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State education funding to be a battleground in budget dispute

CtMirror.org file photo

Lawn art outside the State Capitol

Huge questions over how state aid for schools and state colleges ultimately will fare will be a critical focus of Democratic and Republican leaders as they grapple with reconciling their vastly different state budgets.

While Democrats have a narrow majority in the state House, and the lieutenant governor’s tie-breaking vote in the evenly-divided Senate, Republicans sent shockwaves across Connecticut last Friday when they were able to pick up enough Democratic votes to send a GOP budget to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has promised to veto that budget, but Democratic legislative leaders and the governor now acknowledge they must negotiate a bipartisan one.

“There are things that I think are must-have items for all sides that will have to be compromised to some extent to get a deal,” Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said Monday.

Here are the critical differences in funding for schools and colleges that Democrats and Republicans must resolve.

How should state school aid be allotted?

Republicans and Democrats agree the state’s 30 lowest-performing districts need more funding.

But their plans differ on how to achieve that goal.

The Democratic budget would cut the state’s primary education grant by 6 percent this fiscal year. The $124 million in cuts would fall entirely on affluent and middle-income communities. Nearly $11 million would be redirected to many of the 30 lowest-achieving districts, and the remainder would go toward closing the state’s budget deficit.

Currently, two-thirds of the state’s primary education grants, known as Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grants, go to the bottom 30 districts. And while the Republican plan would increase education aid by $68 million this fiscal year, struggling districts would not have a higher priority than they do currently. The 30 lowest-achieving districts would get a $46 million increase, and the better off communities would receive $22 million more. No towns would lose aid.

Both plans include a formula for deciding how much aid each town would receive, but the Republican budget would spare towns any cuts even if their formula called for them.

Malloy this year has regularly said shielding towns from cuts may be the easy approach to avoid backlash, but he has insisted that the state stick to a formula that accounts for changes in enrollment and a town’s wealth when shelling out state education aid – even if that means individual towns lose funding.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano of North Haven called for time to phase in cuts that sticking to a formula would entail. His budget would phase in cuts to school districts over 10 years, starting with the fiscal year that begins in July 2019.

“They are going to just have to live within the money that they are given,” Fasano said Monday. “Some people felt that just to do it to the municipalities now might be too harsh.”

The way the state distributes education aid has drawn a lot of attention since it was ruled irrational and unconstitutional last September by a Superior Court judge. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments in an appeal of that case next week.

After the Superior Court decision, Malloy in February proposed funneling an additional $300 million toward the lowest-achieving 30 districts by slashing aid to better-off towns. However, to help end a budget stalemate, he offered a compromise that would redistribute just the $11 million to the lowest-performing districts.

Speaking to reporters Monday, the governor had a harsh assessment of the Republican plan for education aid.

“It offers no progress on fixing the legal defects regarding the current status of the ECS grant. In fact, distribution in all municipal aid will raise additional questions about fairness before any court that hears that issue,” Malloy said.

Aside from the changes proposed to the state’s ECS formula, both the Republican and Democrat plans make cuts to several smaller grants that help pay for things like reading tutors and summer and after-school programs in struggling districts.

The Republican budget has more room for school aid than the Democrats’ because the GOP plan would reduce payments to the state’s chronically underfunded pension system, make huge cuts to the state’s flagship university and call for large unspecified cuts.

While the labor concessions deal ratified earlier this summer locks the state employees’ benefits package into place through 2027, Republicans said Connecticut can save more money now by limiting pension benefits offered after that date. Those new limits would reduce required pension payments by $280 million this fiscal year, they said. Malloy, many Democratic legislators and union leaders have questioned whether the state can make these changes unilaterally or whether that would violate collective bargaining rules.

Republicans also impose more aggressive, though unspecified, savings targets that would have to be achieved after the budget is in force. These undefined savings targets are $96 million greater than those proposed in the Democrats’ budget.

Another task force to study education aid?

Both budgets acknowledge that their plans for divvying up education aid might need further adjusting – and they call for task forces to study the issue and make recommendations.

The Republican plan sets up an “education cost sharing grant formula review team” that would recommend by March 1 if changes are necessary.

The Democratic plan establishes a “Connecticut Achievement and Resource Equity in Schools Commission” with a more prescribed mission: Devise an education funding formula that bases funding levels on “an appropriate foundation level” that addresses students’ educational needs, “addresses the issue of unequal local tax burdens,” and reduces segregation.

The commission also would be asked to identify a stable funding source. It has until Jan. 1 to make recommendations.

Malloy said he is not interest in studying education funding again.

“Well that’s what they’ve always historically done,” he said Monday, pointing to his previous statements that the state has waited long enough for a working system to fund struggling schools.

(Read the most recent reports on the state’s education funding system here, here, here, herehere and here.)

But the coalition of parents, teachers, and municipal leaders who filed the lawsuit prompting the ruling that found the present system unconstitutional, have for years been pushing the state to study what it actually costs to provide children with the opportunity to succeed in school. The group – the Coalition for Justice in Education Funding – argues that the state is falling well short of providing high-need students with the resources they require.

The Malloy administration eventually compromised with the budget it negotiated with the Democratic leaders, and such a study was included.

Looney, the Senate Democratic leader, said a study is appropriate.

“I know that was one of the things that had been asked for by the plaintiffs in the case,” he said. “Everybody knows that at some point we need to have a new comprehensive formula.”

But he pointed out that getting legislators to stick to a formula – and not withhold their votes in exchange for protecting their towns from cuts – is tricky.

“Being able to apply a pure formula has always proven to be politically difficult,” he said.

Teachers retirement costs: Who pays the bill?

Democrats and Republicans agree that the state’s share of teacher pension costs is too large – but huge differences remain on who will be stuck with the bill.

Teacher pension costs are easily the fastest growing cost in state government – and they are expected to escalate even more in coming years.

Recognizing this, the governor convinced Democratic legislative leaders to include in their budget a requirement that municipalities begin picking up the public share of pension costs for current school staff. A massive and rapidly growing unfunded pension liability — compensating for decades’ worth of contributions that past governors and legislators failed to make — would remain the state’s responsibility.

That plan would require municipalities to pay $92 million toward the teachers’ pension fund in this fiscal year. Municipal leaders have pushed back on this proposal, saying their ability to control the cost of teacher pensions is limited because state law dictates the benefits and binding arbitration laws somewhat limit their ability to rein in teacher pay.

Republicans rejected having municipalities picking up pension costs, and instead would have current teachers pay more toward their future pensions. Currently teachers pay 6 percent of their salaries. Under the GOP plan, teachers would begin paying 7 percent Jan. 1, which would raise $19 million through the end of the fiscal year. Next year, teachers would pay 8 percent, which would bring in $76 million.

While differences remain on who will be stuck with the bill, both parties agree that a task force must be set up to study the problem and search for solutions.

How deeply to cut UConn?

Both budgets reduce the state’s share of funding for the state’s flagship university over the next two years – but there are huge differences in the size of the cuts.

University of Connecticut officials say the cuts in the Republican budget total $308 million – a 20 percent reduction – through the biennium. Republican leaders say their cuts total $186.8 million.

The legislature’s non-partisan fiscal office estimates the reductions are between $244.3 and $308 million, depending on how they are calculated.

Any of the estimates, however, are far above the $108 million the Democratic plan proposed cutting.

UConn President Susan Herbst used a Dickensian metaphor to describe what the Republican budget would do to the public university and its Health Center in Farmington.

“I am afraid that it will become a tale of two cities,” she said, explaining that the university would have to cut financial aid and provide a lower-quality education for those who could afford it, while the affluent flocked to private universities. “I would hate to see that bi-furcation of higher education,” she said. “… It’s an ugly list of the things we would have to cut.”

State funding for UConn has doubled over the last 20 years – rising from $183 million in 1996 to $385 million in 2016, in part to help accommodate increased student enrollment. The state has made cuts to the university while facing deficits, but decreases were quickly restored over the next couple of years.

Democrats were quick to blast the deep cuts Republicans made to UConn. Republicans are attempting to make the case that the cuts are reasonable – pointing to policy changes that should be implemented.

“The taxpayers of this state can no longer afford tuition waivers for employees at UConn,” Rep. Melissa Ziobron, ranking Republican of the legislature’s budget-writing committee. That change would save the state $7 million over two years.

But with more than 95 percent of UConn’s employees being part of a union, implementing such a change may prove difficult.

Michael Bailey, the leader of the UConn chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the university would be in violation of its negotiated contract if it stopped waiving tuition for employees and their families.

“They couldn’t stop it. It’s in the agreement. As far as I am concerned, they couldn’t take that away,” he said during an interview. “It’s a form of compensation so it is negotiable.”

Fasano, the Senate Republican leader, disagrees and says it is within the authority of the system’s Board of Trustees to make such a change.

Other changes the Republicans propose include no longer picking up the cost of health and retirement benefits for staff earning more than $100,000, and requiring faculty to teach one more course each semester. Retirement benefits are very costly because the state is now making up for a decades-long failure to properly fund its pension system.

During the House budget debate, Ziobron said Republicans believed taxpayers “deserve a little more from our well-educated professors at UConn. So we’ve added the requirement that they have to teach one more class – just one,” Ziobron said. “We have a lot of very talented staff at UConn, but they have very high salaries. And I am sure they are very well-deserved. But if UConn is going to choose to pay $100,000 or more in salaries, we put a trigger in that we say they must also pay for their fringe benefits – that’s how you get people to start making hard choices.”

But Bailey said asking professors to teach more is a recipe for disaster if UConn wants to attract top talent who expect to have the time to do research as well as teach. Currently, professors teach an average of two courses a semester, Bailey said, with some teaching more and others less when their research load is heavy.

“I don’t think they understand how that would impact their research,” he said. “You will lose faculty. They will go somewhere else, and the university would have difficulty finding people.”

President Herbst made the same point during a news conference on Tuesday.

“I would not want to hire an obstetrician-gynecologist for $100,000 or less because then I wouldn’t have to pay the fringe,” said Herbst. “We pay for people to come here based on what the labor market is… I can’t make their salary lower than the labor market.”

Scott Jordan, the university’s budget chief, said during an interview that the size of the cuts go far beyond the policy changes the Republicans have proposed.

“This goes beyond what we can manage with larger class sizes, using our fund balance, or doing away with tuition waivers,” he said. “Many of the things they are proposing require collective bargaining. A lot of these things are really hard to just do.”

Connecticut Mirror Budget Reporter Keith Phaneuf contributed to this article.

file photo

The University of Connecticut’s main campus is Storrs

Article source: https://ctmirror.org/2017/09/20/state-education-funding-to-be-a-battleground-in-budget-dispute/

Opinion: 4 questions we should ask every California candidate

Today, State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate John Chiang is speaking at UC Berkeley about the power of public investment. As any long-time Berkeley resident knows, California has cut back sharply on its public investment in higher education – ending the system of tuition-free public colleges and universities that enabled generations of Californians to pursue their dreams.

That is why this month, I joined more than 2,500 students in launching Rise California, a new student-led campaign fighting for free college tuition and working to get out the student vote in 2018.

So far, higher education has hardly received a mention from the candidates, despite the concerns of Berkeley students, parents, and educators who face skyrocketing tuition and overwhelming student debt. Here are four questions that every California candidate – whether they’re running for governor or in our local state assembly race – should answer before they earn our vote.

Will you fight for free college tuition?

Today, about half of California students attend public colleges tuition-free, but the “high-tuition/high-aid” model is preventing talented and hardworking students from pursuing college. According to researchers, a $1,000 increase in tuition is associated with a drop in campus diversity of nearly 6%. Unless we expand access to public higher education, California will face a shortage of 1 million college graduates required for jobs by 2025. As the UC and CSU systems move forward with plans to raise tuition yet again, we need more students speaking out about how tuition hikes are affecting them.

Will you protect students from student loan debt?

In the United States, there are 44 million borrowers with over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. At the same time, 10% of CSU students, 14% of community college students, and thousands of UC students are homeless. On average, California students finish undergrad with more than $22,000 in student loan debt, and students nationwide take 21 years to pay off the average debt from a four-year degree. No student should have to go into crushing student debt just to keep a roof over their head while in college. We need new strategies to keep students safe from crushing student debt, and healthy and housed while they earn their degree.

Will you help public colleges and universities innovate to better support students?

California is preparing more students for college than ever before, but decades of higher education funding cuts and poor alignment among our three higher education systems often hinders their ability to provide a high-quality education. Some of our institutions of higher education are also struggling to help students graduate, and we have persistent equity gaps in graduation rates and post-graduate outcomes. We need to empower our colleges and universities to make the changes needed to close those gaps. That means not only more funding, but also support for innovative approaches to will help more students succeed.

Will you sustain higher education funding?

Any time there’s economic uncertainty or a state budget crunch, higher education is typically the first item cut. It is time for us to elect a new governor and legislature who will commit to sustainably funding higher education instead of passing the buck to students by raising tuition and fees. California’s students deserve stable, consistent funding for affordable, accessible, and high quality public higher education  – irrespective of the economic or political climate.

Answering these questions is the least candidates can do to show their support or students and families in our state. As they vie for our vote, we deserve to hear their plans for restoring funding for higher education—one of the most powerful public investments we can make.

Article source: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/09/18/four-questions-ask-every-california-candidate/

Ralph Martire: Illinois needs to make higher education a priority – The State Journal

Much consternation has recently been expressed over declining student enrollment in Illinois’ public universities, and for good reason. According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, total enrollment dropped by more than 4,400 students from the 2016 to 2017 spring terms. This net loss is particularly troubling, since the state’s flagship institution — the University of Illinois in Champaign — saw its student body grow over this sequence.

That means other mainstays of higher learning in the state — like Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Western Illinois University in Macomb, and Chicago State and Governors State Universities in the Chicago metro region — have been particularly hard hit, realizing year-to-year enrollment declines ranging from 9 to 11.5 percent.

Much of the blame for this slide in enrollment has been placed squarely on Illinois’ failure to pass a state budget for either of the last two fiscal years. Which is accurate as far as it goes. After all, state funding of higher education in each of fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2017 was at least 64 percent, or $1.2 billion, lower than 2015. But hey, this summer a bipartisan group of legislators worked together and did the right thing: They overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto and passed a full budget into law for fiscal year 2018. Better yet, that final budget increased higher education funding by some $1.1 billion over 2017, so problem solved, right?

Well, no actually. Although 2018 funding of higher education is a significant improvement over the past couple of years, it really represents more of a “stop-the-bleeding” moment, than a “woo-hoo, problem solved” moment. The reason for this is simple: Fiscal year 2018 funding levels don’t constitute a material departure from Illinois’ long-term disinvestment in higher education. Here’s why.

The IBHE is legally required to submit an annual budget recommendation for higher education to decision makers. For fiscal year 2018, that recommendation totaled $2.125 billion, or some $287 million more than the final budgeted amount. Which is nothing new: Over the last decade, actual state funding for higher education was fully $3.9 billion less, in the aggregate, than what IBHE recommended.

For a real eye-opener look back to fiscal year 2000, when the appropriation for higher education was $2.15 billion — or about $314 million more, in nominal, non-inflation adjusted dollars, than fiscal year 2018. Of course, inflation matters: Over time it drives up the cost of everything, from running a business to educating college kids. After adjusting for inflation, state funding for higher education in 2018 is fully 51.6 percent less than in fiscal year 2000.

This consistent disinvestment has had consequences, none of them good. For instance, many Illinois public universities — like Western, for instance — have had to cut core academic offerings like philosophy, due to underfunding. Meanwhile, crucial student financial supports like the Monetary Assistance Program — which provides low-income kids financial aid in the form of grants they don’t have to repay — aren’t funded anywhere near what’s necessary to meet demographically driven need. In response, potential college students have been voting with their feet: During the last 10 years, enrollment declined at Illinois’ public universities by more than 14,000 students.

Meanwhile, all the evidence indicates Illinois should reverse course, and invest in building a world-class higher education system. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for high school grads is more than twice as high as it is for college grads. Moreover, the wage gap between high school and college grads has doubled since 1979, growing from 23.5 to 47 percent. Want more evidence? From 1979-2012, states with the greatest increases in productivity and highest per capita incomes also had the largest share of adults with a college degree. Not to mention that higher education plays a crucial role in facilitating upward economic mobility for individuals who come from low-income backgrounds.

Despite all that, Illinois continues to lag the nation in making higher education investment a priority — and kids heading off to college have noticed.

— Ralph Martire is executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a bipartisan fiscal policy think tank. Contact him at rmartire@ctbaonline.org

Article source: http://www.sj-r.com/opinion/20170919/ralph-martire-illinois-needs-to-make-higher-education-priority

How The Latest Senate Trumpcare Bill Threatens K-12 Education

Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, from right, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, Senator Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, and Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, hold a news conference to reform health care on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson (GCHJ) proposal repeals the structure of Obamacare and replaces it with a block grant given annually to states to help individuals pay for health care. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The latest Republican-led effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act could lead to spending cuts for state education funding from Kindergarten through college, Fitch Ratings said in a new report.

The bill introduced last week by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Dean Heller (R-Nevada) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) would keep a lot of the ACA’s regulations intact though it would eliminate the individual and employer mandate and shift insurance subsidies and Medicaid funding for coverage of poor Americans to block grants controlled by states.

In restructuring Medicaid to a “per-capita cap funding mechanism,” the new Senate legislation would replace Medicaid’s existing open-ended entitlement structure paid for via a match of funds between the states and federal government. If a particular state Medicaid program is faced with a large number of people in need of expensive medicines or treatments, more federal dollars flow to the state. States also see an uptick in Medicaid patients when companies lay off workers.

Watch on Forbes: The Future Of Health Insurance

But the Graham-Cassidy legislation would make major changes that could hurt state finances.

“As total Medicaid spending represents approximately one-third of state budgets, the fundamental changes proposed could challenge that flexibility,” Fitch analyst Eric Kim wrote. “Negative implications for entities that rely on state support, including school districts, cities, counties, and public higher education institutions could be more significant given their generally more constrained budgetary flexibility.”

Because federal dollars for Medicaid account for about 20% of state budgets, Fitch “believes substantial Medicaid cuts would require states to make material budget adjustments over the next decade and beyond.”

“In a time of already muted revenue growth, spending cuts could affect K-12 and higher education the most,” Fitch report said.

The legislation faces a procedural deadline of Sept. 30, so GOP Senators are rushing to come up with something they think can pass. In the Senate, where the GOP has a 52-48 majority, there is little room for error with some Senators last week already predicting the demise of the Graham-Cassidy bill even before it has been “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office.

Article source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2017/09/17/how-latest-senate-trumpcare-bill-threatens-k-12-education/

Opinion: 4 questions we should ask every California candidate …

Today, State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate John Chiang is speaking at UC Berkeley about the power of public investment. As any long-time Berkeley resident knows, California has cut back sharply on its public investment in higher education – ending the system of tuition-free public colleges and universities that enabled generations of Californians to pursue their dreams.

That is why this month, I joined more than 2,500 students in launching Rise California, a new student-led campaign fighting for free college tuition and working to get out the student vote in 2018.

So far, higher education has hardly received a mention from the candidates, despite the concerns of Berkeley students, parents, and educators who face skyrocketing tuition and overwhelming student debt. Here are four questions that every California candidate – whether they’re running for governor or in our local state assembly race – should answer before they earn our vote.

Will you fight for free college tuition?

Today, about half of California students attend public colleges tuition-free, but the “high-tuition/high-aid” model is preventing talented and hardworking students from pursuing college. According to researchers, a $1,000 increase in tuition is associated with a drop in campus diversity of nearly 6%. Unless we expand access to public higher education, California will face a shortage of 1 million college graduates required for jobs by 2025. As the UC and CSU systems move forward with plans to raise tuition yet again, we need more students speaking out about how tuition hikes are affecting them.

Will you protect students from student loan debt?

In the United States, there are 44 million borrowers with over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. At the same time, 10% of CSU students, 14% of community college students, and thousands of UC students are homeless. On average, California students finish undergrad with more than $22,000 in student loan debt, and students nationwide take 21 years to pay off the average debt from a four-year degree. No student should have to go into crushing student debt just to keep a roof over their head while in college. We need new strategies to keep students safe from crushing student debt, and healthy and housed while they earn their degree.

Will you help public colleges and universities innovate to better support students?

California is preparing more students for college than ever before, but decades of higher education funding cuts and poor alignment among our three higher education systems often hinders their ability to provide a high-quality education. Some of our institutions of higher education are also struggling to help students graduate, and we have persistent equity gaps in graduation rates and post-graduate outcomes. We need to empower our colleges and universities to make the changes needed to close those gaps. That means not only more funding, but also support for innovative approaches to will help more students succeed.

Will you sustain higher education funding?

Any time there’s economic uncertainty or a state budget crunch, higher education is typically the first item cut. It is time for us to elect a new governor and legislature who will commit to sustainably funding higher education instead of passing the buck to students by raising tuition and fees. California’s students deserve stable, consistent funding for affordable, accessible, and high quality public higher education  – irrespective of the economic or political climate.

Answering these questions is the least candidates can do to show their support or students and families in our state. As they vie for our vote, we deserve to hear their plans for restoring funding for higher education—one of the most powerful public investments we can make.

Article source: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/09/18/four-questions-ask-every-california-candidate/

English fee cut, grant plan would give ‘more control’ to aid STEM

Moves to lower university fees and increase direct grants in science courses, said to be under consideration within government, would benefit high-earning graduates but give the government “more control” to target key subjects, according to an Institute for Fiscal Studies researcher.

Meanwhile, with the government also said to be considering varying English university fees in line with graduate earnings, an expert on such data warned that it would risk undervaluing key courses such as nursing.

The Sunday Times reported on 17 September that the chancellor, Philip Hammond, “is considering slashing the annual tuition fee universities can charge to £7,500”.

The government would “top up” that fee with a £1,500 grant for students in science and technology courses, it added. But such plans would amount to a drastic funding cut for universities, particularly those without significant proportions of science and technology students.

Raising the loan repayment threshold to £25,000 is also said to be under consideration by the chancellor, as the government seeks a way to win back younger voters.

If reports are accurate, Mr Hammond’s thinking on the repayment threshold and grants for science subjects appears to closely follow that of the Institute for Fiscal Studies in an influential recent analysis of higher education funding.

In addition, the Treasury is also said to be looking at plans to vary the fees charged by different universities according to the expected earnings of their graduates, potentially forcing some further below £7,500.

Any announcement on changes to the funding system could be in the Budget, to be held on 22 November, but may be trailed at the Conservative Party conference on 1-4 October.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that The Sunday Times story suggested “all sorts of possibilities – which may well be where the government still is, given the conference is still a couple of weeks away and these things sometimes get nailed down very late”. But some of the possibilities “would undoubtedly give real concern to universities”, he added.

Andy Westwood, professor of government practice at the University of Manchester, warned that in current funding debates “hardly anyone is talking about properly funded universities or institutional autonomy – arguably the two things that the sector holds dearest – and both can be easily sacrificed in the febrile political moment we find ourselves in”.

The Department for Education has gathered data on graduate earnings by university and course in its Longitudinal Education Outcomes project, with the first, “experimental” batch of full data published in June. In any plan to link variable fee caps to universities’ graduate earnings, it is likely the government would rely on the LEO data, which use the student cohort that graduated in 2008-09.

Anna Vignoles, professor of education at the University of Cambridge, was one of the co-authors on a separate research project, which included IFS researchers, looking at graduate earnings by university and course. “If you take the view, as some do, that the aim of higher education is to make graduates employable then you can define quality in terms of the added earnings and employability,” she said. “Most would agree that higher education has a bigger purpose than that.”

Many in the sector point out that the variation between universities’ graduate earnings highlighted by the LEO data reflect a university’s geographical location and regional labour market, along with the prior attainment and social background of its students.

Professor Vignoles said that although these factors could be allowed for in a model using LEO, another key objection “to using earnings as a single measure of quality…is that we also need skills that may not be highly valued in the labour market”.

She pointed out that “you could have a high-quality course producing knowledge and skills that are not highly valued by the labour market”, citing the example of nursing.

Chris Belfield, a research economist at the IFS and a co-author on the recent funding analysis, said that while the chancellor has not committed to any changes, in general “reducing fees to £7,500 only benefits the highest earners as these are the only graduates who repay the loan in full”.

Such a move would reduce the Treasury’s outlay on loans. However, Mr Belfield said that “if the lost fee income is replaced with grants then the government will be worse off in the long run (due to the lost repayments from high earning graduates)” in a £7,500 fee system. But he added that “replacing fees (and loans) with grants does have the benefit that the government has more control over how these are targeted”.

The IFS report found that in the switch to £9,000 fees there were proportionally greater per-student income increases for classroom-based subjects than for more costly subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The IFS commented that the current system “does not give the government much flexibility to directly target courses or individuals that have high value to society”.

Mr Hammond said this week that the current funding system “does not reflect” the higher costs of some subjects “in a way that necessarily incentivises universities to focus on increasing their STEM teaching”.

Mr Belfield said: “The chancellor’s comments mentioned focusing additional grant funding on STEM subjects which would seem to be in line with the government objectives to increase STEM student numbers.”

Raising the repayment threshold “benefits middle- and low-earning graduates the most”, Mr Belfield added.

If Mr Hammond is following the IFS’ line of thinking, one key question is whether he will reverse a highly significant move made by previous chancellor George Osborne, and reintroduce maintenance grants for the poorest students. This option is presented favourably in the IFS report, which highlights how the abolition of grants has left the poorest students graduating with the highest debts.

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

Article source: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/english-fee-cut-grant-plan-would-give-more-control-aid-stem

Penn State Still Not Funded In The Midst Of State Budget Impasse

Pennsylvania state legislators have yet to pass a budget — including appropriations for state-related universities like Penn State. Even though the state is supposed to pass a budget by July 1, the legislature rarely meets that deadline.

A budget impasse lasted until March 2016 during the 2015-2016 budget season, but legislators were able to agree on the 2016-2017 by July 13 last year. Legislators agreed on a $32 billion spending package this year and Governor Tom Wolf allowed it to pass without his signature. But now they’ve got to find a way to fund it.

“The most recent proposition was that we receive flat funding (no increase or decrease from the state),” said Isaac Will, governmental affairs chair for the University Park Undergraduate Association. “Obviously, however, as the impasse continues, a number of different possibilities are being thrown around — except for an increase.”

Penn State’s two main sources of revenue for the education and general budget are tuition and state appropriations. Without support from the state, Penn State will be forced to cut costs (probably by cutting programs or increase tuition yet again).

And some legislators have already cited higher education funding cuts as a possible avenue to balancing the budget.

“The budget’s non-preferred appropriations — for Pennsylvania’s state-related universities…which total roughly $600 million in spending, would not be approved for the time being, meaning the FY2017-18 spending plan, with all the code bills, represent a balanced budget, if the governor signs them or allows them to become law,” House Republican Majority Leader Stephen Reed said, according to Capitolwire.

Penn State President Eric Barron and Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher shared an op-ed last week explaining the value of state-related institutions to the Commonwealth and the importance of state funding to the universities.

“As with any other issue of interest to students, the best thing to do is to get personally involved, and to convince others to join you,” said Zack Moore, Penn State’s vice president for government and community relations. “Call or email your state legislator, engage in social media advocacy, or visit your state legislator in person to let them know how important state support for Penn State is to you.”

The UPUA is working with the Pennsylvania Association of State-Related Schools (PASS) to organize a rally on the capitol stairs in Harrisburg at noon on October 3, which will be similar to the annual Capital Day the organization holds each spring. The four student body presidents — from Temple, Lincoln, Pitt, and Penn State — will speak inside the capitol building. Attendance for the rally is incredibly important, so anyone is welcome to join them on the trip.

What can students do in the meantime?

“Literally any kind of contact with legislators at all would be fantastic,” Will said. “Letters are good. Social media is good. Phone calls are better. Meetings are fantastic. Just make themselves heard in any form or another could have a tremendous impact.”

Article source: http://onwardstate.com/2017/09/18/penn-state-still-not-funded-in-the-midst-of-state-budget-impasse/

Governor’s higher education task force wraps up with recommendations

BOISE – Idaho’s college graduation rate is not where Gov. Butch Otter and many lawmakers want it to be.

So the governor created a task force made up of legislators, business leaders and education experts to tackle the issue. They were tasked with identifying changes that need to be made in higher education in Idaho.

That group wrapped up work on Friday and is coming out of its final meeting with several proposals for improving the system. The group is not just focusing on traditional college degrees; they’re pushing toward the “one, two, four or more” goal, meaning a professional career technical certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or higher.

Over the past several months, this task force worked to figure out what might be lacking in Idaho’s post-secondary education and how the state can play a role in improving it. This group is a natural extension of the governor’s K-12 task force, and is creating a road map for the future.

MOREGovernor’s task force working to improve Idaho’s higher education system

“Everybody kept the big purpose in mind and what’s best for the state and citizens of the state,” Co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education and former White Cloud Analytics CEO Bob Lokken said.

Putting diverse minds together – from different backgrounds, with different experiences – all for the same end goal: getting young Idahoans prepared for the current and future job market.

“We have a big gap to cover,” Lokken added.

This 36-member group split off into five sub-committees, each tackling specific challenges.

MOREIdaho’s higher education task force identifying changes

One of those challenges being the K through 20 pipeline system.

“Making sure students have the sense that they need to go on for some additional training, that high school is not going to be enough,” task force member and Idaho State Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise) said.

That working group looked at things like early learning, involving career counselors at an earlier age, and making dual credit courses in high school more rigorous in order to ensure the credits are accepted as general requirements.

Another group tackled changing the current funding model.

“We had to find a sustainable source and method of funding that would be, a) transparent, b) accountable,” four-year institution representative on the task force, Josh Scholer, told KTVB. “We passed a recommendation that said, this is the direction the state should go in in support of an outcomes-based funding model.”

A separate group confronted access and affordability.

“That group looked at how do we make sure every Idahoan, regardless of where they live or what their circumstance is, has access to higher education,” Co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education and Idaho State Board of Education President Dr. Linda Clark said.

Work force development and outcomes was another group’s focus, merging industry and education.

“The economy is strong. But we need employees that have the right training so we can recruit great companies and we can keep great companies already here in Idaho, in Idaho,” task force member and Idaho State Sen. Bob Nonini (R-Coeur d’Alene) said, “and we hear from these companies that they’re having a hard time finding the right kind of employees.”

“That shortage of an educated workforce to fill these new and emerging jobs has spread from industry to industry,” Lokken added. “It’s no longer just high tech.”

Task force members say Idaho needs to look at funding higher education as a high return on investment.

“If that return on investment is a greater economy in Idaho, that will benefit everybody in Idaho,” Sen. Nonini added.

A separate group looked at communication and expectations.

“Part of this is going to be about having a fact-based discussion with the Legislature and with the citizens of the state,” Lokken said.

For the past seven years, state officials have been trying to get 60 percent of Idaho’s young adults touting a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2020.

“Sixty percent of the jobs we’re creating require that level of education. So if we don’t have that then people have trouble getting a job to support their family, businesses have trouble growing, and the state’s economy suffers tremendously,” Lokken added.

That 60 percent goal has not panned out. We reported earlier this year that only 40 percent of Idahoans ages 25 to 34 have finished post-secondary education, whether that be professional career technical certificates, associate degrees, or bachelor’s degrees.

“We’ve made some progress, but minimal,” Dr. Clark added. “we were looking at a lot of different things that might not cost the state a great deal more money but would be really beneficial to our students 

So the task force is attempting to set a new goal, and hoping to push that deadline to 2025.

“We need to do better,” Sen. Ward-Engelking said. “We were looking at a lot of different things that might not cost the state a great deal more money, but would be really beneficial to our students.”

All recommendations from the different working groups were passed unanimously on Friday.

“Like the K-12 [Task Force], we will have to stretch them out and say what can we attack in terms of resources that are available, what will the price tag be?” Dr. Clark told KTVB. “There’s a lot more work that has to be done. Really, the hard work begins now.”

The Idaho State Board of Education will make a final report on the recommendations approved on Friday and will then send them to the governor at the end of the month. Once Gov. Otter reviews them, Dr. Clark says technical committees will probably form to work on specific plans for making the recommendations a reality.

© 2017 KTVB-TV

Article source: http://www.ktvb.com/news/education/governors-higher-education-task-force-wraps-up-with-recommendations/475402753

Goal for higher ed welcome

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Goal for higher ed welcome

But funds needed
 to turn ‘aspirational’ plan into reality

Tim Foster


A master plan released by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education last week depicts an urgent need to increase education attainment beyond high school for all Colorado residents, and Colorado Mesa University President Tim Foster said he hopes the commission’s “aspirational” master plan is backed up with funding.

The commission’s master plan, called “Colorado Rises,” details four strategic goals for higher education in the state, including increasing credential completion, erasing equity gaps, improving student success and investing in affordability and innovation.

The overarching goal is to increase the number of adults in Colorado with a post-secondary education from 55 percent currently to 66 percent by 2025.

“I think it’s great that they want to have an aspirational goal,” Foster said. “Our goal, which aligns and is parallel, is how do we educate more people in this part of the state and continue to elevate education. I think we’re less aspirational and a lot more realistic that this is a challenge and one that’s going to take serious work, and it’s going to take some money on their part.”

Colorado Mesa has increased the number of certificate programs available at Western Colorado Community College in recent years and continues to increase the amount of financial aid that’s available for all programs.

“To us, a one-year (degree) is as important as a two-year as a four-year as a master’s or doctorate, and when you look at their funding formula, that’s not how they view the world,” Foster said. “I vehemently disagree with that. When you look at the difference you make with folks and that people make for themselves, it’s probably the most pronounced at the community college and baccalaureate level.”

The commission’s master plan does state an openness to re-evaluate how commissioners view one- and two-year programs.

“Compared to other states, the percentage of individuals in Colorado with certificates is relatively low, thus allowing for growth in this area. Going forward, as new credentials and credentialing approaches are explored and adopted, the commission anticipates revisiting its definition,” the master plan said. “Of note are the approximately 400,000 adults in Colorado who are already in the labor force with some postsecondary education but no credential. Completing a credential will not only help the state’s attainment rate, but, in most cases, will also open up new career opportunities and pathways for these individuals.”

Colorado Rises also calls for increased funding for higher education as “a public good,” equal to public safety, health care and K-12 education.

“Increasing our investment today will result in far greater gains to our communities and our economy, resulting in a larger pie for all,” the report said.

The report did not include specific details about how to increase higher education funding, and Foster said he doesn’t know if the report signals a willingness on the commission’s part to increase funding.

“It certainly says that they recognize that the world is changing and that a high school diploma is going to limit your future,” Foster said. “I always believed that if you’re going to put it as your goal then you have to fund it, and if you don’t fund it then you’re not serious. So I think it best to question — are you all serious about this?”

To read the full report, visit masterplan.highered.colorado.gov.


Article source: http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/goal-for-higher-ed-welcome

How Latest Senate Trumpcare Bill Threatens K-12 Education

The latest Republican-led effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act could lead to spending cuts for state education funding from Kindergarten through college, Fitch Ratings said in a new report.

The bill introduced last week by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Dean Heller (R-Nevada) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) would keep a lot of the ACA’s regulations intact though it would eliminate the individual and employer mandate and shift insurance subsidies and Medicaid funding for coverage of poor Americans to block grants controlled by states.

Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, from right, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, Senator Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, and Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, hold a news conference to reform health care on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson (GCHJ) proposal repeals the structure of Obamacare and replaces it with a block grant given annually to states to help individuals pay for health care. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

In restructuring Medicaid to a “per-capita cap funding mechanism” the new Senate legislation would replace Medicaid’s existing open-ended entitlement structure paid for via a match of funds between the states and federal government. If a particular state Medicaid program is faced with a large number of people in need of expensive medicines or treatments, more federal dollars would flow to the state. States also see an uptick in Medicaid patients when companies lay off workers.

But the Graham-Cassidy legislation would make major changes that could hurt state finances.

“As total Medicaid spending represents approximately one-third of state budgets, the fundamental changes proposed could challenge that flexibility,” Fitch analyst Eric Kim wrote. “Negative implications for entities that rely on state support, including school districts, cities, counties, and public higher education institutions could be more significant given their generally more constrained budgetary flexibility.”

Because federal dollars for Medicaid account for about 20% of state budgets, Fitch “believes substantial Medicaid cuts would require states to make material budget adjustments over the next decade and beyond.”

“In a time of already muted revenue growth, spending cuts could affect K-12 and higher education the most,” Fitch report said.

The legislation faces a procedural deadline of Sept. 30 so GOP Senators are rushing to come up with something they think can pass. In the Senate, where the GOP has a 52-48 majority, there is little room for error with some Senators last week already predicting the demise of the Graham-Cassidy bill even before it has been “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office.

Article source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2017/09/17/how-latest-senate-trumpcare-bill-threatens-k-12-education/