Sunday, February 05, 2012

Colleges assured tuition cap will fail

President Obama’s plan to withhold some financial aid from universities that “jack up” tuition rates each year is being panned across the higher education spectrum, and House Republicans appear poised to kill it before it ever gets off the ground.

The proposal, first mentioned in last week’s State of the Union address, would set a cap on tuition growth each year, and institutions that exceed that threshold would be denied federal dollars for work-study programs and additional money for loans and grants aimed at the neediest students.

Colleges that stay within the administration’s tuition parameters, which have yet to be firmly established, could get bigger payouts from the federal government.

University presidents, worried that their tuition rates will soon be set by the White House, were reassured Tuesday that the plan is likely going nowhere this year.

“Anything he proposes needs to be approved by the Congress. I don’t see that taking place,” Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told college leaders gathered in Washington for the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Mr. Obama “threatened to reduce federal aid to colleges and universities unless they reduced or kept their tuitions in tow. That’s not the job of the president of the United States,” Mr. Rogers said. “What you charge for tuition is your business. That’s going to vary for a variety of reasons. I respect and the federal government ought to respect your sovereignty in that area. It’s your decision.”

Mr. Rogers‘ remarks were met with raucous applause from the crowd, comprised of the heads of private institutions including small religious schools and larger, better-known colleges such as Wake Forest, Rice and New York University.

Many university officials outlined their own plans to lower costs, developed and implemented long before Mr. Obama’s speech. William Peace University, a small North Carolina liberal arts school, plans to drop tuition by 7.5 percent in the fall, saving the average student about $2,000 per year. Hardin-Simmons University, a private Baptist school in Texas, guarantees students that their tuition rates won’t increase for their entire college careers.

“We want to play ball. We want to cooperate,” said Philip W. Eaton, president of Seattle Pacific University. “But at the same time, [the administration’s proposal] is a crosswind that we just don’t need right now.”

Mr. Eaton suggested that Mr. Obama is seeking to paint major colleges and universities as greedy and set himself up as a savior by forcing them to keep tuition rates low.

“It’s an exceedingly populist message. Politically, it plays very well,” he said. “It’s quite clear to me that he doesn’t understand our business.”

David Trickett, president and CEO of Colorado’s Iliff School of Theology, said the plan looks like a piece of the administration’s “agenda” to acquire greater control over American higher education.

Other college presidents called it an attempt to institute “price controls” and voiced concerns that, if the proposal is adopted, Mr. Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan may seek even greater authority over the sector.

Faced with a growing backlash, the White House is now casting its plan as a discussion starter, not a list of demands.

Zakiya Smith, senior adviser for education with the White House Domestic Policy Council, told the NAICU conference that the administration is open to adjustments.


Outrage as yob pupils 'allowed back into lessons on appeal' in Britain

Pupils expelled from school for dealing drugs, attacking other children and carrying weapons are being allowed back into lessons against teachers’ wishes, it emerged today.

Figures show more than 500 children permanently barred from school lodged an appeal against the decision last year.

In around one-in-four cases, independent appeals panels found in favour of the pupil. Some 400 expelled pupils have been reinstated over the last five years.

According to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, one child in Lewisham, south London, was allowed back into class despite being permanently excluded for setting off fireworks in a crowd of students.

In Bournemouth, a child who was expelled after admitting smoking a cannabis joint on the school field was allowed back into lessons even though the head teacher said the reinstatement would send out a "very damaging message".

The Government has now taken action to ban appeals panels from reinstating pupils who have been permanently expelled as part of a fresh crackdown on indiscipline.

Ministers insist the move will give head teachers the final say over bad behaviour and shift the balance of power in schools away from unruly pupils.

Nick Seaton, a spokesman for the Campaign for Real Education, said: "It undermines the authority of the teachers and the school if pupils who have been expelled are allowed back in.

"Youngsters should know exactly where they stand, and if they are told there are certain zero-tolerance policies for some misdemeanors, then there should be no exceptions. Schools should have the final say."

Data obtained after an FOI request to local authorities in England showed how children routinely appealed against expulsions last year.

Cases included:

* A child in Blackburn who was allowed back into school despite fears staff were at risk following repeated verbal outbursts, with the appeals panel ruling that teachers needed to make more allowances for the pupil;

* A pupil who was expelled for being openly defiant and rude to teachers in Hampshire before being allowed back because he had only been suspended once before;

* A school in Lambeth that was told it was too harsh on one pupil after expelling him for attacking another child;

* A pupil who was expelled from a Barking and Dagenham school for carrying a craft knife – only to be allowed back when the school admitted it was at fault for not securing the knives in the design and technology classroom;

* A Nottinghamshire school that reinstated a child expelled for carrying drugs after the panel agreed there was no evidence the pupil had been trying to supply it to others.

Under the Government’s new Education Bill, appeals panels have been retained and they can order a school to reconsider an expulsion case. But panels cannot order schools to take pupils back.

A spokesman for the Department of Education, said: "We agree that no child should be allowed to continually disrupt a class, causing misery to other pupils and teachers.

“That's why the Education Bill will stop appeals panels sending excluded children back to the school from which they were excluded.

"Independent review panels will ensure there is a quick, fair and independent process for reviewing exclusions, and will place more emphasis on professional judgement and the impact of poor behaviour in the classroom".


Australia: Shortage of State school places in Victoria

Rapid population growth fuelled by out of control immigration must bear much of the blame

Exclusive figures from the Education Department reveal for the first time the increasing struggle many parents face to get their children into popular government schools.

The records show 224 primary and secondary schools now have enrolment restrictions. They are either capping the number of students or using map boundaries. Some use both.

Families missing the cut are forced to move closer to their first choice - boosting real estate prices around the most popular schools - or settle for other options.

Both the State Government and Opposition say there are enough schools to cater for demand overall.

But some parent groups, principals and community advocates argue there are not enough schools where families need them most, and that "unpopular" public schools need more resources.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said while increasing numbers of parents were opting for public education, they could not be blamed for picking some schools over others. "It's laughable that governments advocate parental choice when they're not comparing apples with apples," she said.

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Frank Sal was surprised by the number of schools with restrictions, but said state and federal funding of public education was too low. "We must provide the support needed to all government schools that enables them to attract and retain teachers, as well as instil confidence in their local community," he said.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said the Government was closely monitoring the changing needs of communities.

There were many reasons schools got to the point of needing caps and boundaries, including reputation, areas of specialisation and population growth.

"Some parents choose a school on a drive-by, so if there's a brand-new building out the front, that's often an attraction," Mr Dixon said. "It's so important for parents not just to listen to their neighbours, but to go into the school ... and make an informed decision."

Pitsa Binnion, principal of McKinnon Secondary College, a successful zoned school in Melbourne's east, believes boundaries create some misconceptions.

"We have to de-mystify the boundary issue," she said. "Many parents ... need to understand that wonderful things are happening in government schools (across the board)."

Opposition teaching profession spokesman Steve Herbert said the Government had undermined schools' ability to provide for their communities by "slashing capital works funding".


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