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.
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.
Undergraduates who graduated with student loan debt from four-year colleges in 2014 owed an average of $28,950, according to a recently released report by The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS). 69 percent of graduates have loan debt, the same figure as last year and slightly higher than it was in 2004 (65 percent). The average amount of debt per borrower is up 56 percent from 2004 – more than double the inflation rate over the same period – but only up 2 percent from 2013.
A number of factors have contributed to the rising student debt load over the past decade. States have decreased their investment in public higher education over the last ten years, causing students at public institutions to bear a higher percentage of the funding burden. Since 2004, the share of public higher education funding provided by states has dropped (from 62 percent to 51 percent) and the share paid by students and their families (in the form of tuition) has increased (from 32 percent to 43 percent).
In addition, the growth of Pell Grants has not kept up with rising costs. The TICAS report shows that between 2004 and 2012—the last year in which data is available—recipients of Pell Grants at public four-year colleges saw average cost of attendance rise by $7,400 and grant aid rise by just $2,900. At private, non-profit colleges the gap is even wider; costs rose by $14,400 and grants increased by $8,700.
Washington state is performing well with regard to student loans: only 58 percent of Washington bachelor’s degree recipients who graduated in 2014 had loans, and those who did had an average of $24,804, more than $4,000 below the national average. The University of Washington also looks good by these metrics: thanks in large part to the University’s commitment to institutional aid through programs such as Husky Promise, less than half of all UW undergraduates who graduated in 2014 had student debt and the average debt burden was $21,558, well below the state and national averages.
While Washington’s performance relative to its peers is laudable, student debt is still a major issue for many students. The TICAS report offers a series of proposals to mitigate the student debt load, among them doubling the size of Pell Grants, simplifying income-driven repayment plans, and improving student loan servicing to make it easier for students to pay back their loans. It is important that policymakers remain focused on reducing the student debt burden and continue working with institutions to make higher education accessible and affordable for all students during and after graduation.
 It’s important to note that borrowing rates and debt levels vary widely by state, college and sector.
 Because the federal government does not require colleges to report debt levels for their graduates, data in the TICAS report is based on voluntary reporting by institutions. Hardly any for-profit colleges voluntarily report their graduates’ average debt, so this year’s debt figures are for public and nonprofit colleges only.
The Department of Education recently released their annual report detailing the 3-year cohort default rate (CDR)—a metric that measures what percentage of postsecondary students default on their loan payments within the first three years of entering repayment—and the data are encouraging: the 3-year CDR for FY 2012 is 11.8 percent, almost two percent lower than the previous year and three percent lower than FY 2010.
While reasons for the drop are uncertain, administration officials have credited the increased enrollment in income-based repayment plans as partially responsible. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has cheered the lower default rate but cautions that there is more work to do. “There’s no real reason why we can’t significantly reduce default rates even further,” he told reporters in a statement reported by Inside Higher Ed. “We’re going to keep working to hold schools accountable.”
The report also breaks down the CDR by school, state, and institution type. Below is a breakdown of the most salient statistics.
- Public four year institutions saw their 3-year CDR drop to 7.6 percent, down from 8.9 percent last year.
- Private non-profit four year institutions’ default rate also dropped, to 6.3 percent from 7 percent.
- Private for-profit four year institutions’ CDR dropped to 14.7 percent, down from 18.6 percent last year.
- Schools in Washington state have an average 3-year default rate of 10.1 percent, slightly below the national average.
- The University of Washington performed exceptionally well by this measure: the 3-year CDR for UW dropped to 2.7 percent, almost 5 percent lower than the national average for public four year universities and down from 4.3 percent last year.
As previously stated, the declining CDR average nationwide is a hopeful sign for the future of student loan repayment. Nevertheless, loans remain a massive strain on millions of college students and graduates and more must be done to alleviate the student debt burden. The CDR itself has come under fire as a flawed metric; it only measures those students who default on payments and does not take into account the almost one in three borrowers who make payments but cannot make any progress on paying down their debt or the share of students at a given institution who borrow. Some in the education policy world have called for using loan repayment rates, rather than default rates, as the primary metric for gauging an institution’s ability to prepare its students for repayment.
Leadership in the House Appropriations Committee released a third operating budget proposal today in the form of 2P2SHB 1106 and PSHB 2269. This proposal still differs from the Senate budget proposal SB 6050 and varies from the previous House operating budget P2SHB 1106.
All of higher education (including financial aid) would receive nearly $3.348 billion (8.8 percent of near general fund appropriations). Under this proposal, the UW receives a total appropriation of $650.5 million, of which $598.19 million is from Near General Fund account.
Here are some of the key points from the House Budget (2P2SHB 1106) released today :
- Tuition – This budget assumes tuition rates remain at the levels charged in 2012-2013. Funding is provided to freeze resident undergrad tuition in the first year; however, funding in the second year is provided in HB 2269 (see below).
- Compensation Increase – This budget proposal is similar to prior proposals, authorizing a 3% and 1.8% for FY16 and 17 respectively; in addition, this budget provides limited funds for the UW’s contracts with SEIU and WFSE.
- WWAMI – This budget contains a proviso to transfer $4.68 million a year from WSU to the UW to maintain WWAMI and support expansion of this program to 60 students.
- O&M Funding – $1.762 million over the biennium to cover the Operating and maintenance cost of UW Bothell Discovery Hall which is the same as the House budget, but slightly higher than the Governors funding.
HB 2269 was introduced alongside the primary appropriations bill and would fund the following activities:
- Medical Residencies – HB 2269 appropriates $8 million over the biennium for medical residencies.
- Computer Science – This budget provides $8 million over the biennium to increase bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science.
- Computer Science Building – This budget appropriates $32 million over the biennium from State building construction account.
We anticipate significant activity this week and will post additional updates to the blog.
Leadership in the House Committee released a new Operating budget proposal in the form of P2SHB 1106 as a counter offer to the Senate budget released last week. This proposal still differs from the Senate budget and varies slightly from the engrossed House operating budget, ESHB 1106.
All of higher education (including financial aid) would receive nearly $3.49 billion or 9 percent. UW receives a total appropriation of $612.3 million of which $591.39 million is from Near General Fund account.
Here are some of the key points from the House “Offer “Budget proposal:
- Tuition – This budget freezes tuition to all higher education institutions at the levels charged in 2012-2013. Funding is provided to freeze resident undergrad tuition.
- Compensation Increase – This budget proposal is similar to prior proposals in authorizing a 3% and 1.8% for FY16 and 17, however this budget would only partially fund the cost of increase. This budget provides limited funds for the UW’s contracts with SEIU and WFSE.
- WWAMI – This budget contains a proviso to transfer $4.68 million a year from WSU to the UW to maintain WWAMI and also a contains a requirement to support 60 first year medical students and 60 second medical students through WWAMI program in Spokane.
- O&M Funding – $1.762 million over the biennium to cover the Operating and maintenance cost of UW Bothell Discovery Hall which is the same as the House budget, but slightly higher than the Governors funding.
- Computer Science – This budget provides $4.25 million over the biennium to increase bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer science.
Please refer to our OPB Brief for more information about the special session House “Offer” budget.
Leadership in the House Appropriations Committee released their 2015-17 operating budget proposal on Friday – Proposed Substitute House Bill 1106 . The proposal provides $3.48 billion of Near General Fund State for higher education which is a slight increase over the total higher education appropriations in the Governor’s budget.
On the operating side, the UW would receive $595.6 million of Near General Fund State across the biennium – $95 million more than we received in 2013-15.
Here are some of the key points from the House operating budget proposal:
- Tuition freeze for resident undergraduate students over the biennium.
- $50 million in biennial funding to offset tuition freeze and fund compensation increases.
- $8 million in FY17 to support Computer Science engineering enrollment.
- $3 million in FY17 for additional medical residencies in Washington State.
- $4.68 million transfer from WSU to the UW in both FY16 and FY17 to support the WWAMI program.
- $1.7 million over the biennium to cover operation and maintenance costs for UW Bothell Discovery Hall.
- $1 million for an ungulate predation study — $600,000 of which would pass through to another state agency.
- No funding for Climates Impacts Group, although the Governor’s funding had provided$1 million provided for this purpose.
Overall, the UW fared well in the House operating budget compared to the Governor budget.
On the capital side, the UW would receive $41.156 million in new funding from the State Building Construction Account. This is significantly less than the Governor’s proposed budget of $86.2 million, with less funding for the CSE Expansion ($6.033 million of the $40 million requested) and no funding to support the completion of the phased renovation of Lewis Hall. It does however propose a greater amount of funding for the Burke Museum ($26 million), but is still less than the Burke’s requested $46 million.
The Senate will release its proposed operating and capital budgets in the coming weeks. For an analysis and summary of the operating and capital budgets, please review the OPB Brief.
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