Category Archives: Government

Politics and policy in higher education.


Amid Political Pressure, Obama Drops Plan to Curb College-Savings Plans

President Obama has backed away from his proposal to roll back tax breaks for 529 college-savings plans amid mounting political pressure, The New York Times reports. The proposal was slated to be a piece of Mr. Obama’s budget plan for the 2016 fiscal year, due on Monday.

Under the initial proposal, 529 plans would be scaled back in favor of expanding the American Opportunity Tax Credit, out of a desire to better channel the benefits to lower-income families. The popular college-savings plans mos…


Obama Calls on Firms to Expand Apprenticeships and Workers’ Tuition Benefits

Speaking at Boise State University on Wednesday, a day after his State of the Union address, President Obama repeated his call for employers to expand registered apprenticeships and tuition-benefit programs for workers.

Following the speech, the White House released a list of 30 companies that have committed to expanding on-the-job training, including CVS and UPS, and said that it would make more than $50-billion a year in existing federal funds available to help more employers start and sustain…


Obama vs. His Predecessors in State of the Union’s Focus on Colleges: an Interactive Tool

President Obama said the words “college” or “colleges” 12 times in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, which seems like a relatively high figure for a speech—and a nation—full of issues. How does Mr. Obama’s focus on higher education in the address compare to that of other presidents?

The work of Benjamin M. Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, provides a viewable answer. Using a database containing the text of every State of the Union message, Mr. Schmi…


15 Community Colleges Will Offer 4-Year Degrees in California

The chancellor of California’s community-college system has tapped 15 colleges to be the state’s first to offer four-year degrees, the Associated Press reports. Legislation enacted last year established a seven-year pilot program that will include specialized, four-year degree programs at the following institutions, if Brice W. Harris’s proposal receives final approval from the system’s Board of Governors in March:

  • Antelope Valley College
  • Bakersfield College
  • Crafton Hills College
  • Cypress Colleg…

Prominent Columns Find Devils in Details of Obama’s Free-College Plan

Two national newspapers used the morning of President Obama’s State of the Union address to publish op-eds praising the spirit of his proposal to make two years of community college free, but taking aim at the project’s unintended consequences.

In The New York Times, the columnist David Brooks argues that improving college completion, not college access, is the more important goal. “The smart thing to do would be to scrap the Obama tuition plan,” Mr. Brooks writes. “Students who go to community …


Agency to Offer ‘Scorecard’ on College-Affiliated Debit Cards for Students

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released on Wednesday the draft of a “Safe Student Account Scorecard” that it says will help colleges in their negotiations with financial institutions regarding college-affiliated debit cards and other financial services. The scorecard will enable colleges to avoid partnerships with institutions that offer accounts “with tricks and traps,” the bureau said in a news release.

“Because of the influence schools may have on the financial products s…


North Dakota’s Higher-Ed Chief Resigns, Citing Struggles With Lawmakers

The chair of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education resigned on Wednesday, citing chilly relations with the state’s legislature, the Associated Press reports.

Kirsten Diederich was slated to undergo a confirmation hearing for her second term with lawmakers later this month, but she said in her resignation letter to the state’s governor that the hearing might become a “forum for a power struggle.”

Some lawmakers had criticized Ms. Diederich’s board for, among other things, not complying with …


Maine Community College System President, Under Fire From Governor, Steps Down

John Fitzsimmons, president of the Maine Community College System, is stepping down after being pushed to resign by the state’s governor, Paul LePage, the Bangor Daily News reports. As recently as Tuesday, the system’s trustees expressed support for Mr. Fitzsimmons, who had shown no signs of backing down.

Governor LePage has criticized Mr. Fitzsimmons for, among other things, removing the system from a program that allows high-school students to earn college credits before graduation.

Mr. Fitzsi…


9 Are Arrested at U. of Georgia in Protest of Ban on Immigrant Students

Nine students were arrested at the University of Georgia on Friday as they protested a policy that bars students who are in the country illegally from attending the most-selective campuses in the university system, The Red and Black reported.

According to the student newspaper, campus police officers were called to Moore College, which houses the university’s honors program, on Friday evening when about 50 protesters refused to leave the building after it closed at 5 p.m. Chief Jimmy Williamson …


U.S. Issues Guidance on Reporting Deals With Student-Aid Contractors

The U.S. Department of Education on Friday issued guidance to clarify colleges’ responsibilities for reporting deals with student-aid contractors, saying that a “significant number” of institutions had failed to report those relationships.

Colleges pay the contractors to perform such tasks as processing student-aid applications and disbursing aid. They are required to notify the department of their servicing contracts, but the department said last month that many colleges were not doing so. The …