April 2, 10:25 a.m. The Center for American Progress on Thursday urged Congress to immediately begin working on another coronavirus relief package, saying the help for education in the $2.2 trillion bill passed last week was inadequate.
“The roughly $43 billion targeted for early childhood education, K-12, and higher education will only make a dent in addressing the long-term crisis for education funding,” the progressive group said in a report.
In a series of recommendations, the group said Congress should in the short term extend the six-month suspension of student loan payments in the last package to the 1.9 million borrowers with Perkins loans and 7.9 million with commercially held Federal Family Education Loans, who were excluded from the bill.
CAP also said interest should not be capitalized for those who get a break from making payments, so their monthly payment amounts do not go up when they have to start making them again.
In the longer term, the group urged the cancellation of student debt “that is particularly targeted toward borrowers with a high risk of defaulting and toward borrowers of color.”
More broadly, CAP urged more funding for higher education through a federal-state partnership with conditions on states to not cut their spending on colleges and universities, which were devastated by state funding reductions during the recession of the late 2000s.
“Congress has a great deal more work to do to ensure that all children and students, from cradle to career, are equitably supported,” the group said in the report.
— Kery Murakami
Budget Withholdings in Missouri
April 1, 5:35 p.m. Missouri is hitting the state’s university with a large budget withholding.
The withholdings for the University of Missouri will total about $36.5 million, according to a news release.
“We appreciate everything that our elected officials are doing during this unprecedented time,” Mun Choi, the system’s president, said in the release. “The state is working hard to prioritize its resources, and we must all work together to get past this crisis. The UM System and all four of our universities are also taking thoughtful but necessary actions and remain focused on achieving our mission for student success, research and engagement with the State of Missouri and beyond.”
Choi added that the university’s goals are to ensure long-term viability and uphold its mission, and leadership expects make difficult decisions to achieve those goals.
— Madeline St. Amour
Moody’s: Coronavirus Expenses Likely Far Exceed New Stimulus Money for Higher Ed
April 1, 4:35 p.m. The recently enacted federal package providing coronavirus aid and economic stimulus is mildly credit positive for the higher education sector, Moody’s Investors Service said Wednesday.
The March 27 package created a $31 billion Education Stabilization Fund. About $14 billion goes directly to higher education, and governors can use another $3 billion for higher education or K-12 at their discretion. The remainder goes to K-12.
But that’s a small amount compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars Moody’s expected colleges and universities to spend this year.
“For fiscal 2020, Moody’s estimates the higher education sector would have incurred about $640 billion in expenditures before the impact of the coronavirus,” said Susan Fitzgerald, associate managing director at the ratings agency, in a statement. “Of the $14 billion allocated to higher education, universities need to use at least half for emergency financial aid to students for housing, food, childcare and other costs. The remainder will offset the lost revenue and increased expenses due to coronavirus. Assuming half is allocated to financial aid, the remainder is equal to around 1 percent of total university expenditures.”
Lost revenue and additional expenditures related to the coronavirus outbreak are likely to exceed the amount of aid colleges and universities receive, according to Moody’s. Therefore, financial performance for the sector is expected to tighten.
— Rick Seltzer
Acadeum Launches Course Recovery Consortium
April 1, 4:20 p.m. Acadeum, a company that allows colleges and universities to share seats for online classes in a consortium model, today announced its Higher Education Course Recovery Consortium. The coalition of 19 universities is offering open spots in online courses at discounts, with the goal of ensuring continuity for students whose educational trajectory has been altered by the pandemic.
“As of today, more than one million seats are available through the end of 2020 in regionally accredited asynchronous online courses with flexible start times and offered in differing lengths, ranging from introductory, general education to highly specialized topics to meet specific major requirements,” Acadeum’s co-founder, Robert Manzer, wrote in the announcement. “We cannot allow this moment to set back student success.”
— Lilah Burke
AAUP Issues Standards on Faculty Rights During COVID-19
April 1, 2:30 p.m. The American Association of University Professors today released a new FAQ-style document on principles and standards for the COVID-19 crisis.
Answers draw on widely followed AAUP polices on academic freedom, tenure and shared governance, as well as AAUP’s advocacy regarding faculty terminations in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The upshot is that a disaster is not a time to suspend faculty rights or the faculty role in institutional decision making. Among other topics, questions and answers address targeted harassment of professors teaching online, how student evaluations of teaching should be read and faculty rights at financially stressed institutions.
— Colleen Flaherty
Martin Luther College President Tests Positive for COVID-19
April 1, 2:07 p.m. Martin Luther College president Mark Zarling tested positive for COVID-19, the small private college announced Monday.
Zarling’s case is the first reported in Brown County, Minn.
He has been hospitalized in Mankato, according to the Marshall Independent, but is expected to be released to recover at home.
In a statement, the college said that anyone who had prolonged contact with Zarling was put on a 14-day quarantine beginning March 24, and that no one in the quarantine group has reported symptoms that would require COVID-19 testing as of Monday. Zarling was being treated at an emergency facility.
A college spokesperson told the Marshall Independent that Zarling had traveled to the Seattle area earlier in the year, and it is assumed that is where he was first exposed.
— Emma Whitford
Admissions Requirements Relaxed at University of California
April 1, 1:25 p.m. The University of California is relaxing admissions requirements for students who enroll in fall 2020 and the foreseeable future.
Many high schools have switched to remote instruction in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and some have switched to pass/fail grading models that are not accepted by the California system, according to a news release. Standardized testing and college entrance exams have also been canceled.
In response, the system’s regents are taking efforts to ease the burden on students seeking college admission. The letter grade requirement will be suspended for winter, spring and summer 2020 classes for all students. Standardized testing won’t be required for fall 2021 freshman admission. The cap on the number of transferable pass/no pass units will be suspended for transfer students.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is a disaster of historic proportions disrupting every aspect of our lives, including education for high school students, among others,” Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California, said in the release. “The university’s flexibility at this crucial time will ensure prospective students aiming for UC get a full and fair shot — no matter their current challenges.”
— Madeline St. Amour
Nonprofit Offers Relief Funds for Law Students
April 1, 12:55 p.m. AccessLex Institute has created a $5 million emergency relief fund for law students.
The institute is a nonprofit that helps aspiring lawyers achieve professional success. Its relief fund will provide direct resources to law students affected by the novel coronavirus, according to a news release.
The fund will make $25,000 available to the emergency funds of every nonprofit and state-affiliated American Bar Association-approved law school in the nation.
“Beyond the concerns around adapting to online learning, completion of hands-on legal clinics, and the potential for delays in the bar exam, this crisis has exacerbated financial pressures on law students — in many cases, to a level that can jeopardize the continuation of their studies,” the release said.
“It is imperative that we act on our mission to positively impact the lives of law students in a tangible way when they need the support most,” Christopher Chapman, president and CEO of AccessLex, said in the release. “The establishment of the Emergency Relief Fund is simply the right thing for AccessLex to do during this unprecedented time. It represents a targeted response in our effort to be there for those we serve every day — the next generation of lawyers.”
— Madeline St. Amour
Scholarships, Free Trials at Chegg Subsidiary
April 1, 12:30 p.m. Thinkful, a subsidiary of online education company Chegg, is providing scholarships to help those who lose their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic.
The career accelerator is providing $1.5 million in scholarships in total, according to a news release. Four hundred students will each receive a $4,000 scholarship for full-time Thinkful programs.
Some part-time programs, including those in design, data science and software engineering, will be free for one month. Students who go this route can continue their education with income-share agreements, which let them delay payments until they start a new career.
The company is also expanding the availability of its income-share agreements.
— Madeline St. Amour
Restrictions Eased at Air Force Academy After 2 Suicides
April 1, 12:10 p.m. The Air Force Academy is easing lockdown restrictions after two cadets died by suicide in less than a week.
The academy has been under strict lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. About 1,000 senior cadets remain on the Colorado campus, and some have complained of prison-like conditions, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette.
Seniors were kept in isolation, taking classes online and getting takeout food from the dining hall. Those who broke the rules or got within six feet of another person were punished with marching tours.
Now, the cadets will be allowed to go off-campus for drive-through food, gather in small groups compliant with state policies and wear civilian clothing on Fridays. Officials at the academy are also encouraging staff to bring in their dogs for morale boosts.
— Madeline St. Amour
April 1, 11:00 a.m. States, local education agencies and higher education institutions will have more time to submit career and technical education (CTE) plans during the coronavirus crisis, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced.
Federal Perkins V funds are available for CTE programs but require plans to be submitted on how the programs would develop the academic, technical and employability skills of secondary and postsecondary students.
Under the new order, the Education Department will give an extension for states that need additional time to submit their Perkins state plans and will allow states and local Perkins recipients to receive their first installment of Perkins funds on time — even if they need an extension — while allowing states to provide funding recipients additional time to complete their applications.
— Kery Murakami
Most Loan Servicers Suspending Payment Requirements
April 1, 10:50 a.m. Nearly all private student loan servicers are committing to let borrowers suspend making payments for up to three months, said Scott Buchanan, executive director of the Student Loan Servicing Alliance.
But Buchanan, whose group represents the servicers, said it’s unclear if all will also waive interest, or if interest will be added on to borrowers’ balances and monthly payments when the suspensions are lifted.
Private loans were not included in the relief most borrowers with federal student loans received in the stimulus package Congress passed last week, or in recent administrative steps U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has announced, including a 60-day deferral on monthly payments and a commitment to not garnish the wages, tax refunds or Social Security benefits of those who fall behind in making private loan payments.
“Every lender has their own policies and procedures so that’s why students need to call their servicer if they are in distress — if not they can continue to pay so their loans get paid off,” Buchanan said in an email.
“SLSA’s members are focused on ensuring that those who will struggle to make payments today have a real and practical option to minimize any further negative impacts by this unprecedented crisis,” he said. “We understand the severity of the situation — as our employees and families are being impacted as well — and are meeting it by helping to provide those impacted an ability to temporarily suspend their payments.”
— Kery Murakami
April 1, 9:40 a.m. A panel of negotiators selected by the U.S. Department of Education last year reached consensus on new proposed rules for distance education, a hot topic amid the pandemic and broad pivot to virtual learning by most colleges. The department today released its proposed final version of the rules.
The rules on distance education are both complex and contentious. They highlight long-standing tensions between consumer advocates who want stronger state-level protections for students and higher education groups that seek shared national standards, as Lindsay McKenzie reported last year.
The department said the proposed new rules would:
- Emphasize demonstrated learning over seat time.
- Remove confusion over whether a course is eligible for Title IV aid by defining “regular and substantive” interaction between students and instructors.
- Clarify and simplify the requirements for direct assessment programs, including how to determine equivalent credit hours.
- Add a definition of “juvenile justice facility” to ensure that incarcerated students remain Pell eligible.
- Allow students enrolled in Title IV, Higher Education Act (HEA)-eligible foreign institutions to complete up to 25 percent of their programs at an eligible U.S. institution. This provision is particularly important for students temporarily unable to attend courses abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Encourage employer participation in developing educational programs.
- Create a new, student-centric system for disbursing Title IV, HEA assistance to students in subscription-based programs.
- Require prompt action by the department on applications to participate, or continue to participate, as an eligible institution in the HEA, Title IV program. In the past, these applications have been stalled for months or even years.
The rules will be published in the Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period. The department said it will publish a final version by Nov. 1.
“With our support, colleges and universities were among the first to transition to online and distance learning so learning could continue during the coronavirus pandemic,” Betsy DeVos, the U.S. education secretary, said in a statement. “Frankly, though, they are working within the confines of stale rules and regulations that are in desperate need of rethinking. We know there are fewer and fewer ‘traditional’ students in higher education, and this current crisis has made crystal clear the need for more innovation. It’s past time we rethink higher ed to meet the needs of all students. Fortunately, we started work last year to develop a new set of standards that are responsive to current realities, that embrace new technology, that open doors for much-needed innovation in higher education, and that expand access for students to the flexible, relevant education opportunities they need.”
— Paul Fain