Sunday, August 25, 2013

Obama's College Affordability Plan? Base Financial Aid on Government Formula

President Obama will pressure colleges and universities to change their behavior by ranking them according to a government formula that measures tuition, minority enrollment, graduation rates, student debt, and graduates' earnings.

"We're going to start to rank universities, understand who's doing a good job and who's not, and ultimately start to move financial aid, move resources, towards those universities that are very serious about this mission," Education Secretary Arne Duncan told MSNBC Thursday morning.

"Right now, we put out about $150 billion dollars in grants and loans each year, but it's all on inputs on the front end, not on the back end; and we have so many universities that are trying to do the right thing; we have states that are starting to invest more: We want to incentivize the good acctors, and say to those that aren't serious about containing costs, that aren't serious about graduation rates, 'Hey, you have to change your behavior."

Duncan says he hears frequent complaints from "hard-working, middle class folks" that college is too expensive -- "it's just for rich folks. And the president just sees a real problem with that," Duncan added.

On Thursday, President Obama will take his college affordability plan on the road to New York and Pennsylvania. Duncan appeared on morning news shows to give a general preview of what the president will say.

"This is about shared responsibility," Duncan told MSNBC. "We need to continue to invest -- going to college is the best investment we can make, but be very, very clear -- we cannot do it by ourselves. They have to reinvest -- universities have to do a better job of both containing costs and building cultures, not just around access but around completion."

Duncan praised innovations such as colleges mmoving to three-year degrees; dual enrollment programs that allow high school juniors and seniors to take college-level classes; and technology (online classes) to drive down costs and increase passing rates. "So there's a tremendous amount of innovation we see as we're traveling the country," he said. "What we haven't done, is we haven't seen those best practices go to scale. So none of this is easy, but it's happening in the real world. We just want to see this become the norm, rather than the exception.

"Again, I think hard-working am families deserve and need the chance to go to college, but they can't be saddled with massive debt in the back end. It's simply not fair."

Duncan said a rating system in which colleges are ranked among comparable institutions will bring "greater transparency."

"We have 7,000 institutions of higher education -- we have the best system of higher education in the world -- we just want young people to have much better information so they can make the best choice to pursue their dreams."

The New York Times reported on Thursday that tying financial aid to college ratings would require congressional legislation.

would be tied to financial aid, so that students at highly rated colleges might get larger federal grants and more affordable loans. But that would require new legislation.


WH: Obama Looking ‘to Fundamentally Rethink and Reshape’ Higher Education

No arrogance there, of course

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at the White House briefing on Tuesday that President Barack Obama believes America needs “to fundamentally rethink and reshape” its higher education system and the he will be going on a bus tour on Thursday and Friday to make some proposals Earnest said “are not going to be popular with everybody.”

After noting that average college tuition costs have risen dramatically in recent decades, Earnest said: “So what the President believes that we need to do is we need to fundamentally rethink and reshape the college--the higher education system, and we need to find a way to build on innovation.

“So the president on this bus tour will lay out some fundamental reforms that would bring real change to the way that we pay for college education in this country,” said Earnest.

“Now, the proposals that the president is going to lay out are not going to be popular with everybody, but they are going to be in the best interest of middle-class families,” he said. “And the president is looking forward to having that discussion over the course of Thursday and Friday in addition riding on a bus.”

In 2010, when Congress passed Obamacare, language buried in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, one of the two bills comprising the health-care reform plan, terminated the federal government’s program that guaranteed student loans made by private lenders, leaving just the Federal Direct Student Loan (DL) program.

"Under the DL program, the federal government essentially serves as the banker--it provides the loans to students and their families using federal capital (i.e., funds from the U.S. Treasury), and it owns the loans,” the Congressional Research Service later explained.

At the end of March 2010, the month Obama signed Obamacare and gave the Treasury a monopoly over federally guaranteed student loans, the outstanding balance on federal direct student loans was $169.526 billion, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement for that month. At the end of July 2013, the outstanding balance was $618.508 billion.

Since Obama signed the Obamacare law, the outstanding balance on direct student loans—money students and former students owe to the taxpayers—has increased by 265 percent.


I abhor bigotry, but why should we demonise schools that don't want to promote gay lifestyles?

What about bigotry against Christian beliefs?

Stephen Glover

The biggest social change of the past ten or 20 years must surely be the general transformation in attitudes towards homosexuality.

It was not very long ago that a homosexual embrace or kiss on television sent some newspapers and politicians into orbit, and a thousand angry pens into hyperdrive. Now we live in a world in which civil partnerships are accepted by most people as perfectly normal. Soon we will have gay marriage.

Most gay MPs no longer huddle beneath the parapet. The ‘gay vote’ is now considered so powerful that David Cameron sought an audience last week with the gay panjandrum Stephen Fry in an East End pub to discuss the ill treatment of homosexuals in Russia.

But some gays, it seems, still feel they are the victims of discrimination. Gay rights activists have identified some 40 schools across the country which allegedly state in their sex-education guidelines that governors will not allow teachers to promote homosexuality, or are ambiguous on the issue.

Stonewall, which campaigns for homosexual rights, is indignant, and suggests that these schools are reviving the language of Section 28, the law introduced by the Thatcher government in 1988 aimed at ‘loony left’ councils, some of which were energetically promoting homosexuality in schools.

Section 28 banned councils from using taxpayers’ money to fund books, plays, films or other material to promote homosexuality. Though its wording was hardly draconian, and no prosecution was ever brought under it, Section 28 has assumed mythic proportions in the minds of gay activists.

Despite opposition from rebels of all parties in the House of Lords, as well as from the Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups, the law was removed from the statute book by the Blair government in 2003. In 2009, David Cameron apologised for the Tories’ original championing of Section 28.

How much has changed in ten years. The Department for Education is evidently embarrassed by the reports about the 40 or so schools, and various Tory, Lib Dem and Labour MPs are quoted as saying they must be brought into line, and we must not go back to the antediluvian past.

Many of these schools ‘outed’ by campaigners are self-governing Academies. Some have hastily backed down, while others have gone to ground. None seems to be eager to justify itself in public.

Yet the British Humanist Association, which has somehow got in on the act, huffs and puffs as though a major crime has been committed. Its spokesman speaks of the ‘pernicious’ Section 28, and the need to bring these errant schools to heel.

Meanwhile Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, has circulated an email in which he announces a new series of training events for staff in primary and secondary schools this autumn ‘to equip teachers with the tools and confidence to tackle homosexual bullying’.

In fact, there’s no evidence of any homosexuals being bullied at any of these schools. Perhaps this is just Mr Summerskill’s way of saying that his organisation stands ready to re-educate teachers who show signs of straying from the new orthodoxy.

What strikes me about this story is that some of the representatives of a group that was once undoubtedly the victim of persecution are now showing a degree of intolerance towards people with whom they do not agree.

There are more than 30,000 schools in this country. A mere 40 or so have been identified as being either opposed to the promotion of homosexuality or ambiguous on the issue. This is a minuscule percentage, though of course there may be others.

And yet there is outrage, simulated or not. The campaigner Peter Tatchell, whose bravery in several spheres I admire, declares that ‘this is spookily similar to Section 28 in Britain and the new anti-gay law in Russia’.

Really? None of these schools appears to be demonising homosexuals. Grace Academy, which runs schools with a Christian ethos in Coventry, Solihull and Darlaston in the West Midlands, is quoted by The Independent newspaper as saying: ‘The governing body will not permit the promotion of homosexuality.’

The two Crest Academies for boys and girls in Neasden, North-West London, have a similar rubric, as does the Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland, though it has now deleted its guidance from its website.

Not one school cited by campaigners denounces homosexuality, or suggests that gays are in any way reprehensible. They simply do not want to promote it on an equal basis with heterosexuality. Of course, there may be schools, particularly Muslim ones, that take a harder line.

In my perfect world, schools would not offer any view about any sexual orientation.  Certainly no teacher ever did in an explicit way at my school. It should really be a matter for parents. But I accept that the State has long since arrogated to itself the right to instruct — I will not say indoctrinate — children in these matters.

What, though, if some parents do not agree with the State on grounds of conscience or religious belief? The whole philosophy behind Academies is that they should be self-governing and independent, and as free as possible from government diktats imposed by Whitehall.

Most of us, I think, would abhor any educational establishment that encouraged its pupils to discriminate against homosexuals, or any other social group. Apart from being morally objectionable, such an approach would break a number of laws.

If there is evidence of any teachers in a state school — or indeed any school — preaching hatred against gays, or stirring up prejudice against them, they should at the very least be dismissed, and preferably prosecuted.

But shouldn’t parents who have reservations about the promotion of homosexuality on equal terms with heterosexuality be free to send their children to schools where their views are reflected, as well as respected?

Such views were held by a majority of people until quite recently, and they are still held by many decent folk who don’t think that homosexuals are inferior or deviant or to be pitied in any way. Nonetheless, all things being equal, they would probably be happier if their children turned to be straight rather than gay.

Don’t such people have a right to influence their children’s values according to their own beliefs and consciences, rather than having them imposed by gay campaigners or commissars from the Department for Education, who extol freedom so long as it is the kind of freedom of which they approve?

Gays should be free to live and work and play just as non-gays are, and it is a credit to our society that at last they are able to do so. They have been abominably treated in the past, and perhaps a few of them still are.

But those gays and non-gays who believe in freedom of conscience should defend the rights of their fellow citizens so long as their own rights are not threatened.

Section 28 is dead and buried, and rightly so. But prejudice and intolerance live on. And they have a strange propensity to flourish among the people who were once their victims.


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