Yes, Congress can go big on college affordability

For those seeking action on the crisis in college affordability, last week’s stalemate in the Senate on student loan interest rates was disappointing. Absent a compromise, subsidized student loan interest rates will double on July 1. 
But the debate on interest rates and who’s to blame if they double misses the bigger issue. College costs too much. There’s no brake on the incentive for states and colleges to raise tuition and fees. And students, particularly those from low and middle-income families, have to borrow too much to attend.


STEM fund key to U.S. global competitiveness

Although the work is not yet complete, advocates for a national fund for science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and computer science education have reason to be optimistic.

Washington is well into its much-anticipated discussion on immigration reform, with a proposal for a broad bill under consideration in the Senate and legislation overhauling high-skill immigration recently introduced in the House of Representatives.

Both pieces of legislation include a national fund intended to help the U.S. train more of its students in STEM fields and produce more college graduates able to meet the expected growth in high-skill jobs.  The fund would be created through additional fees paid by companies seeking high-skill H-1B visas and green cards to hire foreign workers.


Student loan rates: Let the market decide, not politicians

There may be few issues that Republicans and Democrats agree on these days, but protecting college students and graduates from sky-high student loan rates should be one of them. The Smart Solutions for Students Act, currently pending before the Senate, ties student loan rates to the market instead of leaving interest rates up to politicians’ whims.


The changing face of higher education

Two historic pieces of federal legislation, the original G.I. Bill and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, transformed America by helping hundreds of thousands of Americans to earn postsecondary degrees, and dramatically expand the middle class. Now again, we are faced with demographic shifts will transform our country and our education system. Growth in the Hispanic/Latino population leads the way. While immigration reform and state DREAM Acts are important ways to make sure this new majority of Americans is fully integrated democratically and economically, in Colorado, we are focused on raising college attainment, not simply college enrollment.
By 2025, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, wants 66 percent of Coloradans aged 24-34 to hold high-quality postsecondary credentials. Our future workforce — and our commitment to equity — requires no less. 


Don’t let new school junk food rules get derailed

Imagine this: You are a 15 year-old standing in front of a school vending machine, getting ready to satisfy the snack craving you've had since first period. But lo and behold, instead of cookies and chips, every one of the slots behind the glass contains the same healthy stuff your mom and dad fill the cabinets with at home.

That vision could soon be a nationwide reality, thanks to updated nutrition standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which sets guidelines for the types of foods that are sold in our public schools. The standards are important because students consume about 400 billion calories from junk foods they buy at school every year. This is especially troubling because 33 percent of U.S. children and adolescents are on the way to becoming overweight or obese, and 25 percent of children ages five to 10 exhibit early warning signs for heart disease.

As a retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral and member of Mission: Readiness, a nonpartisan national security organization, I'm especially concerned about the impact of obesity because it’s the leading medical disqualifier for military service; one in four young Americans is now too overweight to join the military. The military recognizes this as a national security issue as our armed forces depend on individuals who are physically fit to serve.


No Child Left Behind: Pass or fail?

Say what you will about the No Child Left Behind Act, but it was a piece of legislation with a clear vision behind it. The very notion that standardized tests could be used to assess schools – not just students – requires a breathtaking leap of faith. To believe in using test scores this way, one must subscribe to the viewpoint that every child possesses the capacity to learn; that a failure to achieve is not a personal failure but rather a systemic one.


Scientific research? We built that!

Congress’s recent action to allow the Federal Aviation Administration to avoid furloughs of air traffic controllers is an indication that the fiscal sequester is starting to bite. Less visible, but no less real, is the harm to our economic growth that will result from drastic across-the-board sequestration cuts to agencies that support scientific research.


Congress must act now to address mental illness in schoolchildren

The raft of school shootings across the country is dramatic evidence of the need to provide a better support system for children with mental illness. As schools have focused more and more narrowly on academic performance, early warning signs of mental and behavioral health disorders have been all too frequently overlooked. The Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013 (S. 195) has placed a spotlight on children’s mental health, now at increasingly greater risk given cuts to state education budgets. These cuts threaten to further reduce already limited numbers of school counselors and other support personnel. In a time of “big data,” we cannot ignore the fact that one in five children in the United States suffers from mental illness. Over the past 20 years, suicide rates have nearly doubled among children between ages 10 and 14.


School tech grants should go to schools with a real plan

Over the past decade, the United States has spent upwards of $100 billion on K-12 classroom technology to no discernible effect. The reason is clear: most education technology in use in K-12 classrooms is not integrated into core instruction, and thus offers limited educational value.


Celebrating Charter School Successes: This Week and Every Week

Every child deserves an excellent education. Unfortunately, there are many children in this country that, because of their neighborhood or socio-economic status, do not have access to a school that will prepare them to succeed in college and a career. On a national scale, only one in 10 students from low-income families will graduate from college. Internationally, the United States fails to compete with the world’s best. According to a recent study by Pearson Education, the United States does not even crack the top 15 in educational performance amongst countries in the developed world.