Education

For-profit schools need better oversight and more empowered students

An eye-opening congressional report released this week paints a picture of a too-familiar scenario in which unvarnished greed and lack of oversight grips an industry, exploits consumers and squanders billions in taxpayer funds. It is yet another situation that calls for increased oversight to stop abusive business practices.

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Misleading the public about University of Phoenix

Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, released a report on for-profit colleges and universities, including University of Phoenix. This report is the culmination of a two year review.

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The National Endowment for the Humanities: Caught in the collision of politics and budgetary restraint

In politics, as on highways, innocent bystanders are sometimes victims of collisions. The annual budget of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is neither the cause of nor the solution to the nation’s fiscal problems. But once again it may become a casualty of the determination of legislators—on both sides of the aisle—to show they are serious about reducing the federal budget. What losses, for our nation and for our communities, further reductions of the NEH budget would entail!

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Assault on Pell Grants has serious implications

In recent years, both Republicans and Democrats in Washington have lost their way when making policy around one of most important things we will ever do: educate our children. Most recently, this has found its expression in the bipartisan assault on Pell Grants.

If we were to eliminate these grants tomorrow, the 9 million college students who rely upon them would be in peril of dropping out of college, including nearly half of African-American undergraduates and 40% of Hispanics.

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DC voucher program deserved to be saved

The program Mitt Romney referred to as a “model for parental choice programs across the nation” was saved from closure by an agreement between the office of the Speaker of the House and the Obama Administration last Monday evening. Since 2004, The DC Opportunity Scholarship program has been distributing vouchers worth up to $7,500 to low income students in Washington to allow them to attend private schools of their choosing. Originally passed as part of a “three sector” solution to the woes of the DC public school system, the funding for the program was paired with increased funding for both traditional public schools and charter schools. Until Monday, the Opportunity Scholarship part of the appropriation had been removed from the President’s 2013 budget.

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Time running out to find deal on student loan interest rate

At yesterday's rally with college students, President Obama rightfully reiterated that the federal student loan interest rate must not rise from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1. He said, "[w]e're 10 days away from nearly 7.5 million students seeing their loan rates double because Congress hasn't acted. This should be a no-brainer. It should not be difficult. It should've gotten done weeks ago."
 
The president is right, and that's same the case I - and my House Democratic colleagues - have been making for months. Unfortunately, House Republican Leadership is still stonewalling and does not appear to be taking the issue as seriously as it warrants. Rather than focusing on helping students or getting Americans back to work, Speaker Boehner instead jammed through two controversial bills this week that endanger the environment and our public lands and provide additional giveaways to Big Oil. Even prior to this week, the issue was left out entirely of House GOP's “Summer Legislative Agenda" and it was reported that Speaker Boehner privately called the issue a “phony” fight, and he said it was unlikely that Congress would prevent an interest rate hike before July 1.
 
This is unacceptable, and there is nothing "phony" about this for the millions of students who will see their rate double on July 1.
 
As a graduate of Salem State College, I understand the importance of public education. However, when I was a student, I was able to work a few jobs and pay my room, board and tuition. That’s just not the case for students today. Students are working multiple jobs, choosing schools that are more affordable than others, and still carrying tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.
 
A few years ago, when Democrats controlled the agenda in Washington, we took real steps to lower the cost of college and provide our students with options and transparency.
 
Between 2007 to 2010, we increased Pell Grants from $4,050 to $5,550, cut the interest rate on Stafford Loans in half, required schools to post a cost calculator online so families could see what four years would really cost with all the add-ons, we rewarded states that maintain their effort to provide consistent and adequate support for public higher education institutions, we created an income based repayment plan so students can afford their loan payments despite the career they pursue, and the list goes on.
 
But while I hear from students around our area that these reforms were helpful and constituted progress, I also know that for many of them, college debt is still a real concern. The last thing they need is for their interest rate to double overnight on July 1.
 
Earlier this month, I spearheaded a letter, signed by more than 100 members of Congress calling on Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to bring responsible legislation to the House floor in the coming weeks that will prevent interest rates from doubling. While he may have left this critical issue off of his party’s “Summer Legislative Agenda,” there is still time for him to take a leadership role and ensure this burden is not added to our middle-class families and students.
 
I still believe that the bill I introduced months ago, the Stop the Rate Hike Act of 2012, which would keep the interest rate in check for another year by closing one tax subsidy for Big Oil, is a sensible and commonsense proposal, but I am open to alternative ideas. I certainly oppose the original bill introduced by my Republican colleagues – which paid for the one year "fix" by cutting funds for preventive health care for women and children – but I urge my colleagues to join me in finding an acceptable offset to pay for the cost of keeping the need-based student loan rate at 3.4% for another year.
 
The current student loan interest rate stalemate is unnecessary and leaving millions of students and families frustrated. A Republican colleague from California acknowledged in a recent public hearing, that it is incumbent upon the Majority in the House, currently his party, to foster bipartisanship. As we watch the days tick by, it is time for Republican leadership to put the partisanship aside and find a deal and prevent the student loan interest rate from doubling on July 1.
 
Rep. Tierney (D-Mass) is the only New England member on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and author of the Stop the Rate Hike of 2012.
 

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It's not just Stafford Loans: Lowering student costs

Washington is in the throes of a debate on extending the favorable interest rate on student loans. It is fodder for Congressional debates and the President has made it an election issue by “Slow Jamming” the issue on the Jimmy Fallon Show.  That rate – 3.4% -- will double on new loans starting July 1 unless Congress takes action.

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