Higher Education Issues to Watch
For more information: AAUW Fact Sheets and Position Papers on Affirmative Action, Athletics, Education, Managed Care Reform, Reproductive Rights, and Social Security Reform.
Video of the Research Launch: "Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans"
A report released by AAUW titled Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success details the financial barriers women face in accessing higher education.
11 Projects That Will Inspire You to Fight Gender Stereotypes - College students from 11 colleges came up with innovative ways to fight sexism and racism on campus this spring. The schools each earned a 2014-15 AAUW Campus Action Project grant, sponsored by Pantene, to launch their projects in the spring semester.
Updated: Sept. 22, 2017
- Can transgender students go to women's colleges? Across the country, the answer is evolving. - Women's colleges are broadening their mission to include transgender students. In the process, schools are reckoning with the question of what purpose women’s colleges, once the only option for women seeking higher education, should serve in America today. The colleges have long offered women a sanctuary from some of the discrimination they face in the wider world. Now the schools have to decide whether to broaden their mission to include all students who face discrimination because of their gender.
- The Department Of Education Cuts Off A Student Loan Watchdog - The Dodd-Frank Act, passed as part of the federal response to the 2008 mortgage crisis, established the for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to enforce consumer financial law. The bureau responds to consumer complaints about loans, mortgages and other financial products. To date, it has collected 20,000 such complaints. But the U.S. Education Department has just called a halt to the enforcement collaboration that previously existed between itself and CFPB. This move leaves 44 million student loan borrowers, owing $1.4 trillion in debt, with potentially less, or at least less-coordinated, oversight of their rights.
- Colleges Are Adding Luxe Perks To Lure Students. But Daycare? Too Expensive - There are more than 4.8 million undergraduate parents on campuses nationwide — that's one in four undergraduates today. While some of those students are young married couples starting families on the early side, or older adults heading back to school post-kids, many of these young college parents are female, single, and totally lacking the child care resources necessary to actually complete four years of higher education. Student parents rack up more student debt than most (25% more for a bachelor's degree, on average), and drop out at higher rates than their child-free peers (only 27% of single student parents finish a bachelor's degree within 6 years, versus about 56% of their child-free peers). For this group in particular, the cycle of enrolling and dropping out can compound an already vicious cycle of poverty, both for moms and eventually for their kids, too (research shows kids of parents without a degree don’t fare as well as the those of college grads).
- Study: College Student Voting Rose in 2016 Election - College campuses are often the target of get-out-the-vote efforts, and there seems to be evidence that the strategy worked in the last election, at least to some extent. Turnout among college students increased by more than 3 percent in 2016 compared to the previous presidential election, according to a new study from Tufts University. Turnout increases were highest at colleges in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
- College in the U.S. Is More Expensive Than in Any Other Country in the World - The price of a college degree is more expensive in America than anywhere else in the world, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD looked at public and private college costs in its 35 member countries and found that higher education is priciest in the United States by a significant margin. Business Insider notes that while “one-third of countries do not charge tuition for public institutions,” and 10 countries have public tuition costs that average less than $4,000 annually, getting a diploma from a public institution in the U.S. generally runs about $8,202 a year. The closest competitor on that front is Chile, where public college costs average $7,654 annually. Private college costs in America outpace those in other countries by a staggering rate. On average, attending a private college in the U.S. will set students—and their families—back by about $21,189. No other country even comes close in this regard.
- How can states and schools partner to help 'near-completers?' - State legislatures hoping to create legislation around "near-completers" — or former students who had some college credit without a form of certification or degree — may see more success by working directly with the higher ed institutions in their state, according to a new policy report by Education Commission for the States, which looked at the progress of legislation and initiatives in the area. The report examined pieces of legislation that had been enacted or introduced this year, as well as several successful case studies of states that established new programs for these students. Report author Lexi Anderson, a senior policy analyst with the commission, said much of the legislation introduced in 2017 centered on affordability issues. She said a consistent hurdle for states is they often need a champion for near-completers, in the form of a governor or other prominent figure, to help garner interest from institutions, policymakers, and the community at large.
- The Bermuda Triangle of Credit Transfer - Three reports highlight different ways that changing colleges is difficult. Bottom line (in one expert’s words): transferring students are “abused.” More than a third of all college students move from one college to another at least once in their academic careers, and more institutions -- public and private alike -- count on transfer students to fill their classes. Which makes it all the more perplexing, and problematic for colleges and students alike, that the path students must follow to move from one institution to another is riddled with potholes and roadblocks that stop many of them in their tracks.
- Report measures outcomes of transfer students from community to four-year institutions - Only 31.5% of students who first enrolled at a community college in the fall of 2010 had transferred to a four-year institution after six years had passed, according to an update of a previous report released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center on outcome percentages for students who transfer; 42% of those transferring students had earned a bachelor's degree six years after starting at the community college.
- Bipartisan Bill Aims to Provide Support for Homeless College Students - A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on Tuesday introduced legislation that aims to remove barriers to access to higher education for homeless students and those in foster care. The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act is sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington; Sen. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio; Rep. Katherine Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts; and Rep. Don Young, Republican of Alaska. It would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the Fafsa, provide housing options for students in between terms, and improve outreach to homeless students.
- People Are Putting Less Faith in Four-Year College Degrees, Poll Finds - The poll still tilts in favor of the bachelor's degree, but by the slimmest of margins: Only 49 percent of the 1,200 adults surveyed think that a four-year degree is worth the cost because it will lead to good jobs and higher lifetime earnings. Forty-seven percent doubt it will. Skepticism about college degrees is particularly high among men, young adults, and people who live in rural parts of the country, according to the Wall Street Journal. Majorities of those groups doubt that a bachelor's degree is worth the cost.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: Understanding Part-Time College Students in America - The U.S. higher education system is failing far too many part-time students. Only about one-quarter of exclusively part-time students earn a degree within eight years of starting college. Even those who attend part-time for only a portion of their college career fare poorly; just more than half of these students eventually earn a degree. That is compared to about 80 percent of exclusively full-time students who attain a degree. Moreover, too many part-time students never come close to finishing college and earning a degree. Four in 10 students who attend college exclusively part-time in their first-year are not enrolled in classes the next year.
- Napolitano Sues Trump to Save DACA Program She Helped Create - Janet Napolitano, the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama, said in a lawsuit filed on Friday that ended the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, or DACA, violates the due process of about 800,000 beneficiaries, known as "dreamers," who were granted permits that protected them from deportation. "The University has constitutionally-protected interests in the multiple educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body," the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Northern California said. "If these students leave the University before completing their education, UC will lose the benefits it derives from their contributions, as well as the value of the time and money it invested in these students."
- Trump and DeVos fuel a for-profit college comeback - Scrutiny of fraud fades as feds go lax on an industry that Obama targeted. For-profit colleges are winning their battle to dismantle Obama-era restrictions as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rolls back regulations, grants reprieves to schools at risk of losing their federal funding and stocks her agency with industry insiders. “The for-profit college industry appears to have gotten everything they lobbied for and more,” said Pauline Abernathy, executive vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success, which has long advocated for stronger consumer protections and tougher regulation of the schools.
- Student loan balances jump nearly 150 percent in a decade - Over the last decade, college-loan balances in the United States have jumped more than $833 billion to reach an all-time high of $1.4 trillion, according to a recent report by Experian. The average outstanding balance is now $34,144, up 62 percent over the last 10 years. In addition, the percentage of borrowers who owe $50,000 or more has tripled over the same time period, according to a separate report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A college education is now the second-largest expense an individual is likely to make in a lifetime — right after purchasing a home.
- Report: Ed Department Hires Enforcement Chief - The U.S. Department of Education has hired a community college administrator and former DeVry University official to run its enforcement unit. DeVry in February settled with New York's attorney general for $2.25 million over allegations that it had made false claims in advertisements about graduates' job placement and salaries.In May DeVry changed its name to Adtalem Education Global Education Inc.
- Report: 15+ Hours of Work Per Week Can Hold Students Back - A report from the ACT Center for Equity in Learning finds that working more than 15 hours per week can be detrimental to the academic success of college students. Policy changes to make college more affordable, expand financial aid, and boost wages for hourly workers could lead students to work fewer hours, the report says.
- Welcoming Kids at Work - Virginia’s Shenandoah University, said. “We were talking leave and maternity leave and how difficult it can be for new parents -- any new parent, by birth, adoption, whatever -- to have this leave period, and then go from being at home with the child to all of the sudden taking the child to day care and coming to work.”
- Community college systems strive for the best education at the best cost - A new report from WalletHub ranks states and finds those with free tuition plans come out on top. Public college costs are rising faster than tuition rates at private colleges and universities, which can make reduced or free tuition rates for community college applicants all the more attractive.
- More data needed to address faculty mental health - While there's a lot of research to say how staff can be better trained to help students, there is little evidence on how to intervene and offer administrators and faculty support. Institutions wanting to make sure both students and faculty on campus are having their needs met — and making sure both groups can achieve institutional and academic goals — can take steps to collect their own data on the types of strategies they should be offering to address mental ill-health.
- 75,000 Apply for State College Scholarships, but Many Won’t Qualify - In a program designed to help make higher education more affordable and accessible, roughly two-thirds of those who applied won’t get help. Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said that those in lower income brackets are more likely to take breaks in their education because of work and family responsibilities. As such, the Excelsior program has catered to “traditional age, middle- to upper-class families, and people who can navigate all these hurdles to qualify.”
- Even With Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago - The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans.
More Hispanics are attending elite schools, but the increase has not kept up with the huge growth of young Hispanics in the United States, so the gap between students and the college-age population has widened. Affirmative action increases the numbers of black and Hispanic students at many colleges and universities, but experts say that persistent underrepresentation often stems from equity issues that begin earlier.
- An Air Force Cadet At 25: A Sign Of The Times In Higher Education - Monica Callan is a cadet herself, just beginning her final year at the age of 25. She's one of a growing number of academy cadets who are starting their higher educations later in life. About one in 10 of the students entering the Air Force Academy this year is older than the traditional age, the academy reports. That's up from about one in 12 four years ago. Often, as in Callan's case, they're arriving here after years of military service — a vastly different experience than an 18-year-old straight out of high school.
- AG Pledges To Bolster Student Loan Oversight - As college students head back to the classroom this month, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Sunday pledged a renewed push to oversee and regulate the student loan industry in New York, where the average debt load is $30,000.
- How Women Select Majors - The researchers found that conformity to feminine norms was associated negatively with a woman’s odds of choosing STEM and common pre-med majors, as well as arts and humanities majors. Conformity had a positive relationship with a woman’s odds of choosing majors in the social sciences, education and social services. “In sum, although women’s participation in higher education has increased, persistent gender stratification in college majors contributes to gender stratification in the contemporary labor market, with women generally faring worse than men in terms of employment and earnings,” the paper reads.
- After Charlottesville Violence, Colleges Brace for More Clashes - “We’ve now entered an arena where the controversial speakers are not only bringing out forms of hatred, but also forms of violence,” said Sue Riseling, the executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and the former chief of police at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Proper preparation today, Ms. Riseling said, should include a plan to physically separate opposing groups with a history of violent confrontation, as well as coordination with local, county and state police forces.
- Here’s what happens if you don’t pay your student loans - More than 3,000 people default on their federal student loans every day. If you miss a payment on your federal student loans you have 270 days to make a payment before your debt goes into default. Once federal student debt is in default, the government is able to garnish your wage, your Social Security check, your federal tax refund and even your disability benefits.
- Percentage of Borrowers Owing $20,000 or More Doubled Since 2002 - Over 40 percent of student loan borrowers owe $20,000 or more when they leave college. That’s up from 20 percent in 2002. More borrowers owe higher amounts as well. The portion of borrowers owing $50,000 or more spiked from 5 percent to 16 percent during the same period. About 44 million Americans owe a collective $1.4 trillion in federal and private student loan debt.
- How should college presidents respond to outside antagonists? - Recent instances of unrest at campuses reflect the fact that presidents are going to have to prepare for this type of activity as part of their jobs, especially when it comes to high-profile and controversial instances that can escalate into violence. And now the landscape of higher education campus life has changed so much so that students often feel unsafe or angered by controversial figures, beyond just race-related rallies.
- U.S. to Help Remove Debt Burden for Students Defrauded by For-Profit Chain - Nearly 25 years after a nationwide chain of beauty and secretarial schools was closed for defrauding students, the Department of Education has agreed to help victims wipe clean their burdensome federal student loan debts. More than 36,000 students — mostly low-income, immigrant women — who attended schools run by Wilfred American Educational Corporation could potentially be affected by the settlement, which was approved by a federal court judge.
- Nearly half of prospective college students don't expect to graduate - The 2017 Allianz Tuition Insurance College Confidence Index found that 48% of prospective college students are worried they will possibly have to drop out, and 55% expect to have to take some time off, though 85% of respondents reported they understood there could be grave financial consequences from withdrawal. The survey also found that 43% of current students said they had thought about withdrawing, and 53% of students on campus are less than very confident that they will graduate within four years.
- 41% of community college grads eventually earn bachelor's The report indicated that the most successful community college graduate student population were those students at 20 years of age or younger, with 62% of them achieving a bachelor's degree by the six-year mark. The center's report analyzed 575,067 community college students who had graduated from community college in 2011.
- Student Borrowing Rises, Sallie Mae Says - Borrowing climbed to 27 percent from 20 percent last year, the survey found. Student borrowing covered 19 percent (up from 13 percent), while parent borrowing was 8 percent. Over all, 42 percent of families borrowed to help pay for college.
- Student Debt May Be Reducing Home Ownership - A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that rising student debt levels are a substantial contributor to the decline in home ownership among young Americans. The report found that increasing student debt and tuition "can explain between 11 and 35 percent of the observed approximate eight-percentage-point decline in home ownership for 28- to 30-year-olds over 2007-15."
- Worse Than It Seems - New study of harassment of graduate students by faculty members suggests that the problem is worse -- both in level of offense and prevalence of repeat offenders -- than many believe.
- This is the age most Americans pay off their student loans - Student debt is an unfortunate reality for most U.S. college graduates. Roughly 70 percent of grads leave college with student debt, and over 44 million Americans hold a total of $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. For federal student loans, the standard repayment plan expects borrowers to pay off their debt in less than 10 years. For many, however, it can take twice as long. Research from Citizens Financial Group suggests that 60 percent of student debt borrowers expect to pay off their loans in their 40s. Data collected at the state level supports these findings.
- The $833 billion albatross around the necks of women with college degrees - The burden of student debt is having an outsize impact on women who now hold nearly two thirds of the $1.3 trillion in outstanding education loans, according to a report released by the American Association of University Women.
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