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TSU’s President Remains Positive about the Future

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Austin Lane, president of Texas Southern University, awards a business degree to Ana Gabriela Cepeda Morales as she fulfills her dream of walking across the stage to accept her diploma with Calliope, her service dog.

Image: Courtesy of Texas Southern University

June 6 marked the anniversary of Dr. Austin Lane’s first year as president of Texas Southern University. With a year under his belt, Lane remains confident about the university’s future, while acknowledging some serious challenges: an unclear path forward for higher-education funding at the state level, and a federal budget proposal that poses a threat to student aid programs.

Twenty-three years of experience in higher education helped prepare Lane for the challenge of leading TSU, and he’s already achieved some early successes: The university has moved from a negative outlook to a stable one, according to Moody’s Investors Service, and Lane is currently prepping for the launch of TSU online, which he calls an opportunity “to really attract and dig into that non-traditional market of students that started a degree, but never finished.”

Lane was in the news back in February, when he was among a group of HBCU (historically black college or university) leaders in attendance at the White House for what was known as the “HBCU Fly-in.” The group faced criticism from the HBCU community for meeting with President Donald Trump and his administration, which had signaled it might try to end certain federal programs that provide financial assistance to historically black colleges and universities; some even called the meeting nothing more than a “photo-op” between the President and black leaders.

Lane, aware of the criticism, addressed the meeting in a letter he wrote to students back home at TSU: “My intent when receiving the invitation was to actively participate and advocate for TSU and [HBCUs] as a whole. As president, it is my duty to make sure we (TSU) have a place at the table and make our voice heard.”

The purpose of the HBCU Fly-in was less about meeting the president, he says, and more about speaking with his cabinet, giving HBCU leaders an opportunity to voice their requests and concerns to the new administration. The main items on the table for discussion? The reinstatement of year-round Pell grants and an increase in Title III funds.

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Lane, right, at TSU’s December 2016 graduation ceremony alongside Port Arthur businessman Roosevelt Petry, center, who was presented with the university’s Doctorate of Humane Letters, and Dr. Bobby Wilson, left, Interim Provost and Vice President for Research.

Image: Courtesy of Texas Southern University

President Trump delivered his proposed federal budget plan in May, with plans to greatly reduce student aid and loan programs while cutting funding for university-based research. Although the budget does include reinstating Pell grants, it significantly reduces their funding, eradicating aid that is crucial for some students, especially at universities such as Lane’s: During the 2015-2016 school year, 94 percent of TSU’s full-time first-year students received some form of financial aid and 77 percent received aid through Pell grants.

“We’re always mindful when things are reduced. That’s why we work so hard to have things like Fly-ins so we can educate our legislators on what it is that we do and the importance of the dollars we receive. They can advocate for us when it comes to those budgets,” says Lane. “You have to hope that they hear the message and that they act accordingly—that doesn’t always happen—and so you have to make your adjustments and keep moving forward.”

Such challenges have served to reinforce Lane’s mission. “I get that no matter how much we advocate for higher education, it’s never going to be exactly what we want,” he says. “Even if we hit the mark and we receive what we asked for, it’s still not going to be [enough] for a number of institutions, and it may be great for some. I think you just have to continue to educate folks, whether it be in the Trump administration or any other departments.”

Meanwhile, in June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the state’s budget bill, which mostly avoided a much-discussed overhaul of the way Texas universities are funded—the state legislature ultimately rejected austere cuts to higher-education funding, to the great relief of Lane and his colleagues.

“I would say we dodged a bullet,” Lane says, though he’s already anticipating budget plans for the next biennium, where he hopes to see legislation that focuses on facilitating student transfers and preserving the practice of  “special items,” a budgeting tactic by which universities and colleges seek money for specific projects outside of standard funding formulas.

In the 2011 fiscal year, about 15 percent of TSU’s direct state support was the result of special items; these went to programs for leadership development, continuing school accreditation, and retention rates. The state Senate proposed removing all special items such as these from universities across Texas, which together total about $1 billion, a change that higher-education advocates hold would have dire consequences for independent institutions like TSU that rely heavily on special items to finance academic programs.

“Our special-item amount compared to the [University of Texas] is night and day, night and day—I mean it’s not even close,” says Lane. “We know [our amount] is used heavily on something that’s tied to an academic program, and if you cut it, you cut programs and then you cut people.”

In regards to facilitating student transfers, currently, TSU has a deal with the Lone Star College system that provides opportunities for students to enroll in the university, but Lane envisions a future with a “seamless pipeline” for students to transfer from community colleges to four-year institutions.

“Over the last year, we’ve been focused on really five things: one being student success and completion, two being academic-program quality and research, three is our culture, four is our partnerships, and five is our finances,” says Lane. “And so everything we do, or continue to do, has to be tied to one of those five areas where we’re showing signs of progress and success.”

The change in focus is already paying off, says Lane, who’s confident about what’s yet to come. “I would say we were very successful this year,” Lane says. “We continue to work on some things. We had a lot of organizational shifts, bringing in new people and new positions, so organizationally we’re changing as well; it’s worked out so far, so good.”

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UEA upgraded to gold in teaching excellence framework on appeal

The University of East Anglia has been upgraded to a gold rating in the teaching excellence framework, following an appeal against its original silver, but the other 17 appeals from institutions against their ratings have been rejected.

UEA was successful in an appeal to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the university announced on 15 August.

The review “focused on misinterpretation of information relating to part-time students”, a UEA spokeswoman said.

But, in Hefce’s subsequent announcement on appeal outcomes, it emerged that UEA was the sole success among the 18 institutions to have appealed against a TEF rating.

Beyond UEA, the only other change listed by Hefce is that Durham University’s statement of findings has been revised. But the Russell Group institution’s silver rating remains in place.

That means all other appeals, including those by Russell Group members the universities of Liverpool (bronze), Southampton (bronze) and York (silver), were rejected by Hefce.

The outcomes of the appeals were announced just two days before many UK school-leavers get their exam results and confirm their university choice.

Neil Ward, pro vice-chancellor (academic) at UEA, welcomed the ruling on his institution.

“We are delighted our appeal has been successful as we believe UEA meets the gold standard for teaching excellence,” he said. “We’ve always maintained a strong focus on teaching, because that’s what really matters to students.”

In its statement on the appeal outcome, UEA highlighted its results in the National Student Survey, one element of the TEF’s metrics.

UEA “is the only mainstream English university to have been ranked in the top five for student satisfaction since the survey began in 2005″, the institution said.

Prior to the UEA ruling, a third of the 137 higher education institutions and alternative providers with university status assessed in the TEF received gold awards. Nearly half (49 per cent) got silver, with just under one in five (18 per cent) getting bronze.

Mary Leishman, UEA Students’ Union sabbatical officer for undergraduate education, said: “Great teaching is what the TEF was supposed to be all about and, given what students say about teaching at UEA, we’re thrilled that this has now been reflected in our gold grading.”

Hefce also said that four providers lodged appeals regarding their eligibility for a provisional award.

Three were successful, including for-profit St Patrick’s College, owned by the Global University Systems group that also includes the University of Law.

St Patrick’s previously undertook explosive growth in its numbers of students with public Student Loans Company funding on sub-degree Higher National qualifications awarded by Pearson.

St Patrick’s had been given a “requires improvement to meet UK expectations” judgement in two out of four areas in a Quality Assurance Agency Higher Education Review. But, following a partial re-review, it was given “meets UK expectations” judgements in all areas in October 2016.

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Affording college in Georgia getting tougher

By Sarah Butrymowicz and Meredith Kolodner

Alduha Leon and Jared Sanders, roommates at Savannah State University, dined on hot dogs in their apartment on Thanksgiving Day of their sophomore year. They had decided to skip feasting with family in Atlanta to pick up extra hours at their airport jobs loading luggage onto planes. Payday wasn’t until Friday, though, and Leon only had $5 left on his food stamps card.

During the three years they spent at Savannah State, Sanders and Leon struggled to pay their tuition, fees and living expenses. They accumulated more than $50,000 in loans between the two of them, despite working up to 40 hours a week. After exhausting themselves working late or overnight shifts so they wouldn’t have to miss class, and finding their grades suffering, they dropped out in 2015, joining a growing pool of Georgians who have debt but no degree.

More than 108,000 students who had taken out federal loans withdrew from Georgia’s public colleges and universities between 2013 and 2015, according to the most recent period measured in federal data. The problem is particularly acute for those seeking a bachelor’s degree. Median federal loan debt for these Georgia students has more than doubled over the past decade at most four-year schools, ranging from more than $18,000 at Albany State University to $5,500 at the University of North Georgia.

Without a degree, those who left college often can’t get decent-paying jobs to make a dent in their loans, hurting their economic futures and the state’s.

State actions have contributed to growing financial pressures on students. Budget cuts during the recession caused per-student funding to plummet, so Georgia students and their families have faced rising tuition costs. The HOPE scholarship program covers less than it did six years ago, and fees — which can cost thousands of dollars a year — have increased. Regulations prohibit state colleges and universities from spending money from the Georgia budget on need-based financial aid, and schools have limited campus-based resources to help.

This has happened as Georgia officials are pushing to increase the number of young residents who have some kind of post-secondary education. They say that by 2025, more than 60 percent of Georgia jobs will require such credentials, and today only 45 percent of the state’s young adults have them. But experts say dramatic improvement is impossible unless the government does something to make college more affordable.

“That can be funding the institutions themselves; it also can be investing in financial aid,” said Debbie Cochrane, vice president of The Institute for College Access and Success. “Folks aren’t just asking for higher education to be supported because it’s a nice thing. We know that our society, our workforce, our health – our societal health – requires that we have an educated population.”

Although tuition at Georgia’s public colleges and universities is relatively low compared to national averages, it has had some of the fastest growth. Since 2008, average tuition increased from $4,700 to $8,400. A December state audit found the annual average total cost of attendance grew 77 percent between 2006 and 2015, from $8,361 to $14,791, including mandatory fees and optional ones, such as room and board.

Many legislators have introduced bills in recent years that would require the Board of Regents to keep costs down, by limiting tuition increases to not exceed inflation, for instance.

The state has hired the Southern Regional Education Board to look at affordability in Georgia’s higher education system and how efficiently universities are spending state funding. The research is being paid for with a $380,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Disclaimer: The Gates Foundation is among The Hechinger Report’s many funders.)

The public has a perception that tuition is rising because schools aren’t managing their money well, said Claire Suggs, a senior education policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. But the primary reason for the spikes in tuition and fees, she said, is declining per-student funding to the University System.

The recession in 2008 caused state tax revenue to plummet and accelerated a decline in higher education funding. State spending on the University System of Georgia fell from more than $15,000 per student in 2001 to about $6,000 during the recession, adjusted for inflation, and has only climbed back to $8,000, Sugg’s analyses found.

Other financial measures also show the cost-shift to students. In 2009, state appropriations made up 61 percent of the general funding for USG institutions, while tuition accounted for almost a third of it. By 2017, tuition brought in 46 percent of these schools’ general revenue, and state appropriations had shrunk to 43 percent.

“If we’re going to talk about affordability, we have to talk about the state’s investment in higher education,” Suggs said. “We have to acknowledge that there’s been this real disinvestment by the state.”

Many colleges agree, particularly those that face declining enrollments. “I don’t think there is a huge amount of waste on our campus,” said Kim Brown, senior associate vice president of business and financial services at Georgia Southern University. “Our operating budgets on this campus have not had an increase in more than 10 years, and staff haven’t had a raise in six or seven years.”

Leon and Sanders were caught in this downward trajectory. In their freshman year, tuition and fees at Savannah State were about $3,000 per semester, more than $800 higher than it had been in 2009.

Leon, the first in his family to go to college, enrolled as a marine science major and was getting mostly As and Bs.

He had a federal Pell grant for low-income students, but that barely covered tuition, let alone room and board, fees and books. His grades didn’t qualify him for a HOPE scholarship, so he had to turn to loans.

Georgia and New Hampshire are the only states without a need-based aid program for students attending state public schools. Schools must rely on their endowments and raising money from private donors to provide scholarships. Universities such as Savannah State, with lower endowments and less affluent alumni, have a harder time.

During the 2013-2014 school year, USG institutions awarded $28.8 million in need-based aid. Students’ unmet need totaled about $660 million, according to the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

An analysis by the AJC of 11 universities that make such data available found that more than 83,000 students were determined by federal calculations to need help paying for school. Just two in 10 students received all the funding they needed through federal, state and institutional aid and loans.

Some students are forced to drop out when they can’t come up with their tuition and fees payments. In 2014 and 2015, about 13,000 students were removed – or purged, as officials say –from university rolls when they were unable to pay.

Other students make their payments, but have to take on jobs to do so, which can make it harder for them to graduate. Working for more than 25 hours per week can get in the way of passing classes, especially for low-income students, according to a new study by the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce.

“The best thing that schools and states can do is make sure that students who can’t afford the cost of college have a reasonable path toward paying for school so they don’t have to drop out and they don’t have to prioritize work,” Cochrane said.

Leon got a job at the Savannah airport. Breathing fuel fumes the first week made him so sick he wound up in the hospital and missed several days of class. Even when he was healthy, a draining work schedule – typically from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. or as late as 3 a.m., Wednesday or Thursday through Sunday – made it hard to keep up with school.

He began dropping some harder classes, and his grades slipped.

“The more I had to work, the more I went downhill,” he said.

He thinks a need-based aid program is a great idea. “If it’s cheaper, people will take more initiative and go to school,” he said.

Georgia officials have been discussing a need-based aid program for at least a decade. In 2008, a Board of Regents study estimated the state could feasibly establish a need-based aid programs for $40 million that would benefit 26,000 students. The report was published during the height of the recession, however, and nothing was done with its findings.

State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, views the coming college affordability study as a possible first step on the road to need-based aid. He says creating such a program in a state where 17 percent of the population lives in poverty is vital for Georgia’s economic future.

“I don’t think anybody’s against it,” Millar said. “It’s just a question of where we’re going to come up with money. We have to look at our priorities.

“I think we’ll get there eventually,” he added, but said that any need-based program would likely have some kind of academic requirement, such as students needing to keep at least a 2.0 GPA.

Kelly McCutchen, president of the right-leaning Georgia Public Policy Foundation, recommends that the state look at providing need-based aid for 11 industries identified as needing workers; or, Georgia should do a better job of recruiting students to technical colleges instead of four-year schools where they’re more likely to take on more debt to earn a degree that may not lead directly to a career.

“If you’re subsidizing that, you’re not really helping the student much,” he said. “I don’t think it’s one solution of ‘let’s just throw money at the problem.’ ”

The state does have a small, primarily need-based aid program funded through public and private dollars, called REACH. Five low-income middle schoolers in most school districts – and eight in larger districts – can enroll. If they keep up their grades in high school and meet other requirements they’ll receive a $10,000 scholarship for Georgia public colleges and universities. It serves 685 students and is slated to be expanded to more than 800 students next year.

In the meantime, it’s up to institutions to try to find money to help defray student costs. Valdosta and Columbus Universities are both in the middle of capital campaigns, some of which will go to need-based scholarships. Clayton State and Savannah State are mimicking a successful program created by Georgia State University that gives emergency grants to students who are close to graduation but needed a small amount, typically less than $1,000, to pay their final tuition bill.

Leon never made it to that point. By the end of his third year at Savannah State, he had earned just under half of the credits he would need to complete his degree and was already almost $30,000 in debt. He was starting to see older friends graduate and struggle to find jobs and pay back loans, despite having a bachelor’s degree.

“Do I really want to be $50,000 in debt?” he asked himself. The answer was “no.” He withdrew. Sanders did as well, for similar reasons.

Both have started their own businesses in the last year; Leon has set up an event planning company, and Sanders is establishing a video production business. They’re unable to pay back their loans right now, despite frequent calls from collection agencies.

They have no regrets about the decision to drop out and save themselves from even more debt. But both agree – they’d go back if they could afford it.

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report in a collaboration with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Hechinger Report is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. It receives support from a variety of individuals and philanthropies and works with news organizations across the country. Learn more at

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Wealth gap in university places


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Young people from richer areas are more likely to get degrees, says the study

Young people in some of the wealthiest areas of England are 18 times more likely to go to university than those in the poorest, suggests new analysis.

The charity Teach First compared official child poverty figures with university participation rates.

In parts of Derbyshire, only one in 20 young people progressed to university in 2015, compared with more than 80% in parts of Buckinghamshire, it says.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said the figures were improving.

“Recent UCAS data shows that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to go to university than ever before, but we agree there is more to do,” said Mr Johnson.

The study drew on figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to highlight the area of Shirebrook in North West Derbyshire, where just 4.8% of young people started university in 2015.

By contrast, the area with the highest university entrants was Gerrards Cross North in Buckinghamshire, at 87.2%.

On average, the researchers found that in the most deprived 10% of postcodes about 20% of young people went to university in 2015, compared with about half of those in the least deprived 10%.

In the report, Teach First says young people from the poorest backgrounds are constantly held back by social mobility hurdles their wealthier peers do not face.

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Primary children should be encouraged to aim for university, say the authors

Figures from the Office of Fair Access to Higher Education (OFFA) show that universities in England spent £725m in 2015-16 on measures to help more disadvantaged students get into university – but the report asks if the money could be spent more effectively.

It suggests that a proportion should be targeted on boosting participation in “hard to reach” communities, with schemes to encourage primary-aged children to aim at degrees.

It also suggests that the government could encourage teachers to take jobs in schools in low-achieving areas by forgiving a proportion of their student loans.

Teach First chief executive Brett Wigdortz said that “for those that choose that path, [university] gives them a huge range of social, cultural and economic benefits and, for the time being it’s still the gateway for most high-status professions.

“However, today there are still far too few disadvantaged pupils getting to university and completing their degree.”

Prof Les Ebdon, Director of OFFA said: “The grades young people get at school have a huge impact on their ability to access higher education. So it is a real cause for concern that the gap in attainment between pupils from different backgrounds can be seen from such a young age.”

Mr Johnson said the government’s higher education reforms aimed to ensure that universities “look beyond just access – and focus on attainment, retention rates and readiness for the world of work.

“This includes a new duty requiring universities to publish data broken down by background, to shine a light on where more must be done to tackle inequality.

“The Teaching Excellence Framework will also explicitly look at how they are achieving positive outcomes for disadvantaged students.”

The study was written jointly with Credit Suisse’s EMEA education foundation.

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An App to Crowdfund Higher Education for Refugees

While there is no shortage of bright prospective students, very few refugees make it to university. Among myriad restrictions, for many it is simply unaffordable.

Rama Chakaki, an impact investor originally from Syria, realized there is also no shortage of young, tech-savvy potential donors who want to help refugee students. What they needed was a way to match displaced students with individual and corporate donors as well as foundations.

So Chakaki and her cofounders set up the mobile application edSeed in April, which is currently in testing phase. Some 500 displaced students have signed up, while 12,000 individual donors and three corporate donors have expressed interest, she says.

When it launches, students will fill out a social media-style profile including the university and the program they will attend, which will be verified by edSeed. They are “proactively catering” to refugees and internally displaced students from Syria and Gaza, Chakaki says, by partnering with education organizations like JusoorBareeq Education DevelopmentUnite Lebanon Youth Project (ULYP) and University of the People’s Syrian refugee initiative, as well as reaching out to universities in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Jordan.

Donors can select students to support and send funds directly to the university or the scholarship foundation. Based on the donations they have already received, Chakaki anticipates individuals to donate between $10 and $100 and corporate donors from $10,000. This spring, the app was selected by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MITSOLVE refugee education challenge.

We spoke to Chakaki about edSeed.

Refugees Deeply: What is the need for an app to fund refugee students? Do donors not already have established funding channels?

Rama Chakaki: Only 1 percent of refugees attend university. As the number is so low, it’s evident that donor institutions and corporations are not reaching enough refugees.

We did a study that showed that individuals who are accustomed to crowdfunding and saw the refugee crisis unfold are eager to support refugee higher education, provided that they have a mechanism to pay that is secure and guarantees that the funding is going into the right hands. That’s why we decided to create an app that is very easily accessible to the refugees, gives donors access to the profiles of students and assures them that the money is going directly to the educational institution or scholarship foundation that is backing the student.

Refugees Deeply: Why a mobile app and not just a website?

Chakaki: Our research showed that a lot of refugees or students affected by conflict don’t have access to laptops, but they all have mobiles. On the donor side, it was 50/50 [percent preferred using either a mobile or desktop], but a lot of millennials and younger donors felt very comfortable with the mobile version. We modeled the app after Instagram and SnapChat, so it’s more of a social network and less of a traditional crowdfunding-looking site. We’re adding a website, but because we had limited budgets to spend initially, when we were piloting it we thought we’ll start with what hasn’t been tried and tested first.

Refugees Deeply: The donors can filter through the students by degree, location, gender and university. How do you make sure that doesn’t discriminate against certain students?

Chakaki: Like a lot of crowdfunding sites, there’s no guarantee that the funders aren’t going to opt for one type of campaign over the other. It’s up to the donor to decide what they prefer to donate to. We’re going to try to complement that with monthly campaigns to promote certain profiles. For example, one of the campaigns we’re working on is women in STEM from Syrian refugee backgrounds to make sure that this cohort becomes visible and gets funded.

We’re also trying to work on a campaign for students from Gaza, because a lot of the media and U.S. government policy is saying, “We don’t want to fund Gaza,” even though there are students who are not politically affiliated and [who] desperately require the funding. We will profile the students for individual donors who care about helping people in Gaza.

We’re also getting requests from donors who are interested in, for example, helping students with disabilities. Then we’re reaching out to nonprofits that support students with disabilities and are looking for higher-education funding. That’s the kind of approach we’re taking to make sure that there is no discrimination.

Refugees Deeply: What happens if a student doesn’t get enough funding to start university?

Chakaki: Traditional crowdfunding programs will cap their fund-raising [after a certain time frame]. Firstly, we’re making sure that there are extensions. Secondly, in parallel to the crowdfunding, we’re approaching organizations to pull together an amount that closes gaps in funding for certain students. We see this as a platform that brings together all those stakeholders that are looking at funding refugee students for higher education. The more we onboard to the platform, the easier we’ll be able to bridge those gaps for students that don’t reach their target.

Refugees Deeply: What happens, for example, if a student drops out. Do the donors then get their money back?

Chakaki: No. If a student has already enrolled, is going through the program and then drops out, whatever the donor has donated had already been received by the university. But if a student, after crowdfunding and before the start of the semester, decides to no longer pursue the education, that allocation will go towards another student of a similar profile.

Refugees Deeply: What have you found to be private and corporate donors’ main incentives to give money to refugee students?

Chakaki: Incentives vary. We’ve found that some people are doing it as a response to seeing the crisis and feeling compelled to do something of impact. At the beginning of the Syrian crisis a lot of people were very proactive in emergency aid, like medical aid, food and shelter. Now they’re seeking to help strategically, long term and with the highest impact. If [they help] someone to graduate from university, that one person can get employment and lift an entire family out of poverty.

A second appeal is “I had benefited from somebody else’s generosity and now I want to give back to someone else.” A third is you can get tax deductions if you’re American or some other nationalities. For the Muslim community, under the Zakat or almsgiving, they get spiritual credit for doing that. Different communities are doing it for very different reasons.

Refugees Deeply: How do you hope edSeed will grow and where do you see its limitations?

Chakaki: We hope that, within three years, we can raise 6,000 scholarships. Beyond that, we hope to accelerate the growth to be able to handle more. We’d like to go beyond university education [and allow young refugees to] enroll in apprenticeships. We’d like to work with organizations that are giving other types of degrees that can quickly give some refugee students economic independence. Last, we’d like to maybe partner with mentoring organizations and offer other services beyond funding.

A limitation could be obviously if we don’t get adequately funded to continue to build the app. We’re mitigating that challenge by raising donations now to provide us with at least three years’ sustainability in the future. There are always other technologies that come up and render you obsolete, so we have to keep up to date with what’s happening. Then, there may be disruptions in the higher-education sector, like online, entrepreneurship and micro degrees that render funding requirements obsolete, but until now I don’t see that happening.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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Area experts discuss planning, financing higher education – News

LEAF, which recently moved from Auburn Campus in Concord Township to Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, will offer free informational sessions to all students about admissions applications, FAFSA preparation, college research, campus tours, scholarships and loans.

LEAF, which recently moved from Auburn Campus in Concord Township to Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, will offer free informational sessions to all students about admissions applications, FAFSA preparation, college research, campus tours, scholarships and loans.
Tawana Roberts –The News-Herald

National student debt

Total student loan debt: $1.31 trillion

Total U.S. borrowers with student loan debt: 44.2 million

Student loan delinquency or default rate: 11.2%

Total increase in student loan debt in 4Q2016: $31 billion

New delinquent balances (30+ days): $32.6 billion

New delinquent balances – seriously delinquent (90+ days): $31 billion

4Q 2016, New York Federal Reserve

Paying for college continues to be one of the greatest challenges current students and recent graduates face.

Student loan debt in Ohio

Average debt at graduation: $19,495

Percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.8% (17th lowest)

Median household income, ages 25-44: $56,786 (21st lowest)

Average debt as share of median household income: 34.3% (7th highest)


Student debt is on the rise, according to the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access Success.

States with most student loan debt

• New Hampshire $25,740

• Pennsylvania $24,172

• Connecticut $21,805

• Minnesota $21,744

• South Dakota $21,298

• Rhode Island $20,334

• Wisconsin $19,881

• Massachusetts $19,854

• West Virginia $19,520

• Ohio $19,495


“Student debt is still rising, and the typical college graduate now leaves school with over $30,000 in loans,” said TICAS president Lauren Asher.

The most recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that Americans owed $1.3 trillion in student loan debt in 2016.

Some argue that student loan debt is a crisis in this country. Whether it is believed to be a crisis or not, funding higher education is proven to be an obstacle for many students and families.

College is an investment that appreciates in value, said Lake Erie College Vice President for Enrollment Management Terry D. Finefrock.

“We always want to help families make this investment wisely,” she said.

Lake Erie College offers numerous financial resources including one-on-one guidance for incoming and current student and exit counseling for graduates.

Finefrock said the college aims to raise financial literacy.

Finances are discussed during registration and freshman orientation, she said.

Lake Erie College offers academic- and merit-based scholarships to qualifying students. They also have institutional interest-free loans that can be accessed in emergencies.

There are an abundance of financial resources to help students and families make well-informed financial decisions.

Citizens Bank is one financial institution that helps navigate families through the confusing landscape of college financing.

Melissa Bassett, who is the senior vice president of strategy and sales for student lending at Citizens Bank, said private student loans should be the last resort for families.

Although Citizens Bank is a national lender, Bassett said they work with families as early as possible to teach them about savings options.

“Our focus with families and students at an early age is the importance of saving,” she said. “Our customers and prospects come to us looking for information on what should we do. So, we spend a lot of time not only on the phone when they call us but via digital, web, social media posts with suggestions during certain times of the year about what they can begin thinking about before they get to school.”

Customers can go to for more information and financial tips.

Citizens Bank ensures that students have taken advantage of all the low-cost federal options and available scholarships before discussing private loans, she said.

After all avenues have been explored, bankers will explain loan options.

Bassett said Citizens Bank is the only bank in the country that provides a service for families to come into the branch and apply for a loan in-branch.

“A lot of providers out-source their loans,” she said. “It such a stressful situation and decision for a family — and to just to be able to sit down in front of another human being to discuss those worries and anxieties and have the banker be able to alleviate that, has been a huge success.”

In addition to colleges and banks, there is a local resource that helps students explore options for college.

Besides planning for college, the Lake/ Geauga Educational Assistance Foundation strives to help students successfully complete college.

Executive Director David Munson said they will soon provide a mentoring program that will assist students while in college.

According to Complete College America, many students are not graduating on time or at all, which is costing students and families more money.

Students graduating late take more classes at additional costs, postpone getting a career and delay their earning potential, the report also said.

Keeping that problem in mind, LEAF offers programs like the STEM camp to get younger and younger students thinking about their strengths, interests and goals.

Early education is key.

LEAF Scholarship Manager Stephanie Kubec said many people don’t understand their loan amount or realize they have to start paying the loan off until the last minute.

“They don’t start planning soon enough,” she said.

LEAF, which recently moved from Auburn Campus in Concord Township to Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, will offer free informational sessions in the fall to all students about admissions applications, FAFSA preparation, college research, campus tours, scholarships and loans.

“Going to college is a big change in a student’s life,” Muson said. “They should approach it with determination to utilize all resources at their disposal in choosing a college and researching financial aid options.”

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Northern President Speaks out at Higher Education Forum

    Northern New Mexico College President Richard Bailey wanted to remind his peers, during the July 19 Higher Education Forum, at the Albuquerque Publishing Co., that higher education should be accessible to all who seek it, regardless of where they live.

    Although not invited to sit on the panel with the presidents of the some of the state’s more visible higher education institutes, Bailey joined his colleagues, New Mexico State University Chancellor Garry Carruthers, University of New Mexico President Chaouki Abdallah, Western New Mexico College President Joseph Shepard and Central New Mexico Community College President Kathie Winograd, at the forum.

    The Albuquerque Journal, the New Mexico Council of University Presidents and KANW 89.1 hosted the event to discuss a variety of issues, such as declining enrollment, rising costs and a flailing Lottery Scholarship Fund, among other things.

    Organizers convened the forum about a week after Carruthers told a group of business leaders the state has too many public colleges and universities. The state has 31 publicly funded, and 182 private higher education institutions.

    Although Higher Education Department Secretary Barbara Damron said having so many public schools creates administrative challenges for her and her staff, intensive studies would have to be conducted to determine if the state has too many higher education institutions.

    “We don’t know the answer to that, as we sit here tonight,” she said. “We may have too many. We may not have too many. That needs to be studied thoroughly.”

    She said the state does a good job ensuring residents can access higher education. Students statewide can attend a four-year school or community college by attending any one of the 77 access points and/or branch campuses of the state’s 31 higher education institutions and independent community colleges.

    Damron said at the recession’s peak, the state saw increased enrollment to accommodate people who were transitioning to new careers, as a way to navigate the nationwide economic downturn.

    “Many times, when there is a recession, people go back to school,” she said. “So it is not uncommon to see enrollment increase during the recession, but we see those numbers go back down when the recession is over.”

    Her Department is working to see that 66 percent of the state’s working adults between the ages of 25 and 64, have post-secondary credentials by the year 2030, as part of the Route to 66 Initiative.

    Council of University Presidents Executive Director Marc Saavedra said getting students in the door these days isn’t as important as it was in the past, for a given school’s fiscal health. Like Damron, he said the focus has shifted to making sure the students finish their courses.

    “Funding is based on course completion,” he said. “You had institutions receiving money for students walking through the doors. If you go back 10 years, you will see we have 300 more students, but we are receiving $50 million less in state funding.”

    Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Doña Ana, Hildalgo, Luna and Sierra counties, said even though New Mexico funds higher education more generously than many other states, except Wyoming, the money is spread too thin. The state allocates about 13 percent of its total General Fund budget to higher education, which comes to anywhere between $750-$800 million annually.

    He said years ago, he objected to a measure that would have facilitated the opening of a four-year college in Rio Rancho because it would have led to (the higher education) pie being cut into even more pieces.

    Smith, who also serves as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he and his colleagues should have began addressing the funding issue several years ago.

    “The bottom line is, we have cut that pie in so many pieces, it is difficult for us to do justice financially, to all the institutions in the state of New Mexico,” he said. “We are feeling the crunch and trying to make the adjustments.”

    Bailey, in his brief address to those in attendance, highlighted the importance of viewing education as a long-term investment for the community. He recalled the tale of a recent Northern grad who returned to school, after working a string of low-wage jobs and is now earning $85,000 per year.

    “The educational journey wasn’t just a return on an investment for that individual and that family,” he said. “It was a return on investment for the whole community because that individual is staying in the Española Valley.”

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Investing in Higher Ed is a No-Brainer for Virginia





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England ‘should learn’ from US troubles with performance funding

England should take heed of the potential detrimental impact that performance-related funding and for-profit higher education has had on widening participation in the US, according to a new study.

A working paper comparing access policies in the two countries, published by the UCL Institute of Education’s Centre for Global Higher Education, cites US research that found performance-related funding can have “unintended” consequences, such as restrictions in admissions to university and weakening of academic standards.

More than 30 states in the US allocate a portion of funding for public universities based on outcomes metrics such as retention rates and number of degrees awarded.

A paper on performance funding in Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee published last year found that university leaders in the states “frequently note that – to improve their graduation performance – their institutions could and often actually do move to reduce degree requirements or to restrict admission of less-prepared students who will be less likely to graduate or perform well”, according to the CGHE study.

The report, “English and American higher education access and completion policy regimes: similarities, differences, and possible lessons”, notes that it will be particularly important for England to “carefully track” the impact of financially rewarding universities for student completion as it continues the development of the teaching excellence framework.

A recent Times Higher Education analysis of the first TEF results, which take into account retention rates, found that some universities may have benefited from having a more advantaged student cohort.

The research, which was conducted by Kevin Dougherty, professor of higher education and education policy at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and Claire Callender, professor of higher education policy at Birkbeck, University of London and deputy director of CGHE, also advises England to pay “very careful attention” to possible negative repercussions from the large-scale expansion of for-profit higher education in the US.

The UK government has called for an expansion of alternative providers of higher education, including for-profits.

The study states that for-profit enrolments surged in the US between 1980 and 2010 but, since then, support for the sector “ebbed sharply…as it became clear that large numbers of students are failing to graduate or are doing so with large debt and few prospects to be able to pay off that debt”.

“There may be lessons to be learned from the regulatory structure that the US has had to develop to reconcile government provision of financial aid to students attending for-profit colleges and the dangers of poor quality provision by those institutions,” it states.

However, it notes that the Trump administration has announced that it will revoke two regulations, which held for-profit universities accountable when they produced graduates with burdensome student loan debt and would have clarified how student borrowers could have their loans forgiven if they were defrauded and misled by their college. 

The study also suggests that the US could benefit from following England when it comes to the use of income-contingent loans and access agreements to govern the outreach efforts of its universities.

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Story behind funding cut at key CUNY research center draws attention

A key research center at the City University of New York is trying
to figure out how to fill a funding gap after suffering a dramatic
cut in this year’s city budget. But it’s the story behind that cut
that is getting attention. NY1′s Juan Manuel Benitez reports.

This year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade was dominated by political controversy.

The parade’s board decided to honor Puerto Rican nationalist leader
Oscar López Rivera as a “freedom hero.” 

Companies like Goya and politicians like Governor Andrew Cuomo
boycotted the parade.

“For one person, he’s an activist. For one person, he’s a
terrorist,” Cuomo said.

Amid the controversy, the board’s president, Lorraine Cortés
Vázquez, admits having asked for public support to people like Edwin
Meléndez, executive director of CUNY’s influential Center for Puerto
Rican Studies, also known as “Centro.” That support never came. 

“I think the position of the director is the right one because
Centro, at the end of the day, is an academic institution,” said
Harry Franqui-Rivera, former researcher with the Center for Puerto
Rican Studies. “And for Centro to establish its academic
credentials, Centro must be impartial.”

Weeks later, the City Council, led by López Rivera’s friend and
defender, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, cut Centro’s annual public
funding by almost 50 percent, leading people like Franqui-Rivera to
believe there was a connection.

The Speaker’s Office didn’t answer our questions on this matter. It
only released a statement indicating the Council added two new CUNY
institutes to its Higher Education discretionary funding: one on
Mexican studies and another on Haitian studies. Both received funding
that equals the amount being cut from Centro’s budget. 

Funds for Dominican Studies and Food Policy remain untouched.

“If there is a need to fund these centers, then the difference
should have been split between Centro and the Dominican Studies
program, or from another source. But it was not. Centro took the
hit,” said Gretchen Sierra-Zorita, former consultant with the
Center for Puerto Rican Studies. “This is why people are making
this inference.”

Meléndez and current Centro staffers declined to be interviewed. In
a statement, he said its core services will continue unaffected, and
indicated other funding sources will be identified.

Most of Centro’s budget comes from the state. 

Activists and academics say Centro needs the funding now more than
ever in order to continue its education and debate work at this time
of crisis in Puerto Rico. 

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