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OKCPS board to seek legal advice on potential lawsuit against state

The Oklahoma City Public School board of education unanimously voted Monday to hire a law firm to research the effects the state budget cuts are having on its students and teachers.

Board chair Paula Lewis said the district will pay for the Education Law Center out of New Jersey to gather information and determine if a lawsuit against the state is viable.

“This isn’t official. We’re not filing suit,” she said. “We’re doing this for all kids in the state of Oklahoma. Every child in Oklahoma is not receiving the resources that they need. Every teacher is underpaid. Every teacher doesn’t have what they need in their classroom.”

Officials said it could take several months for the firm to complete its investigation.

Lewis said the board will decide whether to move forward with a lawsuit based on the firm’s findings.

“It’s time for the legislators to step forward and fully fund us to the level that will help our children have the best opportunity in the future,” Lewis said.

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The importance of financial education

As a practitioner within the finance community, I cannot but stress the importance of financial education on the local scene. I am not the first and will definitely not be the last to state that financial education, apart from the endless number of branches/types of education we receive throughout our lifetime, is essential for one’s wellbeing, from adolescence till retirement/pension age. The type of education which should start from secondary school (some might suggest that should be introduced and form part of the primary educational syllabus) and be on-going in order to keep abreast with the ever changing dynamics of the markets and environments within which we operate.

The global banking and financial market community are passionate about instilling a sense of ownership in investments and interest in market, and considers financial education as a very important issue to be tackled actively.

Scholars are of the opinion that financial education in itself empowers consumers and gives them a better know-how of how to manage their finances. More importantly, it provides the necessary groundwork and tools for individuals on how to avoid unnecessary risks and even taking on unnecessary debt piles. Furthermore, it enables people to improve their understanding and broadens the way they perceive financial opportunities and financial products (and the underlying risks and benefits assigned to them) which become available from time to time.

Within the EU, stringent and robust regulation is in place for banks and service providers to ensure that these oblige in providing clear and comprehensive information on any financial products which are offered to their respective customers.

And this is where I highlight the importance of financial education. What is the use of providing customers/prospective investors with a flurry of information and array of investment solutions if they are not in a position and/or do not have the necessary knowledge to understand and digest all this information? It is therefore clear that service providers on one hand are duty bound to provide the relevant information to consumers, but the consumers also need to do their part and educate themselves – they cannot be seen in isolation and are tantamount for investors to be steered into the financial products most suitable to their needs.

It is no surprise that, globally, there exists a rather low level of understanding of financial matters as well as of basic economic concepts, which renders even the most basic of financial products to appear complex to the average customer/investor who has not been exposed to any sort of financial education.

This leads them to fail to plan ahead or to choose products that meet their investment requirements and hence could result in experiencing difficulties in the event of some unexpected adverse circumstance. Even worse, if bad investment decisions are taken along the years, it will make it even harder for individuals to ensure a satisfactory standard of living in retirement. Therefore we can safely say that financial education all boils down to improving the financial well-being of individuals and society.

Clearly, I cannot but stress the importance of promoting financial education amongst students at an early age, as the knowledge and skills acquired by them at this age, will provide them with a solid background on market knowledge throughout their lifetime.


This article was issued by Mark Vella, Investment Manager at Calamatta Cuschieri. For more information visit, The information, view and opinions provided in this article is being provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as investment advice, advice concerning particular investments or investment decisions, or tax or legal advice. 

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Furious parents told by teachers’ union ‘we’re not a child-minding service’ as schools closed for second snow day

A teachers’ union chief said today that schools are “not a child-minding service” as parents reacted with fury to another swathe of closures in the snowy weather .

Graham White, Suffolk representative at the National Education Union, risked the ire of mums and dads when he said: “Schools are for education, not child-minding.”

Parents with jobs to go to faced a second day of having children off school, giving them the nightmare of juggling work commitments with looking after the kids.

Mr White said: “Headteachers are in an impossible situation… open and risk injury to staff or pupils, or close and risk the wrath of parents who now have their children at home.

The teachers’ union said they are not there to ‘child-mind’
(Image: SWNS)

Parents are struggling for time off

Schools have struggled to stay open in the severe weather (file image)
(Image: Getty)

“It is very unfortunate that parents are inconvenienced by snow and school closures, but safety is paramount.”

As scores of schools stayed shut today, many people voiced outrage on social media, labelling the teachers part of the ‘snowflake generation’.

They said it was ridiculous that snowfall which would be shrugged off as ‘next to nothing’ in countries like Norway and Germany should panic and paralyse the UK.

Heads who decided to close their school due to snow feared they could look ‘foolish’ later in the day if bad weather forecasts were inaccurate, said Mr White.

But Mr White said they had to act in the best interests of their pupils and staff.

Pupil safety is the schools’ priority, the union said

Hundreds of schools have closed across the country

A boy slides on an inflatable tube in Bradgate Park after snow fall in Newtown Linford, Leicestershire
(Image: REUTERS)

Headteachers make the decision, usually before 7am, and their main consideration is health and safety, particularly for pupils.

Schools are advised to make a decision to close as early as possible, in order to inform parents and carers in good time.

A risk assessment is conducted taking into account factors including the state of pathways, steps and slopes around the school.

Condition of roads and pathways in the local area must also be considered and schools have to check that the heating, lighting and water is working correctly.

The availability of public transport and school coaches must also be taken into account, as well as catering.

Schools may also need to close due to other unforeseen circumstances, such as heating failures and structural issues.

Mr White said schools should close in certain circumstances due to snow, such as when the adverse weather poses a danger to pupils, if the school has insufficient staff numbers, and if a substantial number of pupils cannot travel to school due to bus service cancellations.

People have been laughing and taking pictures of this snow structure
(Image: Cambridge News WS)

A broken sledge sits sticks out of a bin in Bradgate Park
(Image: REUTERS)

Visitors sledge in Bradgate Park
(Image: REUTERS)

He said a light dusting of snow is unlikely to close schools but if weather conditions make driving hazardous, or the buses are cancelled, then school closure should be given “serious consideration”.

He added: “Most staff do not live close to school and some do not live on gritted road routes, so driving may be considered potentially dangerous.

“We should not be advising anyone to drive in conditions that put their and others’ safety in question.

“The headteacher knows their staff and pupils best and so is in the best position to make the judgement call.”

The dilemma faced by headteachers was illustrated in a recent letter to parents of pupils at Northgate High School in Ipswich.

Joint headteachers David Hutton and Rowena Mackie wrote: “We would like to stress in response to previous media coverage that closing the school is not a decision that is taken lightly by headteachers.

A snow plough working to clear roads in Ironbridge in Shropshire
(Image: PA)

“As a group we dislike having to make a decision before 7am that has the potential to make us appear foolish later that same day!

“Parental opinion is typically split, with roughly equal numbers complaining on snowy days if we close the school or keep it open.

“In making our decision prior to the start of a school day, we will consider the safety of the school site (which will be fully inspected) and the likely danger to pupils, students and staff in making their journey to school.

“We have to keep in mind that while many of our Year 7 to 11 pupils can travel in by foot, the vast majority of our staff cannot.

“The likelihood of having inadequate supervision clearly adds to safety concerns when conditions underfoot are dangerous and pupil behaviour is influenced by the possibility of ice and snow related activities.

“If the school is open at the start of the day and it begins to snow heavily during the day, our considerations will be slightly different.

Will more snow fall in Britain

“In this situation we will weigh up the relative safety of pupils who are already on the site, compared to their likely safety if sent home.

“We will also try to judge if their journey home is likely to be more dangerous if delayed until the end of the school day.

“In this respect the decision may be different for Sixth Form students, many of whom travel long distances through rural areas.”

Lee Abbott, headteacher at Hillside Primary School in Ipswich, said: “I think schools should do all they can to open in all weathers, other than when it is impossible to open the site safely, for example, boiler failure, when it is impossible to clear paths, and when there are insufficient staff to teach classes.

“However, it is a very challenging decision for heads and a decision to close is never taken lightly.

“At Hillside we risk assess the site, and the staff’s journeys to school, to try and put appropriate plans in place to ensure the school opens because that is best for our learners and their families.”

Department for Education advice for schools states: “During severe weather conditions, such as flooding or snow, you should keep your school or early years setting open for as many children as possible.

“However, it might be necessary to close temporarily due to inaccessibility or risk of injury. You should do all you can to re-open as soon as possible.”

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Alleged Noel Night teen shooter to be charged with ‘adult …

DETROIT, MI — A 16-year-old accused of causing mass chaos and opening fire during the annual Noel Night holiday celebration in Detroit’s Midtown on Dec. 2 could be sentenced as an adult if found guilty. 

The juvenile, Calvin Stephens, of Detroit, is charged with four counts of assault with intent to murder and felony firearm.

The victims, who all survived, include: a 19-year-old man, 17-year-old girl, and two boys, 14 and 16. 

The shooting, which stemmed from an argument, occurred about 7:30 p.m.  between Detroit Institute of Arts about the Detroit Science Center.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said nearly 120 officers were assigned to patrol the 45th annual holiday celebration that draws thousands. 

Because Stephens is being charged with an adult designation, that means he’ll face trial in juvenile court. If found guilty, the designation means he could be sentenced as a juvenile, as an adult, or receive a mixed sentence consisting of time spent in the juvenile detention system before transfer to the adult system.

Stephens is scheduled to appear in juvenile court Tuesday at 9 a.m.

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74% of parents help adult children with finances – Yahoo Finance

Seventy-four percent of parents help pay for their adult children’s living expenses, according to a new and BankRate survey.

The cellphone bill is the most common expense parents help pay, and other top expenses they assist with include transportation (e.g. car repairs, gas), rent and utilities.

In total, 52% of parents said they helped their children pay down their student loan debt. Respondents aged 55 and over were significantly more likely than those aged 35-54 to help their adult children with debt payments.

Meanwhile, only 16% of respondents said they helped an adult child pay a credit card bill.

Grown adults are still dependent on their parents senior industry analyst Matt Schulz says parents who feel compelled to assist their children can face some negative repercussions. While their generosity comes from a good place, it may not be wise.

“In helping their kids, parents can get themselves into some trouble. The vast majority of Americans are going to struggle with retirement savings. That money isn’t going into your retirement accounts in the future. It’s important that parents don’t do so blindly without understanding what the potential ramifications are for their own futures,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“The truth is not all parents are good role models with their finances. The truth is a lot of parents have great intentions but aren’t necessarily equipped to give the best advice,” he added.

Market research firm YouGov interviewed 1,092 adults with children 18 and over to do the survey. The company did not break down the respondents by how old their children are. It’s safe to surmise that those 22+ would receive substantially less help from their parents, after graduating college and receiving some sort of income.

Then, of course, there are those parents who cut their children a check every month or perhaps once a year. In these instances, they might not be helping their adult children out of necessity — instead, they may be subsidizing their kids’ luxury wardrobes or fancy dinners.

As fresh college grads flock to expensive cities for high-skilled jobs, they struggle to cover their day-to-day expenses with meager entry level salaries. Nearly half of folks in their early 20s get help from their parents to pay for rent, according to surveys cited earlier this year by The New York Times.

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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FDA launches public education campaign to encourage adult smokers trying to quit cigarettes

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced an adult smoking cessation education campaign aimed at encouraging cigarette smokers to quit through messages of support that underscore the health benefits of quitting. These messages will be displayed in and around gas stations and convenience stores – retail locations where smokers face a multitude of triggers and that typically feature cigarette advertisements. The “Every Try Counts” campaign targets smokers ages 25-54 who have attempted to quit smoking in the last year but were unsuccessful. The two-year campaign launches next month in 35 U.S. markets and features print, digital, radio, and out-of-home ads, such as on billboards.

“Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S.,” said U.S. Surgeon General VADM Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “As Surgeon General, I believe sustained and comprehensive efforts, including the FDA’s ‘Every Try Counts’ campaign, are critical to encouraging more Americans to quit smoking and preventing the harms associated with cigarette use.”

“The ‘Every Try Counts’ campaign encourages smokers to rethink their next pack of cigarettes at the most critical of places — the point of sale. Tobacco companies have long used advertisements at convenience stores and gas stations to promote their products, and we plan to use that same space to embolden smokers to quit instead,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “The FDA is committed to reducing tobacco-related disease and death by helping people quit combustible cigarettes and implementing comprehensive policies to reduce addiction to nicotine. Our aim is to render cigarettes minimally or non-addictive, while encouraging the development of potentially less harmful tobacco products for adults who still want or need access to nicotine. At the same time, we’re also taking new steps to improve access and use of FDA-approved medicinal nicotine products to help smokers quit.”

Cigarette smoking is responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Despite declining rates of use among adults, 15 percent (36.5 million) of adults in the U.S. were cigarette smokers in 2015. Of those adult smokers, about 2 out of 3 (more than 22 million) say they’d like to quit. While more than 55 percent of adult smokers made a quit attempt in 2015, only about 7 percent were successful.

“Every Try Counts,” seeks to celebrate each quit attempt as a positive step toward success because research shows those who have tried quitting before are more likely to try again, and those who have tried to quit multiple times have a higher likelihood of quitting for good. In addition to the positive messaging, location plays an important and unique role in the campaign. Ads will be placed in various locations at the point-of-sale, including at the gas pump and other places around the retail environment such as the front door, cash register and shelves. Studies show that in-store displays and other tobacco advertisements can trigger unplanned cigarette purchases, making quitting more difficult. Placing ads in those same locations will help to disrupt the urge to purchase cigarettes and encourage another quit attempt instead.

“Tobacco advertising in retail environments can generate a strong urge to smoke, prompting a relapse among those attempting to quit. This campaign offers smokers motivational messages in those environments with the intention to build confidence and instill the belief within each smoker that they are ready to try quitting again,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “We want smokers to feel good about each attempt to quit because it is getting them closer to one day leading a healthier life free from cigarettes, reducing their risk of tobacco-related death and disease.”

The FDA has partnered with the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute to create to provide smokers resources and tools to help with quitting. The website includes a free text message program that sends tips and offers words of encouragement, a mobile app to track smoking triggers, trained coaches accessible online or by phone, and information about the risks of smoking and the variety of FDA-approved smoking cessation products. Aligned with the campaign’s efforts, the American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Truth Initiative have also pledged resources, such as hosting local smoking cessation events in the “Every Try Counts” target markets.


“Every Try Counts” is a part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to reduce the enormous public health burden of tobacco use and will complement the agency’s at-risk youth and young adult education campaigns aimed at prevention. The campaigns, which are funded by user fees collected from the tobacco industry and not by taxpayer dollars, are based on the best available science and are evaluated to measure effectiveness in changing tobacco-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors over time. “Every Try Counts” will complement existing and proven cessation messaging focused on hard-hitting health consequences from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign.

The campaign also complements the agency’s comprehensive plan on tobacco and nicotine regulation announced in July 2017. The approach places nicotine, and the issue of addiction, at the center of the agency’s tobacco regulation efforts. In particular, the plan focuses on addressing the role that nicotine plays in keeping smokers addicted to combustible cigarettes, and to help move those who cannot quit nicotine altogether onto less harmful products.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.


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Moody’s: Higher education sector outlook negative

Dive Brief:

  • The credit-rating agency Moody’s downgraded the outlook of the higher education sector from stable to negative, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Moody’s cites the industry’s inability to lower tuition rates and uncertainty around potential federal policy and tax reform changes, which could have an impact on “enrollment and tuition-revenue growth, philanthropic support and the cost of borrowing.”
  • Moody’s assigned a negative rating to the sector in 2013, but amended it to stable two years later in anticipation that states would increase funding and revenue would grow at four-year institutions.

Dive Insight:

With the election of Donald Trump — which Education Dive named “Disruption of the Year” for its 2017 Dive Awards — it is even more unclear what types of policy and tax reform changes could potentially impact higher ed. The topic generating the most conversation in higher ed circles is the proposal to tax endowments of private institutions with more than 500 students and endowment assets of more than $250,000 and $500,000 in the House and Senate bills respectively, per full-time enrollee.

Likewise, the potential outcomes of the Higher Education Act — now back on the table — has the industry on even more precarious footing in terms of finances, as Republicans have made clear they want institutions to provide student ROI. Specifically, the bill’s proposed penalties would force institutions to use their endowment funds to make college more affordable for more students. 

Meanwhile, institutions will continue to seek ways to cut costs. For instance, Connecticut recently announced plans to consolidate all 12 of its community colleges under a single system, after Wisconsin proposed to merge the University of Wisconsin’s two-year colleges into its four-year institutions. 

Free speech issues and campus protests will continue to capture headlines, with recent research indicating students are more politicized than at any point in the last five decades. Colleges have spent upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars for security for controversial speakers and protests, while administrators have come under scrutiny for how they respond these issues. For example, Evergreen State College — which shut down the campus due to unrest — now faces a potential bill to have its public funding stripped and has seen a 4.5% drop in enrollment this year. 

To tackle these realities, presidents and administrators will need to show students their safety and security are top priorities. A recent study from researchers at the University at Albany offers six tips for presidents handling emergencies. These include creating pre-conditions that facilitate collaboration during an incident, effectively interpreting the complex context of the unrest, fast response and targeted decision making, extending information to stakeholders and constituents on decisions carried out, figuring out the right moment to shut-down the crisis and learning from, as well as documenting, the event to enhance safety and performance.

As tuition and other costs rise, leaders at pubic colleges need to continue to work with legislators to prove value to how they are addressing student ROI. One strategy being discussed is performance-based funding, where state policymakers would work out a plan with institutions to offer funding based on whether certain achievement benchmarks have been met. Institutions also are looking at alternative sources of funding, such as Purdue University’s purchase of for-profit Kaplan, which Education Dive named Innovation of the Year.  

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Education funding a priority in 2018, new senate chair says

State Sen. Max Wise
State Sen. Max Wise

State Sen. Max Wise said pension reforms should likely wait until the 2018 regular session and added funding must be found for education as legislators work to craft a new two-year budget among budgetary issues. Wise also stated that while comprehensive tax reform is key to making Kentucky more competitive, he feels it needs more study before the system is overhauled this year.

Wise said he would prefer to see the legislature wait until the regular session of the General Assembly starting Jan. 2 to tackle pension reforms, noting the letter sent to Gov. Matt Bevin by members of the House asking to wait and the concerns expressed by many of his constituents.

Wise discussed chatter of a “watered down” version of the original pension proposal possibly coming before the legislature that would not include 3 percent employee salary contribution going to the retiree health insurance fund, some changes to how cost of living adjustments are handled, and other tweaks.

Heading into the 2018 session, Sen. Wise has been tapped as the new Senate Education Committee chair. As an educator at the graduate and undergraduate levels and a father of four children currently in Kentucky schools, Wise said he looks forward to bringing his experience to the new role. Wise also said he expects to work closely with House Education Committee Chair Bam Carney and lean on his expertise as they seek to move important education issues forward.

The main focus of education discussions in 2018 will revolve around funding as legislators craft the next two-year state budget with limited resources. In the most recent budget, cuts were seen in almost every area of state government except for K-12 education. Wise said he expects the legislature to again try to hold education harmless in any budget cuts (discussion starting at 3:00 in the video segment below).

As for higher education funding and the cuts seen by the state’s colleges and universities in recent years, Wise said he expects the performance-based funding model passed by the General Assembly in 2016 to help improve the use of those funding sources but added that many of the higher education institutions will have to “tighten the belt” as funding continues to be an issue.

An education issue outside of the budget expected to see movement in 2018 is essential skills legislation dealing with ensuring Kentucky students have the skills they need to enter the workforce. This comes as many businesses across the state struggle to find applicants able to show up to work on time, work on a team, dress properly for the job, and other critical skills required to fill the positions they have available.

Wise noted the Senate and House have worked over the interim to study the issue further and said he expects to see some movement on that issue this year, stating he feels it is something the state must address moving forward.

Hear more from Wise on education issues and budgetary needs in 2018 here:

With all of the funding issues facing the legislature in 2018, tax reform continues to be a key area of discussion in Frankfort. In an exclusive interview with The Bottom Line, Gov. Bevin said he could potentially introduce two separate budget proposals in 2018, one with tax reform and one without.

Wise said he feels comprehensive tax reform is necessary for the state, but added that it is unlikely the legislature will be able to tackle that issue along with the budget and pension reforms in 2018.

“I think Kentuckians know that tax reform is going to happen. But I think also at the same time when they hear tax, they are automatically saying ‘woah, hit the brakes.’ But I think tax reform can be looked at in a way that says we aren’t raising property taxes, we aren’t doing all these things that sometimes make people fearful when they hear that three letter word,” Wise said.

Watch the segment on tax reform in the video below:

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Reversal on Graduate Lending

The GOP’s proposed update to the law governing higher education would force a U-turn for long-standing federal policies on graduate student lending.

Students who pursue graduate degrees have been allowed to take out an unlimited amount in federal student loans since Congress authorized the Grad PLUS program in 2005. But the legislation proposed last week by Representative Virginia Foxx, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the House education committee, would cap annual borrowing amounts for grad students at $28,500 annually. The bill also would change benefits for borrowers by altering income-driven repayment options and eliminating Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Republicans said the proposed changes would put pressure on institutions to keep costs down and fits with their broader vision to simplify the federal student aid system.

But advocates for graduate education warned that the bill would limit less-well-off students’ access to advanced degrees. And they said public service-oriented fields in particular would be hurt by limits in federal loans and the end of PSLF.

Beth Buehlmann, vice president for public policy and government affairs at the Council of Graduate Schools, worked in the office of Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, who was the ranking Republican on the Senate education committee when Congress authorized Grad PLUS loans. That move was partly designed to reduce students’ reliance on the private loan market, she said.

“And it has done that,” she said. “It has been very successful in doing that.”

Republicans’ opening bid in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act signals just how much the party’s thinking on student aid has changed in the last decade. Not only do GOP leaders want more simplicity — a departure from the current landscape that offers a number of repayment options for student loan debt — but they also want a bigger role for the private loan market.

Many Republicans in recent years have argued for eliminating both Grad PLUS and another loan program that allows unlimited lending to parents of undergraduates, called Parent PLUS. The private sector, they argue, will do just as well as any federal regulation to weed out useless programs.

However, Buehlmann and others warn that leaving the private market to fill gaps in the cost of graduate education for certain service-oriented fields — such as public-interest law, counseling and drug rehabilitation, and social work — would make those careers unattainable. Grad students, Buehlmann said, can’t access grant funding. Lending is the only option to finance their education, and federal loans provide protections not available in the private market, she said. If the private lending market doesn’t fill the gaps in cost of graduate education, according to this argument, fewer students will be able to enter those professions.

Chris Chapman, president and CEO of AccessLex, said the elimination of PSLF and a cap on graduate lending would make it more difficult for underrepresented student groups to pursue graduate education.

“It would really take away a very strong benefit and strong tool to encourage graduates who go into public service professions,” he said. “Even more than that, it really eliminates the incentive to persist in the profession.”

Higher education groups and student aid advocates, meanwhile, are watching a federal tax reform process that could have major implications for graduate students. The House passed a tax plan last month that includes several provisions to strip current benefits in the tax code for students. One change would mean that graduate students’ tuition discounts effectively are taxed as income. Another would end student loan interest deductions, costing student borrowers an additional $24 billion over the next decade. That change would be particularly burdensome to grad students, many of whom are paying off undergraduate loans.

Those provisions were left out of a Senate bill earlier this month. But the details of the final tax reform legislation that emerges could weigh on whatever changes are made to graduate benefits in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The GOP’s Rationale

Republicans have been critical of the increasingly high taxpayer cost estimates for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. And GOP lawmakers believe the benefit is poorly targeted. A committee aide pointed to one recent report arguing that in many cases public sector workers are no less well compensated than private sector workers. PSLF though would also provide loan relief to many low-salaried employees of qualifying nonprofit organizations. 

Regardless of what wage data shows, the GOP says no worker should get special benefits on student loans based on their employer.

“Our proposal offers the same deal for everyone regardless of occupation and puts downward market pressure on institutions to keep costs down,” a committee spokesman said. “We believe all work is valuable and should be held in the same high regard.”

Republican bill writers also believe the unlimited availability of federal funds has led college to raise tuition and fees. The committee cited one UCLA study from last year examining the use of Parent PLUS loans that appeared to back that notion, commonly known as the Bennett hypothesis. But that study didn’t look at the relationship between program costs and graduate lending (Parent PLUS can only be used to fund undergraduate education). And a recent paper from Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of education at Seton Hall University, found limited evidence of the theory’s relevance to graduate lending for legal education.

Kelchen said that in 2005, before Grad PLUS was authorized, federal graduate student loans typically did not cover the full cost of education. The proposed changes in the House bill, he said, would have implications for for-profit chains as well as a substantial number of private nonprofit colleges that have used professional and master’s degree programs to help subsidize undergraduate education.

“It could put pressure on colleges to try to get more revenue from undergraduates,” he said.

Students entering higher-paid fields likely would be able to find private loans at similar rates to Grad PLUS, Kelchen said, but students entering high-tuition, low-paid fields like social work could struggle.

While the evidence is limited of tuition increases linked to unlimited graduate lending, average borrowing amounts by graduate students rose sharply between the 2004-05 and 2010-11 academic years, before subsequently declining through 2014-15, according to a College Board tally of federal loans made to students and parents. But the loan amounts began to rise again in 2015-16.

Critics of unlimited graduate lending also have attributed the unexpectedly high costs of federal income-driven repayment programs to heavy use by graduate students. A U.S. Government Accountability Office report last year found that the expected cost of IDR plans has shot up to $53 billion from $25 billion, for federal loans issued during the 2009 to 2016 fiscal years, primarily because of the growing number of loans expected to be repaid through the program. And changes by the Obama administration to income-driven plans made the program more generous to grad students as it steered more borrowers into those plans.

Preston Cooper, an education data analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the research was clear that allowing unlimited borrowing by parents of undergraduates has led to increases in tuition. The evidence is much more mixed on unlimited graduate borrowing, he said, but capping that lending accomplishes another conservative goal by opening new space for private lenders.

“The rationale for having a federal student loan program is that there is a market failure, that basically no lenders are going to lend to an 18-year-old student who doesn’t have any credit history, doesn’t have any work history, because that’s just too risky,” he said. “Those arguments don’t really apply to the graduate lending sphere.”

Graduate students have ample opportunity to establish a credit history. And private lenders will lend only to students in programs with a reasonable chance of paying off loans, he said. Cooper also argued that income-driven repayment is adequate to ensure students in lower-paying public service fields can afford to repay their loans.

Sarah Flanagan, vice president for government relations and policy at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said institutions want students to be able to cover the full cost of their education with federal loans. Private lending has less generous terms and conditions, she said, and pushing students to take out those additional loans undercuts the Republican theme of greater simplicity in the student aid system.

“That’s really a step backward,” she said.

She said an aggregate limit on graduate lending could be preferable to annual limits and would reward shorter, more efficient programs.

Others have noted that in the case of legal education in particular, private lending would likely fill any gap in costs for students attending prestigious law schools, that may not be the case at lower-ranking law programs. 

The bill does include higher lending amounts for students pursuing graduate education as doctors or other medical professional positions. And while it would otherwise limit graduate lending, it does increase annual lending limits for undergraduates and would raise the aggregate lending limit for federal direct loans from $138,500 to $150,000. Grad PLUS was authorized to meet gaps in need for students who had already reached their aggregate borrowing limit. So some see the higher limit as partially addressing the need met by the program.

Large for-profit college chains, among them Walden University, focus primarily on graduate education. Jennifer Blum, senior vice president of external relations and public policy at Laureate Education, Walden’s parent company, said the university supports efforts to streamline federal loan and repayment programs if the results are more efficient for student borrowers.

“As an institution focused primarily on graduate-level education, we are examining the legislation closely to determine the relationship between any loss of Grad PLUS funding to the other loan reforms and improvements proposed,” she said in a written statement. “We are hopeful that any final legislation will strike the right balance to ensure continued access and completion for graduate students who need educational funding.”

Some advocates for student aid recipients see graduate students taking it on the chin in the House bill. Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, said grad students don’t just lose access to Public Service Loan Forgiveness in the bill. They would also be shut out of the federal work-study program.

Draeger said it’s important to be clear about the specific problems lawmakers are setting out to address in the higher education bill’s reauthorization. Loan repayment rates, defaults, tuition inflation and the cost of loan forgiveness are all separate issues, he said.

Graduate students typically aren’t the ones struggling to pay back their loans, said Draeger. To the extent Congress is looking to address the moral hazard of loan forgiveness — too many students taking out large amounts of loans with the expectation that the government would pick up much of the cost — it could cap future loan forgiveness, rather than capping borrowing and eliminating Public Service Loan Forgiveness, he said.

“Sometimes I feel like these conversations are all going by each other,” Draeger said. “Our take is there are ways to address all these issues. Putting caps on the loans might be one of those ways.”

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Muslim community launches youth’s universal access to education initiative

Muslim Community in the Northern region has embarked on a campaign to ensure universal access to education for its youths for them to be responsible citizens that could significantly contribute towards the country’s social economic development.

Muslims:  Education plus madrassa

Northern Region Quadra Muslim Association Chairperson, Alhaj Sailes Allie Kalonga said the campaign complements the Muslims’initiative in establishing secular primary and secondary schools in all madrassas.

“Our aim is to ensure that our children develop morally and spiritually. They should also get educated to march with the current economic trends and developments where education plays a vital role,” he said.

Kalonga explained the campaign titled, no child belonging to a Muslim stays home during learning hours,would come up with several incentives to encourage more children to remain in school.

One of the education commentators stress that the campaign could register immediate positive results if some cultural hindrances common among the muslins such as initiation ceremonies which in most cases are ill timed are modified.

“Their campaign is achievable and can bring a huge impact to the nation but my advice is that they need to do away with some cultural practices such as initiation ceremonies which disturb children from fully attending classes,” a graduate from Mzuzu University, Jack Msiska advised.

The development comes amid government’s efforts to achieve quality and inclusive education through establishment of boarding facilities for girls in some community secondary schools across the country.

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