On Wednesday, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) released its February revenue forecast, which reduced projected General Fund-State (GF-S) collections compared to the November revenue forecast (see our blog post here). The GF-S revenue forecast decreased by $67 million for the current 2015-17 biennium and by $442 million for the 2017-19 biennium. While the revision to the 2017-19 outlook is not inconsequential, there will be at least four more revenue forecasts between now and when the legislature will set a 2017-19 biennial budget – plenty of time for the outlook to change.
- Total projected GF-S revenue for the 2015-17 biennium is now $37.137 billion, 10.3 percent more than the 2013-15 biennium.
- Total projected GF-S revenue for the 2017-19 biennium is now $40.125 billion, 8 percent more than the 2015-17 biennium.
- The forecast included an initial forecast of GF-S revenue for the 2019-21 biennium of $43.441 billion, 8.3 percent more than the 2017-19 biennium.
Behind the numbers:
- The forecast attributes decreases in projected revenues to slower than expected growth in the U.S. and Washington state economies.
- Washington exports declined for the first time since 2009.
- Other negative factors cited in the forecast include lower forecasted personal income growth, reductions in housing permits and property tax growth, and lower tax receipts due to low oil and gas prices.
- Some positives include slightly higher than expected tax receipts since the November forecast, increases in hourly wages, and the fact that lower oil and gasoline prices are a positive for consumers.
The Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, which advises the Governor on the state of financial matters, offered a slightly more pessimistic revenue prediction based on the ERFC February Forecast, predicting additional decreases in forecasted GF-S revenue of $55 million in 2015-17 and $202 million in 2017-19.
Budget writers in the House of Representatives and the Senate will use the February Revenue Forecast to set expenditure levels for their 2016 supplemental budget proposals. House and Senate budget proposals are expected to be released the week of February 22. The last day of the regular session is March 10.
Stay tuned to the OPBlog for updates on budget proposals from the House and Senate when those are released.
The Obama administration has introduced a plan to bring back year-round Pell Grants and to create a $300 bonus for Pell recipients taking at least 15 credits a semester. Both elements of the plan are designed to incentivize students to graduate faster and accrue less debt in school. The plan would cost $2 billion over the next year, according to the Department of Education.
The year-round Pell Grant program was initially put in place by President Bush in 2008 but was cut in 2011 as a budget-saving measure. While the effort to reinstate the program will likely face significant Congressional opposition, there is some bipartisan support. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-LA), Chair of the Senate education committee, and Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado are cosponsoring legislation to reintroduce year-round Pell Grants. “We have long supported providing students a more flexible Pell Grant program and hope this is one of many areas Congress and the administration can work together to strengthen higher education,” a Republican education committee spokesman was quoted as saying in Inside Higher Ed. Even with this bipartisan support, however, the administration faces a difficult task in getting the legislation through a very budget-conscious Congress.
The $300 bonus, dubbed “15 to finish” by education non-profits, is also somewhat controversial, though the division is between a different set of stakeholders than the Pell Grant expansion. Many college completion non-profits support 15 to finish, saying that encouraging 15 credit semesters is an important tool in incentivizing Pell recipients to graduate on time. The plan has drawn criticism, however, from community college leaders and adult student advocates, who contend that 15 credits is too many for students who are busy working or who have come into higher education unprepared for college-level work.
See the UW Federal Relations department post for further information on the Pell Grant proposal.
New York state has recently instituted the “Get on Your Feet” loan forgiveness program in an effort to keep young college graduates living and working in the state. The program, originally introduced as a part of Governor Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, is designed to help struggling recent graduates in the state pay back their student loan debt. Get on Your Feet is the most recent extension of NY state’s financial aid to its college graduates, which includes loan forgiveness for several public service professions and need-based state grant programs with awards of up to $5,165.
There are a number of eligibility stipulations for the program, including that the graduate be enrolled in the federal Income-Based Repayment plan or the Pay As You Earn plan, that they are making less than $50,000 per year, that they work and have graduated in-state, and that they have received their degree during or after the 2014-15 academic year. Get on Your Feet also only applies to federal loans; private loans are ineligible for relief through the program.
The plan, which has been covered by CNN Money, the Huffington Post, Forbes, and the Washington Post, is not without controversy – recent graduates who do not qualify for Get on Your Feet are upset because they feel they are paying for others’ college costs while reaping none of the benefits of the loan forgiveness. The program is financed through the state’s General Fund, for which the primary sources of revenue are in-state taxes.
The Washington Post article above (linked again here) lists some of the other states that have forms of student loan forgiveness. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia offer some form of loan forgiveness for its residents, according to the article, but New York is the only state that specifically targets lower-income graduates. Most programs in other states are concentrated in public-service industries; health, social work, teaching, and public law.
Washington state provides health-care professionals with loan forgiveness of up to $70,000 over two years (details here) and also gives financial assistance in the form of the State Need Grant (SNG), which distributes financial aid awards up to the price of in-state undergraduate tuition—$10,344 at UW—for Washington residents whose families meet the minimum income requirements.
Unfortunately, more than 33,500 students across Washington, 3,500 of whom attend the UW, are eligible to benefit from the SNG but do not because the program has not received sufficient funding from the state.
The 2016 edition of UW Fast Facts is now available. You can find it on the OPB website, under the UW Data tab and in the Quicklinks bar on the left, or you can access it directly at UW Fast Facts.
Thank you to OPB’s Institutional Analysis team and to our partners around the UW for their work to gather, verify and crosscheck data; format the document; and pull it all together.
Please contact Becka Johnson Poppe or Stephanie Harris if you have any questions.
United States continues slide in global education rankings: A recent report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals that the United States continues to fall behind in educating its populace. The study shows that the US has dropped to fifth in the percentage of young adults, defined as those between age 25 and 34, who have some sort of higher education degree (46 percent). This drop comes despite the Obama administration’s stated goal of having the highest proportion of young adults with degrees in the world by 2020. The report also noted that the percentage of students who leave their home countries for college in the US has dropped significantly since 2000, from 25 percent to 19 percent, with more students opting for the UK, Japan and Australia than ever before.
Income-based repayment now most popular higher ed federal aid program: The U.S. Department of Education reports that more student debt is now being repaid through the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan and the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) Plan—another form of income-based repayment—than any other type of repayment. The combination of IBR and PAYE accounts for $188 billion out of a total of $586 billion, a dramatic increase from past years; the percentage of loan dollars in these two programs has doubled since 2013. According to Jason Delisle at edcentral.org (article linked to above), this is both good and bad news. On the one hand, it seems that more students are learning of income-driven repayment plans and are attracted to the affordability they offer. On the other hand, it could be that more borrowers are not expecting to get jobs that would allow them to afford more traditional loan repayment programs.
College enrollments continue to decline: 19.3 million students enrolled in higher education institutions in fall 2015, 340,000 fewer than enrolled in fall 2014, according to a recent report released by the National Student Clearinghouse. The drop was most pronounced among for-profit institutions, which saw a decline of over 180,000 enrollees from 2014, and among community colleges, at which 145,000 fewer students enrolled. Given the demographics of the students who are choosing not to enroll—primarily full-time community college students and students over the age of 24—researchers have attributed the drop in enrollment largely to the improving job market. The enrollment levels of public and private 4-year institutions stayed largely the same; for information about enrollment trends at the UW, please visit UW Profiles’ enrollment dashboard.
Last week, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to extend the Federal Perkins Loan Program, which had expired in September.
The bill authorizes new undergraduate applicants to join the program through September 2017, but only if they have exhausted all other federal borrowing options first. New graduate students will not be able to join the program, but those who already have Perkins loans can continue to receive them through September 2016.
In the current academic year, over 3,200 University of Washington students have received approximately $12 million in Perkins loans. These low-income, high-need students, rely on Perkins loans to cover any financial gap that remains after grants and scholarships have been applied to their tuition.
More information on the Perkins extension is available at Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle.
Governor Jay Inslee released his supplemental operating and capital budget proposals on Thursday, both of which include technical corrections and minor appropriation changes to the current 2015-17 biennial budgets (fiscal years 2016 and 2017). This budget release marks the first step of the 2016 legislative session – set to begin on Monday, January 11, 2016. As a reminder, the House and the Senate will propose their own supplemental budgets throughout this short 60-day session as they work toward a compromise budget.
As predicted, Governor Inslee’s proposal offers very few changes to ongoing appropriations. In response to the UW’s request, the proposal provides increased expenditure authority for ongoing shellfish biotoxin monitoring work by the UW’s Olympia Regional Harmful Algal Bloom Program, beginning in FY17. If this budget prevailed, the University would also receive $250,000 in additional ongoing funding for the Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement program beginning in FY17. The proposal does not make changes to the compensation and benefits assumptions of the 2015-17 operating budget.
For more information, please see our brief on Governor Inslee’s 2016 Supplemental Operating and Capital Budgets.
On Wednesday, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its November revenue forecast, which projected a slight increase to General Fund-State (GF-S) collections over the September revenue forecast. The GF-S revenue forecast increased by $113 million for the current 2015-17 biennium and $30 million for the 2017-19 biennium.
- Final GF-S revenue collections for the 2013-15 biennium were $33.666 billion.
- Total projected GF-S revenue for the 2015-17 biennium is now $37.204 billion, 10.5 percent more than the 2013-15 biennium.
- Total projected GF-S revenue for the 2017-19 biennium is now $40.567 billion, 9 percent more than the 2015-17 biennium.
Behind the numbers:
- The forecast attributes the higher projections to strong performance in auto sales and service-providing industries.
- Cannabis revenue from Clark County fell after Oregon legalized marijuana, but statewide revenues have continued to grow.
- Concerns cited in the forecast include weaker-than-expected job growth, a dip in exports, and a manufacturing decline in the United States and Washington state.
- The forecast assumes that the Federal Reserve will gradually increase interest rates starting in December.
According to a Spokesman Review article, expenditures in the 2015-17 biennium are expected to exceed the $37.204 billion in expected revenue. Further complications include a costly wildfire season, the $100,000 per-day fine that the state Supreme Court levied on the Legislature for failing to come up with a plan to boost public school funding, and voter approval of Initiative 1366, which will reduce state sales tax by 1 percent if the Legislature doesn’t approve a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote for tax increases. David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management (OFM) is quoted in the Spokesman Review article as saying, “What this means, of course, is that there will be very little room for new spending in this year’s supplemental budget.”
Governor Jay Inslee will use the November revenue forecast to craft his 2015-17 supplemental budget proposal, which is expected to be released in December. Stay tuned to the OPBlog for updates on the Governor’s budget proposal when it is released.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced on Monday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has reached a settlement in its false claims case against the Education Management Corporation (EDMC), an operator of for-profit colleges and universities. The $95.5 million settlement is the largest ever in a higher education false claims case. EDMC will also forgive a total of $102.8 million in loans to over 80,000 students who attended its schools, which include Argosy University, the Art Institutes, Brown Mackie College, and South University, between 2006 and 2014.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 2007 by whistle-blowers within EDMC, who alleged that the organization was offering extra incentives to their admissions officers based on the number of students they enroll, a violation of the Incentive Compensation Ban in the Higher Education Act. Said Attorney General Lynch in her statement, “EDMC’s actions were not only a betrayal of their students’ trust; they were a violation of federal law.”
Reactions to the settlement have been mixed. While it is encouraging to see the DOJ take action against illegal and unethical practices at for-profit institutions, many student and consumer advocates have criticized the settlement for providing too little relief for students who accrued thousands of dollars of federal student loan debt at EDMC institutions.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has indicated that his Department is willing to listen to claims from students who believe that EDMC mislead them when if offered loans, but critics of the deal say listening is not enough. “I am disappointed that the department’s only plan for EDMC students is to hear their complaints,” said Robyn Smith, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center, who was quoted in The Chronicle.
Others have criticized the language of the settlement, which did not force EDMC to admit wrongdoing for its actions. Stephen Burd, a senior policy analyst at New America, laments the continued lack of accountability of for-profit institutions.
“Too many of these cases are settled without finding fault,” he said in the same Chronicle article, “and the for-profit industry has been able to say, ‘Oh, nothing is proven.’”
Despite its issues, this settlement is another step in the Federal Government’s continuing efforts to rein in the questionable behavior of for-profit colleges and universities. Last year, the Department of Education formed an interagency task force to more rigorously oversee for-profit institutions of higher learning. The Department of Defense also suspended all tuition assistance to the University of Phoenix, which targets veterans in its recruiting efforts.
A recent story in the LA Times, “UC seeks to boost Californians’ enrollment by 10,000 by 2018,” outlined the University of California’s plan to expand resident undergraduate enrollment at their nine undergraduate campuses. Like many U.S. public universities that have faced significant state divestment during the recession, the UC system has enrolled more nonresident students in recent years to help cover funding cuts and keep resident tuition increases to a minimum. To adjust this trend, the California Legislature recently increased its investment in the UC system by $25 million to partially fund the enrollment of 5,000 additional resident undergraduate students by no later than 2016-17. To pay for an additional 5,000 enrollments proposed by UC, system President Janet Napolitano plans to phase out aid for low-income non-resident students and request additional funding from the California Legislature. Napolitano was quoted as assuming the legislature would “continue to support access for California students.”
According to the article, UC officials are now “working through the logistics of housing, laboratory availability, and classroom sizes.” The increase in undergraduate students will also necessitate enrolling 600 more graduate students for instruction and lab support.
The University of Washington has faced similar financial pressures as a result of the recession, but remains committed to providing Washington students with affordable, quality higher education.
- The UW continues to fully fund Husky Promise, which covers, at minimum, tuition and fees for resident undergraduate students who qualify for the Pell Grant or State Need Grant.
- Since 2009-10, the UW has increased incoming enrollment of resident undergraduates by more than 1000 students at its three campuses.
- During the recession, the UW increased its contribution to institutional financial aid in order to maintain access for students with the most financial need.
- The percentage of Pell-eligible students at the UW rose from less than 20 percent in 2007-08 to 29 percent in 2014-15.
With over 188,000 undergraduate students in the UC system, the plan would increase their undergraduate enrollment by over 5 percent. To achieve a similar overall increase, the UW would need to add approximately 2000 students and would face significant barriers in doing so. Unlike the UC system, UW does not provide need-based aid for non-resident undergraduate students, and thus would not be able to cut that non-resident aid funding to pay for additional resident enrollment. Additionally, all three campuses are nearly at capacity without significant capital investment.
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