All posts by Kelly Field


Spending Bill Could Revive Year-Round Pell Grants

Year-round Pell Grants could make a comeback under a fiscal-2017 spending bill that Senate appropriators will take up on Thursday.

The bipartisan bill, which made it through a subcommittee on Tuesday, would allow students once more to receive a second scheduled Pell Grant in an award year, five years after Congress ended a short-lived experiment in year-round Pells, citing higher-than-expected costs.

Restoring year-round Pell Grants would provide an estimated one million students with an additio…


Key White House Education Official Steps Down

James Kvaal, the quiet force behind President Obama’s push for free community college, is trading politics for academe.

Mr. Kvaal, deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, is leaving the White House on Friday for the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he will be a “policy maker in residence.”

As Mr. Obama’s top higher-ed adviser, Mr. Kvaal has played an important role in shaping one of the most ambitious presidential higher-ed agendas in yea…


New Paper Proposes Starting All Over on Federal Student Aid

Nearly everyone agrees that the federal student-aid system is broken, perhaps irreparably so. The Pell Grant hasn’t kept pace with rising tuition, students are saddled with too much debt, and many states have shifted the burden for financing colleges onto the federal government and families. At the same time, the system’s reliance on vouchers has made it hard for lawmakers to hold colleges accountable without hurting students in the process.

So what if instead of reforming the system, we blew it…


Better Data Are Key to Improved Performance by Students and Colleges

As college costs and student-debt levels continue to rise, the public and policy makers are increasingly demanding evidence of a return on their investment. Yet, says a new report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, consumers lack critical information that would help them answer the trillion-dollar question “Is college worth it?”

The problem, according to the report’s author, Jennifer Engle, is not that the data to answer that question don’t exist, but that they’re not widely available or …


Spending Deal Would Increase NIH Funds and Maximum Pell Grant

Members of Congress have reached agreement on a spending bill for the 2016 fiscal year that would increase funds for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion and raise the maximum Pell Grant by $140, to $5,915.

Most other research and education programs would see current spending levels maintained or get slight increases. The National Science Foundation would receive an additional $119 million, while the TRIO and Gear Up college-preparatory programs would obtain $60 million and $21 millio…


On Recruiter Pay, For-Profit Colleges Win One, Lose One

The Education Department is backing down from its ban on bonuses for recruiters based on graduation rates, but standing by a prohibition on commissions tied to minority enrollments, a year after a federal judge ordered the agency to justify portions of its controversial “incentive compensation” rule.

In a notice set to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, the department writes that it has “reconsidered its interpretation” on graduation-based bonuses, and will no longer “proscribe comp…


Group That Shaped Federal Student-Aid Policy Is Disbanded

Lost in the news of the demise of Perkins Loans on Thursday was another death: that of the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

For nearly three decades, the committee had counseled Congress and the Education Department on student-aid issues. It played a major role in shaping federal student-aid policy, issuing reports that led to the creation and simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the development of two formulas to analyze the financial needs of lo…


Borrowers Continue to Face Problems With Loan Servicers, Watchdog Says

Borrowers continue to report widespread problems with student-loan servicing, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The report, which is based on more than 30,000 comments that the federal watchdog received as part of its recent inquiry into the servicing industry, describes a range of practices that the bureau says harm borrowers, including poor customer service, mishandled paperwork, and “surprise fees.”

Tuesday’s report comes just two months …


Missing From College Scorecard: Nearly 1 in 5 Community Colleges

Students searching for colleges on President Obama’s new College Scorecard can find detailed information on costs, graduation rates, and employment outcomes for thousands of colleges nationwide, from Harvard University to Harcum College.

What they won’t find is any mention of Front Range Community College or dozens of other institutions like it. That’s because the scorecard excludes colleges that “primarily” award certificates, even if they award nearly as many two-year degrees. Front Rang…


Dept. of Education Failed to Hold Loan-Management Company Accountable, Audit Finds

The Education Department failed to hold Xerox Education Solutions, a company it had contracted to track defaulted student loans, accountable for fixing persistent problems in its student-debt-management system, the agency’s inspector general said in an audit report released on Thursday.

According to the report, the department failed to ensure that Xerox met milestones for fixing the system and routinely offered extensions when the company missed its deadlines. At the same time, the agency did no…