Category Archives: Higher.Education

Education Department chooses firm with ties to Betsy DeVos for debt-collection contract

Source: Charlie May, Salon, January 14, 2018

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos once had financial ties to one of the two companies selected by the Department of Education to assist the agency in collecting unpaid student loans. The company, Performant Financial Corp., has also been criticized by other contract bidders for having inadequate ratings in the past. Performant and Windham Professionals were the two firms that were awarded contracts, out of almost 40 other bidders, and the deal is expected to be worth as much as $400 million, the Washington Post reported. The decision was touted by the Education Department as “the most advantageous to the government,” however, Performant’s past ratings have contrasted that assessment. Prior to her job with the Trump administration, DeVos was listed as an investor to LMF WF Portfolio, a limited liability company linked to Performant. …

A New Betsy DeVos Proposal Would Make It Much Tougher For Students To Get Loan Forgiveness

Source: Molly Hensley-Clancy, Buzzfeed News, January 3, 2018
 
The Education Department is planning to suggest new rules that would make it far more difficult for borrowers to obtain student loan forgiveness after being defrauded by their colleges, according to drafts circulated by the department and obtained by BuzzFeed News.  The department’s plan would require individual students to prove that their college intentionally deceived them — something that sparked alarm among student advocates, who argue it would push loan forgiveness out of reach for the vast majority of borrowers.  The proposal is part of the early stages of an effort by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rewrite the government’s standards for loan forgiveness, called the “borrower defense” regulations. The proposed new rules would eventually erase regulations put in place by the Obama administration. …

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Higher Education Act Proposal Primes Fight Over Future of Colleges
Source: Douglas Belkin and Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2017

The sprawling, 542-page revamp of the Higher Education Act released Friday by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, kicks off what is likely to be a rocky and drawn-out legislative process aimed at reshaping college education. The bill, previewed earlier this week by The Wall Street Journal, would update the Higher Education Act of 1965 by overhauling student-loan programs, mandating more transparency on graduates’ earnings and jettisoning much of the existing regulatory framework on for-profit colleges. The bill, titled the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, must still work its way through the House, while an initial Senate version isn’t expected until 2018. Early reactions from colleges and student advocates—all with powerful lobbyists in Washington—suggest actually turning the wish list into law would be a steep uphill battle. …

House GOP to Propose Sweeping Changes to Higher Education
Source: Douglas Belkin, Josh Mitchell, and Melissa Korn, Wall Street Journal, November 29, 2017

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives this week will propose sweeping legislation that aims to change where Americans go to college, how they pay for it, what they study, and how their success—or failure—affects the institutions they attend.  The most dramatic and far-reaching element of the plan is a radical revamp of the $1.34 trillion federal student loan program. It would put caps on borrowing and eliminate some loan forgiveness programs.  The ambitious package—a summary of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal—would be the biggest overhaul of education policy in decades. The rising expense of higher education is deeply troubling to many Americans and many increasingly question its value. Despite a steady rise in the share of high-school graduates heading to college, a skills gap has left more than 6 million jobs unfilled, a significant drag on the economy. …

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New Higher Education Bill Rolls Back Obama-Era Safeguards

Source: Erica L. Green, New York Times, December 12, 2017
 
Congressional Republicans begin work on Tuesday on an extensive rewrite of the law that governs the nation’s system of higher education, seeking to dismantle landmark Obama administration regulations designed to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges and to repay the loans of those who earned worthless degrees from scam universities.  But in its systematic effort to erase President Barack Obama’s fingerprints from higher education, the measure before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce could undermine bedrock elements that have guided university education for decades. One provision alone could do away with the system of “credit hours” that college students earn to complete their degrees. …

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Education Dept. could scale back help on loans
Source: Maria Danilova, Associated Press, October 30, 2017
 
The Education Department is considering only partially forgiving federal loans for students defrauded by for-profit colleges, according to department officials, abandoning the Obama administration’s policy of erasing that debt.  Under President Barack Obama, tens of thousands of students deceived by now-defunct for-profit schools had over $550 million in such loans canceled.  But President Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is working on a plan that could grant such students just partial relief, according to department officials. The department may look at the average earnings of students in similar programs and schools to determine how much debt to wipe away. …

States Sue Over Scrapping of Obama-Era Rules on For-Profit Colleges
Source: Douglas Belkin, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 17, 2017

A coalition of Democratic attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the U.S. Education Department and Secretary Betsy DeVos for not enforcing an Obama-era rule intended to protect students and taxpayers from predatory for-profit schools. In June, Mrs. DeVos suspended the so-called “gainful employment” rules before they took effect. If enacted they would have cut off federal funding for schools where students leave with high debt and end up in jobs with low salaries. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., calls Mrs. DeVos’s suspension of those rules “unlawful” and accuses her of trying to “run out the clock” through a series of delays until she can implement new regulation…..

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Union Action Sparks Awareness as Labor Issues Continue

Source: Eliza Partika, New University, December 6, 2017
 
The UC’s largest workers union, AFSCME 3299,  is still fighting for renewed service workers’ contracts with their latest protest on Nov. 28 and 29 at UCI Medical Center. According to a press release, the protest, which aimed to address UC’s work contracting and a potential wage increase among other demands, yielded a negative response from the UC, which called it “out of reality and not logical.”  Students and campus union workers marched to The Anteatery on Oct. 21 in support of students and campus workers who have been allegedly abused by Aramark, a private company which contracts food services for UCI. … Aramark, according to an anonymous AFSCME organizer, has been forcing non-union workers to work without necessary support due to UCI’s increased enrollment. ….

Pay for Success Feasibility Tool Kit

Source: Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, U.S. Department of Education, October 2017

The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. ED supports initiatives to help expand opportunities and improve education for students from early childhood to adulthood, particularly approaches that are based on evidence of potential or actual success. Pay for Success (PFS) can be used to support evidence-based approaches by leveraging private investment to address societal problems and challenges while typically using government funds to pay only when measurable, positive outcomes are attained. This tool kit is an introductory guide for state and local governments and other stakeholders interested in exploring the possibility of a PFS project for education or related societal issues. It provides information to support stakeholders in determining if PFS is a viable financing strategy for them; it lays out steps usually involved in conducting a feasibility study and highlights critical questions and important safeguards to consider in using PFS. The Appendix includes tools that may be useful for PFS projects, including definitions of terms used throughout the document. …

Full Pay for Success Feasibility Tool Kit.

PERS task force recommends privatizing state universities

Source: AP and KTVZ.COM, November 1, 2017

A task force has recommended how to shrink the state’s pension-fund deficit by $5 billion, and two of the suggestions – including privatizing the state’s public universities – got a cold reception from Gov. Kate Brown. Brown thanked the seven members of her task force for their research and commitment to identify ways for Oregon to keep its promise to retirees. She had convened the task force to identify opportunities to pay up to a quarter of the Public Employee Retirement System, or PERS, unfunded liability. That deficit has ballooned to at least $25.3 billion. … Governor Brown has also expressed to staff serious concerns about the task force’s proposals to privatize public universities and sell SAIF.

Student Loan Industry Clashes With 25 States Over Probes

Source: Erik Larson and Shahien Nasiripour, Bloomberg, October 24, 2017
 
The U.S. student loan industry is trying to dodge state investigations into allegedly abusive practices by claiming they’re preempted by federal law, a bipartisan group of attorneys general claimed.  At least two national industry groups asked the Department of Education this year to issue formal guidance barring probes by states, arguing they duplicate federal efforts and needlessly expand regulations, according to copies of the letters obtained by Bloomberg News.  Half the nation is balking. Twenty-five states including Texas, New York, Kansas and California on Tuesday urged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reject the requests, arguing that state probes have been effective in returning tens of millions of dollars to borrowers in recent years. …

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Loans ‘Designed to Fail’: States Say Navient Preyed on Students
Source: Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, New York Times, April 9, 2017
 
In recent months, the student loan giant Navient, which was spun off from Sallie Mae in 2014 and retained nearly all of the company’s loan portfolio, has come under fire for aggressive and sloppy loan collection practices, which led to a set of government lawsuits filed in January. But those accusations have overshadowed broader claims, detailed in two state lawsuits filed by the attorneys general in Illinois and Washington, that Sallie Mae engaged in predatory lending, extending billions of dollars in private loans to students like Ms. Hardin that never should have been made in the first place. …

Navient Lawsuit Shatters GOP Privatization Myth
Source: David Dayen, The American Prospect, January 19, 2017

The Trump era is likely to usher in rapid privatization of public goods and services. … Behind these plans to sell off the public sector lies a philosophy that private enterprise can perform government roles more cheaply and efficiently. Perhaps nothing shatters this myth more than a lawsuit filed Wednesday against Navient, a company that administers payments on student loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and state attorneys general in Illinois and Washington state accuse Navient of “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment,” using “shortcuts and deception” to rip off students. … Navient committed these alleged violations in part while fulfilling a federal contract for work that could indisputably have been performed by the public sector. … According to the complaint, Navient failed to correctly allocate borrower payments across multiple loans, sometimes ringing up late fees and defaults even when the borrower made the payment. The company steered borrowers into forbearance plans (a temporary break from payments) that increased interest due, rather than other repayment options. The CFPB estimates that $4 billion in unnecessary interest charges piled up on borrower accounts from 2010-2015 because of this. … The CFPB added that Navient gave student borrowers incorrect information for how to maintain eligibility for income-based repayment plans, which only take a sliver of a borrowers’ income every month. … But the Navient lawsuit doesn’t just reinforce why we need the CFPB. It shreds the argument for privatization, particularly of functions the government is perfectly capable of doing on its own. We could easily route student loan payments right to Uncle Sam. But instead, we push them through a predatory actor that needs to commit harm to make it worthwhile. …

UCLA student groups advocate for medical center valet workers

Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, October 24, 2017 
UCLA labor- and immigration-justice groups held a town hall meeting Monday night to urge UCLA to create more insourced positions for contract valet workers at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.  … Victoria Salgado, a union organizer at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest union, said many workers are concerned for their job security because they received unclear notifications in July and September about their employment dates. … Owen Li, a senior researcher for AFSCME Local 3299, said the UC has been increasing executive pay while cutting benefits for workers.  “The University of California literally wastes billions of dollars on hedge funds, management bloats and on these crazy executive perks,” he said.  The UC has 67 percent more overall staff than in 1993, and the number of senior managers has increased by 327 percent since 1993, Li added.  Li said most of the jobs UCLA is offering to current valet workers are part-time jobs, which he he thinks do not offer enough pay to live on. …

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Valet workers transferred from UCLA fear insourcing, loss of benefits
Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, October 8, 2017
 
Edwin Cifuentes, a contracted valet worker at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said many valet workers who are being transferred away from UCLA are worried their new jobs will not offer them the same wages or benefits UCLA provided. … In August, UCLA ended its contract with ABM, a facility management company that employed valet workers like Cifuentes at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Although ABM had employed about 80 valet workers at the hospital, the university created about 35 in-house positions and has also hired part-time student workers.  Workers UCLA did not rehire are set to leave by Oct. 30, said Victoria Salgado, union organizer at American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest union. … Throughout the summer, ABM workers have protested the insourcing alongside AFSCME, including at the medical center in July and at the inaugural UC public law conference in September.  John de los Angeles, communications director for AFSCME, said when workers interviewed for the inhouse positions at UCLA, UCLA management discouraged workers from participating in union activities. In return, AFSCME issued a cease and desist letter in July. …

UC employees, students protest in support of contracted valet workers
Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, July 31, 2017
 
About 500 University of California workers and students protested the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s treatment of contracted valet service workers outside the medical center Friday.  Valet service workers, who help park visitor and guest vehicles at the medical center, are contracted through ABM, a facility management company. Beginning in August, however, the hospital will lay off many valet workers because it will no longer be contracting out valet services, said hospital spokesperson Tami Dennis. Instead, it will offer in-sourced full-time, part-time and student positions. … John de los Angeles, communications director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299, the UC’s largest union, said the medical center would only offer 30 positions for the in-sourced program, even though the program currently employs 80 workers.  Several students and workers said they think the hospital will carry out the layoffs because the contract workers received a pay raise. …

White House Pulls Planned Nominee for Key Employment Post

Source: Ben Penn, BNA Labor & Employment, October 11, 2017
 
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s choice to run the Employment and Training Administration, Mason Bishop, has been blocked by the White House for an unknown reason, Bishop confirmed to Bloomberg BNA Oct. 11.  Bishop’s removal from consideration for the job after White House vetting has sent the Trump administration back to square one for finding a nominee to head the agency charged with implementing the top item on Acosta’s policy agenda: an initiative to expand public-private apprenticeships.  “All the White House informed me was that at this time they weren’t going to be able to nominate me and they would not give me a reason why,” Bishop, who is now resuming his consultancy business, told Bloomberg BNA. Bishop said he spent the summer filling out White House paperwork for a planned nomination after being told that Acosta had selected him for the position. …

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You’re Hired: Trump Plans to Build U.S. Workforce With Apprenticeships
Source: Eric Morath, Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2017

President Donald Trump next week will make expansion of apprenticeship programs the center of his labor policy, aimed at filling a record level of open jobs and drawing back Americans who have left the workforce. … The administration is committed to “supporting working families and creating a pathway for them to have robust and successful careers,” Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and assistant, said Friday. “There has been great focus on four-year higher education, and in reality, that is not the right path for everyone.” …

Trump Labor secretary tells G-20: More apprenticeships in US
Source: Laurie Kellman, Associated Press, May 18, 2017
 
U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is making public-private apprenticeships his debut issue as President Donald Trump’s point man on matching American workers with specific jobs. … The declaration, and a new campaign of tweets on the subject, represent the first indication since Acosta’s swearing-in three weeks ago that apprenticeships are at the core of the Trump administration’s plans to train a new generation of workers.  The discussion of apprenticeships is a relatively new one for Trump, who campaigned for the White House on promises to restore manufacturing jobs that he said had been lost to flawed trade deals and unfair competition from China, Mexico and more. But it’s not new to policymakers of either party or the private sector, whose leaders have for years run apprenticeship programs. … There’s also evidence of rare bipartisan agreement, at least on the value of apprenticeships, which generally combine state and federal government money with support from universities and companies looking to train people for specific jobs. In some cases, students split their time between school and work, and the companies pay some portion of wages and tuition. The budget compromise funding the federal government through September passed this month with $95 million for apprenticeship grants, an increase of $5 million — in part to increase the number of women apprentices. …

Council urges Univ. of Memphis to decline state outsourcing contract

Source: Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal, September 20, 2017

With the University of Memphis’ next Board of Trustees meeting set for early October, members of the Memphis City Council are asking that the group think twice before opting into the state’s facilities management contract. It’s no secret the University of Memphis plans to opt into the state’s property management contract, said Councilman Martavius Jones, who sponsored a resolution Sept. 19 urging local universities and their administrators to do the opposite. In May, the State of Tennessee entered into a contract with Chicago-based JLL to privatize maintenance, security, janitorial and landscaping services for state-owned public colleges and universities. “Based on my experience on the school board, the quality of the service, the cleanliness and the general morale suffered [when outsourced],” said Jones, who served on the Memphis City Schools Board from 2006 to 2013. …

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Does Outsourcing Some State Jobs Save TN Taxpayers Money?
Source: Local Memphis, August 31, 2017
 
Many Tennessee lawmakers hope to see if outsourcing some state jobs actually saves taxpayers money. It’s been a controversial topic since Governor Bill Haslam began implementing the idea a few years ago.  Questions about outsourcing are always the same. Does it save money and is there accountability?  “There’s… people concerned about state jobs all over Tennessee,” said one protester.  Many state lawmakers have heard and seen the protests about the ongoing outsourcing of state jobs. That’s why a majority of legislators from both parties signed a letter of concern earlier this year to Governor Haslam. The Governor has defended outsourcing state jobs in some areas, especially on state college campuses. …

UT campus workers protest Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: WBIR, August 28, 2017

University of Tennessee Knoxville staff, faculty and students joined local business leaders, state representatives and faith leaders in a demonstration Monday to call on university officials to “opt-out” of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan. The demonstration was organized by United Campus Workers. Last week, a bill to introduce oversight in outsourcing was heard in summer study in the General Assembly. If the university were to “opt-in”, United Campus Workers believe as many as 10,000 facilities jobs, including hundreds in Knoxville, would be outsourced. Those who oppose the plan fear it will result in job loss, loss of oversight and accountability, reduced services and negative consequences for local businesses which provide services to campuses. …

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