow those who borrowed before October 2007 or finished borrowing by October 2011 to take advantage of income-based repayment plans. An estimated five million additional borrowers will qualify for the program with the broadened parameters. Relatively few borrowers have enrolled in the income-based repayment plan up until this point with only 11% signing up for the program. Expansion of the income-based repayment plan will not begin until the end of 2015. Read more about the expansion of the income-based repayment.

A California community college provides a model on encouraging successful transfer

Santa Monica College feeds more students into the selective University of California system than any other college in the state. They have accomplished this by focusing attention and resources on transfer for their students, faculty and staff. There is signage about transferring all over campus. The school’s marketing materials emphasize that Santa Monica College is “No. 1 in transfers.” But more importantly there is administrative support for transferring students with 45 full-time and 70 part-time counselors working with students to create transfer plans, holding general transfer workshops and guiding students through the application process at four-year institutions. Read more about Santa Monica College and California’s attempts to improve its already successful transfer system.

Policy update: What MN college majors have the best return on investment?

What MN college majors have the best return on investment?

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has released a new tool that gives students an idea of what their job prospects are with a given major. The database has information on income by major, geographic area, level of degree and type of institution. Users will also be able to see the relative stability of jobs through data on the percentage of full-time versus part-time jobs with a major. The information is much more accurate than previous labor-market databases because it draws from reported social security income rather than surveys. The information is pulled from the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years and will be updated with new data each year. Read more about the graduate employment outcomes database here.

College president changes at Normandale and MCTC

Joyce Ester has been appointed the next president of Normandale Community College. She will begin serving on August 2. Previously, Ester was the president of Kennedy-King College in Chicago. Read more about Joyce Ester here. Also, after 17 years as the president of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Phil Davis is leaving to lead efficiency efforts in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Davis will head the system’s Campus Service Cooperative, an effort to help streamline system business operations. Read more about Phil Davis here.

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.

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