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2016 MILLENNIAL MEMO (September 2, 2015): Keeping tabs on higher education debates

2016 MILLENNIAL MEMO (September 2, 2015)

432 days to go…

I know many of you are spending your week pondering a Kanye West White House run, but take 5 and read your weekly digest on all things 2016 & higher education below. Share it with your friends and encourage them to sign up for updates here.

BUSH TO UNVEIL “SWEEPING” COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY PLAN IN OCTOBER: Education Week reports that at a townhall yesterday with high schoolers in Miami, “Bush… said he plans to unveil a sweeping college affordability plan next month, said he supports community college, associate degrees, and technical post-secondary programs—all of which he said could help right the skills gap that’s left about 3 million jobs unfilled. ‘College is not affordable in many places,’ he said. ‘Here we’re lucky. In Florida we have lower tuition costs than many states.’”

BUSH EMBRACES TUITION-FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE: “Jeb Bush threw his support behind a Tennessee plan to give two years of community college to students tuition-free on Monday, the same plan that helped inspire President Obama’s similar proposal earlier this year. ‘We’ve got to make sure that we can get a four-year degree done in four years,’ the presidential hopeful said in answer to a question Monday during a press conference after a meeting on the U.S.-Mexican border in Texas. ‘There are great programs around the country — one of the ones I most admire is a project called Tennessee Promise, where every student that participates gets their community college education, at least for the first two years, debt free, free of tuition’… Tennessee Promise is one of the programs that the White House said ‘inspired’ Obama’s recent plan to offer two years of tuition-free community college to all students that meet certain qualifications. The Tennessee program is funded by the state lottery and the first wave of ‘Promise’ students are starting school this academic year.” (The Hill, August 24, 2015)

BUSH ADDS HIS VOICE TO BIPARTISAN CALL FOR ENSURING UNIVERSITIES “HAVE SKIN IN THE GAME”: Bush added that universities need to ‘have skin in the game’ when it comes to holding up the promise of a four-year degree. “‘If kids can’t graduate with a four-year degree in four years, there ought to be some payback to their families or to them, or there’s got to be some support for the loans they’ve taken out,’ he said.” (The Hill, August 24, 2015)

CLINTON REFERENCES COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY, STUDENT DEBT 5 TIMES IN 25-MINUTE SPEECH TO DNC: During her address at last week’s Democratic National Committee summer meeting in Minneapolis, Secretary Clinton referenced the rising cost of college and student debt five times — more than any other policy item. Highlights: “Think of the millions of Americans being held back by their student debt. They can’t start a business. They can’t buy a house. They can’t even get married because of the loans hanging over their heads. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be in America. In America, if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead.” Clinton also said: “Others are doing everything they can to take our country in a very different direction. Who watched the Republican debates a few weeks ago?… Not one of them had a single word to say about making college more affordable.” (C-Span, August 28, 2015)

WALKER ADVISOR TAKES AIM AT CLINTON’S COLLEGE COMPACT: In an interview with WEAU, Walker Senior Advisor and pollster Ed Goeas said of Clinton’s New College Compact, “Basically what she wants to do is a program that would essentially raise taxes… Spread the pain on helping these students that have high debt, as opposed to Scott Walker who, in his plan in the state, actually froze tuition for four years.”

WALKER CAMPAIGN IDENTIFIES “A LACK OF EFFICIENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY” AS THE CORE PROBLEMS WITH CURRENT HIGHER ED SYSTEM: “Walker’s Senior Advisor Ed Goeas from the Tarrance Group thinks that Hillary Clinton’s plan for relieving student debt is not the answer for fixing the core problem, which the Walker Campaign says is a lack of efficiency and accountability in the school system… But with a proposed $300 million cut to the UW system, there will inevitably be consequences like layoffs and cutting programs unable to survive. Clinton thinks Walker is reducing opportunity for students, and that he is quote, delighted to slash investment in higher education. ‘You have to not only look at the cuts to higher education,’ said Goeas. ‘You have to look at why they were there and what was the effect, and what was happening in terms of dealing with that root problem.’” (WEAU, August 18, 2015)

STUDENTS ON TRUMP U:’s Ethan Wolff-Mann reports: “Do you remember Trump University? Probably not — it didn’t really catch on. And one big reason it didn’t catch on is because it was a total scam, say a slew of former students in complaints that were filed to the Federal Trade Commission and were recently unearthed by a Freedom of Information Act recently requested by Gizmodo. ‘For my $35,000+ all I got was books that I could have gotten from the library that could guide me better then Trump’s class did. I just want my $35,000+ money back. I feel embarrass[ed],’ reads one complaint. Another grievance describes a level-unlocking strategy reminiscent of Scientology. After paying $1,495 for a three-day seminar, which provided information freely available on Zillow, ‘attendees were told that unless they purchased additional products (software; individual coaching) they would not succeed,’ the complaint states. Another former ‘student,’ who purchased the $34,995 ‘Gold Elite’ package after the $1,495 seminar under the promise of mentorship, calls the program ‘an absolute, utter waste.’”

TRUMP U FACES LEGAL PROBLEMS: “It is not only former students who have called into question the legitimacy of Trump University, which was founded in 2005. The New York Department of Education sent Trump a letter in 2010, accusing the operation of misleading students and misuse of the word ‘university.’ Soon thereafter, the operation was renamed the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative. In 2013, the New York Attorney General’s office filed a $40 million lawsuit against the former reality star and current Republican presidential candidate for failing to impart the promised real estate education on 5,000 students and subjecting prospective students to high-pressure sales tactics. Naturally, Trump responded with his own complaint, accusing the attorney general of extorting him for campaign contributions. In April 2015, a judge ruled that Trump was indeed personally responsible and that the matter would go to trial. A class-action suit against Trump related to Trump University is also pending. Nevertheless, Team Trump is still loudly trumpeting the legitimacy of the ‘university.’ In a recent interview with National Review, Alan Garten, a Trump spokesperson said the New York Department of Education and prospective students ‘knew exactly what we were doing…and they were fine with it.’” (, August 26, 2013)

DEEP DIVE ON TRUMP U (VIDEO): Yahoo News Live’s Katie Couric and Michael Isikoff take a deep dive look at Trump University. Isikoff reports that “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman now has more than 150 witnesses, or former students, that have complained that they didn’t get what they were promised.”

CLINTON SOUGHT INVITE FOR FOR-PROFIT LAUREATE AT STATE DEPT DINNER: “During her first year as secretary of state, however, Clinton pushed for the inclusion of a large for-profit education company at a higher education policy dinner hosted at the U.S. Department of State. Clinton wrote in an email to a top aide that she wanted to add Laureate Education to the guest list for the event. Describing Laureate as ‘the fastest growing college network in the world,’ Clinton said the company was ‘started by Doug Becker who Bill likes a lot.’ ‘It’s a for-profit model that should be represented,’ she added in the August 2009 email. A senior vice president at Laureate was added to the guest list, a separate email shows. Former President Bill Clinton several months later became an honorary chancellor for Laureate International Universities, a role for which he was paid $16.5 million between 2010 and 2014. Clinton stepped down from the position earlier this year.” (Inside Higher Ed, September 2, 2015)

LACK OF DATA SEEN IN CONNECTING HIGHER EDUCATION PATHWAYS TO THE BEST JOBS FOR MILLENNIALS: Marketwatch’s Jillian Berman reports: “Young Invincibles came up with the idea for [a Best Millennial Jobs] report after getting questions from students across the country about what they should do in college to maximize their chances of landing a gig post-school, [Young Invincibles’ Deputy Policy & Research Director Tom] Allison said. ‘They might have an idea of what they’re interested in, but they don’t know what they should study to get them a job that will help them repay their student loans, be able to save up for a house or just generally be economically stable.’ But the report only gets at part of that equation — the best jobs for students post-graduation. The study doesn’t directly answer the question of how college students get to those fields. That’s largely due to a lack of data on the job-placement and salary outcomes of various colleges and majors, Allison said… ‘The frustrating thing is we can’t map out exactly what the path is to these occupations,’ Allison said. ‘We’re wringing our hands about what the future of higher education is going to look like and it would be really easy if we could unlock all of this information.’”

RUBIO TO INTRODUCE ACCREDITATION BILL, ALLOWING NONTRADITIONAL ED MODELS TO RECEIVE FEDERAL AID: Vox’s Libby Nelson reports: “Rubio’s plan to overhaul accreditation leaves the traditional system in place. But beside it, he’d set up another route for colleges and college-like programs to get access to federal financial aid. He will soon introduce a bill that would create a congressionally appointed panel to oversee ‘authorizers,’ alternatives to accrediting agencies that could approve both traditional colleges and startups. Programs would have to prove [their value,] meet benchmarks on graduation rates, pass rates on professional licensing tests, and employment rates after graduation. Programs that met the benchmarks for five years would be allowed to get access to a small portion of the federal Pell Grant program… Those with a shorter track record would get a smaller slice that increases over time if they continued to perform well. Programs would be required to put up matching funds to ensure that they weren’t depending on the government money to survive. Under Rubio’s bill, nontraditional programs could gain access to about $1.6 billion in federal Pell Grant money per year. Those programs could be things like… online courses that are meant to make it quicker or easier to get a degree and a job.”

VOX REPORTS ON RUBIO’S OWN COLLEGE EXPERIENCE: “When… Rubio arrived at Tarkio College… a small, little-known liberal arts college far away from Rubio’s hometown of Miami… What Rubio didn’t know was that Tarkio was in deep trouble. Less than two years later, it would close its doors for good, bankrupt, its reputation in tatters… The college… recruit[ed] students from homeless shelters and soup kitchens to participate… Tarkio’s student loan default rate had soared to a staggering 78 percent. Its president had resigned. Shortly after Rubio arrived, its accreditor put it on probation. The Education Department ordered it to return $22 million in misused grants. By the time Rubio took his first-semester finals, rumors were spreading that the college wouldn’t last much longer. He left a semester later for a Florida community college, alarmed about the future of football at Tarkio, the transferability of his credits, and the value of his eventual degree. By the time Rubio graduated from the University of Florida in 1993 and went on to law school, Tarkio was gone. It has almost vanished from Rubio’s story… Rubio’s higher education proposals spring from two underlying principles. The first is that higher education is an economic issue. The US is lagging behind other advanced countries in college graduation rates, and jobs in the future will require more education, not less… The second is a belief that higher education needs to be disrupted.” (Vox, August 28, 2015)

MEASURING UP MILLENNIALS: A new national Quinnipiac poll finds Secretary Clinton topping all her Republican rivals among registered Millennial voters, outperforming Sanders and Biden in matchups against Bush and Rubio — and holds nearly the same lead over Trump as both Sanders and Biden. Here is how the candidates stack up against one another:
Clinton 49, Bush 30 (C+19)
Clinton 51, Rubio 34 (C+17)
Clinton 53, Trump 32 (C+20)
Biden 48, Bush 35 (Bi+13)
Biden 45, Rubio 37 (Bi+8)
Biden 53, Trump 32 (Bi+21)
Sanders 48, Bush 33 (S+15)
Sanders 45, Rubio 36 (S+9)
Sanders 50, Trump 29 (S+21)
Clinton 48, Bush 22, Trump 20 (C+26)


College Calculus, The New Yorker, John Cassidy

Opinion: CliffsNotes for Credit, Inside Higher Ed, Daniel F. Sullivan