Saturday, December 23, 2006

AZ: Schools aiming to end "senior coasting"

It's senior year and the hardest work is over. For many high school students, that means it's time to coast. The usual way is to take four hours of class in the morning - including perhaps cooking, ceramics or as a teacher's aide - then at 11:30 or so, head to a job or home to while away time on the computer. But educators have a new message: The days when seniors can slide are coming to an end.

State and district officials are taking steps to ramp up the year's value and intensity, including lengthening the school day. Within a decade, the beloved half-day option will be extinct. School officials are asking themselves why they allow so many students to ease off during their senior year when Arizona education is under fire and the global marketplace demands higher skills.

Students can expect to face more required internships and tougher courses just to graduate, such as the stepped-up math proposed by a governor's panel last week. Schools also want to persuade students to stay on campus by offering a wider variety of college courses or online courses, such as Japanese.

Next month, state schools chief Tom Horne will ask lawmakers to increase full-time student hours from a minimum of four a day to five. Because schools get more money for full-time students, the change would pressure districts to find ways to keep seniors in school at least five of the day's six hours. Some district officials said that would cost the schools more money.

Not all half-day seniors are taking light loads and playing video games. Some take serious courses and leave by noon to go to work, earning money for college or a car or to help with the bills at home. Joni Brown's three oldest children left their Peoria high school campus early during their senior years to work, and that makes her proud. Her fourth, Jesse, 17, also is attending half a day, then working at a tire store to pay his bills. Brown, a secretary, raised the kids herself. "I wasn't able to give my kids things like cars and cells," said Brown, whose three oldest became a teacher, a hairstylist and a mortgage-company worker. "My children were big achievers and worked to get those things for themselves."

Still, many educators say allowing seniors to skate on academics is not doing them any favors. The millennium generation will need higher math and language skills whether they are headed for a university, a technical school or the workplace. College recruiters advise juniors not to let up in their final year or they risk being unprepared for the college grind....

The senior day already is growing longer for students who attend special classes to help pass or excel on the AIMS exam, which they need to earn a diploma or, if they score high, a tuition waiver.

More here


The US Department of Education is planning to propose limits early next year on how much universities can charge former students in collection fees if they default on government loans.

At Northeastern University, President Joseph Aoun has asked a prominent alumnus, former Suffolk district attorney Ralph C. Martin II , to recommend changes to the school's debt collection practices after a Globe report last month that the university has charged fees as high as 66 percent of the original debt. Northeastern should "consider ways to insure compliance with financial obligations that are consistent with our values as a university and a community," Aoun wrote to faculty and students earlier this month in announcing the review. "To my mind that means we treat one another with respect and dignity."

The Globe reported that colleges routinely charge debtors collection fees between 33 percent and 50 percent of the original balance on loans or unpaid tuition. In contrast, people with other types of debts, including on credit cards, generally pay much smaller collection fees, or none at all. Some advocates for students, specialists on consumer debt, and university administrators called the fees at many colleges excessive and unreasonable.

The Department of Education caps collection fees at 25 percent for the loans that it administers. But one of the major federal programs, the Perkins loan, which gives at least $1 billion each year to low-income students, is administered by universities, which set their own collection fees. Under the Perkins program, schools are required to charge defaulted borrowers all "reasonable" collection costs incurred by the institution, but the regulations do not spell out what is reasonable. "The good government approach here is that we should specify or define what reasonable collections costs are," said Dan Madzelan , director of forecasting and policy analysis in the office of postsecondary education. The department's ombudsman's office, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings , and members of Congress have all received complaints about schools charging high collection fees, Madzelan said.

The department hopes to publish a formal proposal around May 1, seek public comment and then have the new policy in place by Nov. 1, officials said. It will create the rules in concert with representatives from universities, student and consumer groups, and loan companies. If new rules are approved, they would be binding. Although the changes would apply only to Perkins loans, schools usually follow the Perkins guidelines for other loans they administer.

Elizabeth Reardon , collection officer at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, praised the plan to establish limits. "When the department gets involved, schools often sit up and take notice," Reardon said. She said the department of education's move will probably prompt universities to change their policies even before new limits go into effect, so that schools will appear proactive. UMass, which already had lower fees than most schools, recently put its collections out to bid to try to lower costs even more, Reardon said. The new collection fees range from about 21 percent to 33 percent, rather than up to 35 percent.

College officials in the Globe report defended their collection efforts as a last resort after students failed to respond to efforts to negotiate a deal. They say that they make no profit on the fees, and need to charge as much as they do in order to balance their budgets and to replenish loan funds so other students can borrow. Department of Education officials say their collection costs are lower than the colleges' because they have powers, including wage garnishment, that schools lack.

Northeastern had the highest collection fees of any school examined by the Globe. Aoun said last night that he chose Martin to conduct the review because of his integrity and his love for Northeastern. Martin earned a Northeastern law degree in 1978. Aoun refused to say whether he thought Northeastern's collection practices were unreasonable, because he didn't want to prejudge Martin's work. He said Martin's findings, stripped of confidential information about specific students, would be made public. Aoun asked Martin, now a partner at Bingham McCutchen , to report back by March 1.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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