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2016 MILLENNIAL MEMO (July 28, 2016): Keeping tabs on higher education debates

2016 MILLENNIAL MEMO (July 28, 2016)

Good morning! As convention season comes to a close and families scramble to write tuition checks, look for back to school to play a prominent role throughout the month of August. It’s go-time in the race for Millennial voters’ support. Please share this week’s Millennial Memo, and encourage your colleagues and friends to stay in the know, sign up for updates here.

SANDERS ON COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY IN DNC SPEECH: “This election is about the thousands of young people I have met all over this country, the thousands that I have met who have left college deeply in debt, and tragically the many others who cannot afford to go to college. During the primary campaign, Secretary Clinton and I both focused on this issue but with somewhat different approaches. Recently, however, we have come together on a proposal that will revolutionize higher education in America. It will guarantee that the children of any family in this country with an annual income of $125,000 a year or less – 83 percent of our population – will be able to go to a public college or university tuition-free. That proposal also substantially reduces student debt.” (NPR, July 25, 2016)

ANALYSIS COUNTERS REPORT THAT COLLEGE STUDENTS SPEND VERY LITTLE TIME ON ACADEMICS: According to a new Heritage Foundation report, students are being paid to “slack off. The report…looked at data from the American Time Use Survey (sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and concluded that full-time college students spend just eight hours a week in class and just 19 hours a week on any kind of educational activity at all, including homework and extracurricular activities. Even students who don’t work spend just 25 hours a week on education. But the study extrapolates far too much from far too little evidence. There are also other key gaps. The survey only tracks each person for one day, so we don’t know whether a student who doesn’t have a job one semester might have one the next. And importantly for the authors’ thesis, the survey doesn’t track who receives student aid, so there is no way to know whether subsidized loans are encouraging students to work or study less. There are hints that they don’t: Low-income students, who generally receive the most generous subsidies, spend more time studying than any other group.” (FiveThirtyEight, July 22, 2016)

WAPO DETAILS KAINE HIGHER ED RECORD AS VIRGINIA GOV: “Timothy M. Kaine backed a major construction initiative for public colleges during his four years as Virginia governor and oversaw increases for higher education funding until economic recession squeezed state spending midway through his term. As governor, Kaine left a mark on higher education in Virginia. He consoled Virginia Tech after a gunman killed 32 students, faculty and staff members on campus in 2007 in what was at the time the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history. Kaine also made numerous appointments to college boards, perhaps none more significant than his choice in 2008 of Virginia Beach home builder Helen E. Dragas to fill a seat on the University of Virginia Board of Visitors. In December 2007, Kaine proposed borrowing $1.65 billion to support construction projects at public colleges and universities — an initiative described at the time as the largest proposal of its kind in state history. The legislature in April 2008 approved a bond initiative totaling $1.5 billion, mostly benefiting higher education. At the outset of his term, Kaine oversaw funding increases for higher education. Data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers shows that Virginia   provided public appropriations of $6,856 per full-time college student in 2007, up from $6,145 in 2005 before Kaine took office. (Figures were adjusted for inflation.) But state funding ebbed after the nation plunged into recession in 2007-08. The appropriation per student fell to $6,314 in 2009 — Kaine’s final full year in office — and $5,561 in 2010.” (Washington Post, July 25, 2016)

HECHINGER ANALYSIS ON ROLE OF STATES VIS-A-VIS DEM HIGHER ED PROPOSAL: “Tuition is a little more than one-third of the actual cost of attending most state colleges, according to federal data. Students, then, can be on the hook for up to an additional $15,000 after tuition – and that’s why student debt has been rising so fast. Back in 1980, Pell grants covered 77 percent of the cost of attending a four-year public university, but by 2011 that had dropped to barely one-third of the cost, according to The Education Trust. Student debt now averages about $30,000 per student. Students with children can be hit even harder, juggling work, childcare costs and college. More than a quarter of all college students are raising kids. Single mothers comprise 43 percent of students raising children and single fathers 11 percent. Clinton says that her proposal to expand funding for on-campus child care centers would open 250,000 new spots for children of college students. She’s also offering a maximum of $1,500 a year to up to one million students to defray transportation and child care costs. It’s not clear from the platform how the Democrats would or could implement their pledge to increase state funding for college. Most of the funding decisions – such as tuition rates and financial support for public colleges and universities – take place at the state level. The Democrats’ higher education platform may indeed solidify, and even excite, their traditional base, but it’s unclear how much of it will become policy. Even if it does, it’s equally unclear whether it would increase the number of low-income Americans who earn college degrees.” (The Hechinger Report, July 25, 2016)

FAFSA UPDATES SIMPLIFY FILING PROCESS: “For the 2017-18 academic year, people can turn in the FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016. [And] students and their families will use their financial information from the 2015 tax year to fill out the FAFSA. The idea is that this will make it easier to fill out the form earlier. It also allows more people to take advantage of the IRS Data Retrieval tool. It transfers your tax information to the FAFSA, but because many people have traditionally filled out the FAFSA before completing their taxes, that tool hasn’t been as helpful as it could be. ‘This will simplify the FAFSA, cutting about a page of questions from the form,’ Mark Kantrowitz, said in an email to ‘Also, any data element that is transferred unmodified from the IRS will not be subject to verification … This is especially important for low-income students, who often have difficulty completing verification.’ ‘The switch to prior-prior year also increases the amount of time available to apply for financial aid, from 18 months to 21 months,’ Kantrowitz said. He said he hoped the earlier availability of the form would lead to more low-income students filing their FAFSAs early, consequently allowing them to qualify for more state aid. Changes to how people apply for federal student aid hardly solves the burden of rising education costs and the ever-growing student loan debt in the U.S., but they simplify a process that many people find intimidating.” (Marketwatch, July 20, 2016)

FEDS WORK FOR STUDENT LOAN SERVICER ACCOUNTABILITY: “The Obama administration is taking a hard line on the contractors it uses to collect federal student loan payments, threatening to withhold compensation or new business if companies fail to adhere to new standards for servicing over a trillion dollars in student debt. On Wednesday, the Department of Education issued guidance directing the head of its financial arm, James Runcie, to hold student loan servicers accountable for borrowers receiving accurate, consistent and timely information about their debt. The 56-page memo calls for the creation of financial incentives for targeted outreach to people at great risk of defaulting on their loans, a baseline level of service for all borrowers and a contract flexible enough to penalize servicers for poor service, among other things. Researchers at the Government Accountability Office found that 70 percent of people in default actually qualified for a lower monthly payment through income-driven plans that cap monthly payments to a percentage of earnings, but servicers are failing to provide sufficient information about the options. Even when the contractors reach out to delinquent borrowers, the information is often inconsistent.” (Washington Post, July 20, 2016)


ILLINOIS–DUCKWORTH HIGHLIGHTS FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE: “Duckworth sat down with WGIL for an in-depth interview and took aim at Kirk on a number of issues, including his opposition of free community college.The Hoffman Estates Democrat says her opponent ‘calls free education a hand out’ and she ‘couldn’t disagree more.’ ‘You’ve got Carl Sandburg College that is such a great feeder program and then you’ve got Knox College right there,’ Duckworth says. ‘We could find ways to make certain programs at Sandburg free community college so that anyone who qualifies can go to school for free. It helps lower that debt burden so that we don’t have people from college graduating with huge student loan debt.’” (WGIL, July 17, 2016)

NORTH CAROLINA–2016 IS BURR’S LAST SENATE RACE: “Burr, 60, told the Tar Heel State GOP delegation Wednesday morning that he would not be running again for the Senate after this November. The decision to not run again after 2016, Burr said, came down to his age and a desire to eventually return to the private sector and spend more time with his family.” Burr ranks high on the Senate Education committee. (Stars and Stripes, July 20, 2016)