Trump’s First 100 Days: Weakening Consumer Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

By Amelia Collins, Policy Analyst, NCLR

The president proposed an ambitious student debt plan during the campaign last year. He called student loan debt an “albatross” hanging on the necks of borrowers, proposed a generous and streamlined repayment plan, and stated that the government shouldn’t “profit” off its student loan program. However, instead of using the first 100 days of his presidency to follow through on these promises, President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have rolled back crucial consumer protections for our nation’s 40 million student loan borrowers.

Let’s set the stage.

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On the Betsy DeVos Nomination: We Oppose

Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos. Photo: betsydevos.com

Yesterday NCLR sent a letter to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education.

One in four children in U.S. schools are Latino, and that number will only rise. It is critical that their needs are addressed by the U.S. Department of Education, but for this to occur, the nominee for secretary of education must be committed to upholding civil rights. However, during her hearing, DeVos was only asked one question about civil rights, related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and expressed unfamiliarity with the law. Due to the limited questioning, it is uncertain that she would protect the civil rights of minority children.

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ITT Closed Its Doors: What’s Next for Students?

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Photo: Dwight Burdette, Creative Commons

Early this morning, thousands of ITT Technical Institute students across the country received notice that their schools would be closing, effective today. The news comes after several state and federal investigations about ITT’s compliance with accreditation, predatory lending, and fraud.

Over the last two years, ITT Educational Services, Inc. has been under additional scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education for failing to demonstrate that the institution had the “administrative capacity, organizational integrity, financial viability, and ability to serve students.” With increased oversight and additional requirements to provide funds in the case of a potential closure, ITT decided to shut down all its campuses rather than comply with the government’s requirements.

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The Role of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in Preparing New Citizens

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In 2014, Congress enacted the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to modernize adult education and workforce training. For many years, these two areas had been treated separately in federal policymaking and adults with limited English proficiency were frequently stuck in English classes for years before they could advance to developing any skills. Recognizing this disconnect, WIOA borrowed models from many community groups, including NCLR Affiliates, that combined English as a second language and job training into one program. However, many immigrants want to learn English for reasons other than to find a job, including like becoming a U.S. citizen. Both WIOA and proposed rules from the Department of Education—the agency responsible for regulating adult learning programs—make clear that funding must support workforce outcomes and cannot be used for other adult learning needs.

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Are you ready for the FAFSA?

By Leticia Tomas Bustillos, Associate Director, Education Policy Project, NCLR

It’s that time of year across schools and the countdown has begun. High school seniors have left behind the exciting, panic-inducing college application process and now the wait begins for those eagerly anticipated college letters and, of course, the merriment of the last few months in school. Still others may still be trying to figure things out, not knowing for certain what their path will be post-high school. For everyone, the decided and the undecided alike, I have one question: Have you filled out the FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is probably the singular most important document you need to think about today. It will open the doors of higher education by giving you access to federal student aid. For many students across the country, the cost of college is a huge concern. With rising tuition costs combined with everyday expenses, going to college may seem like an impossible dream for students. But it doesn’t have to be. In filling out the FAFSA, students are able to access much-needed aid in the form of grants and loans that will help cover the costs of college.

Unfortunately, too many students leave money on the table. In 2011–12, almost two million students who would have been eligible for a Pell Grant and other state and institutional grants totaling more than $10 billion did not receive aid because they did not complete the FAFSA.

So, let’s begin and get you ready to fill out the FAFSA, change this trend, and get you the aid that will help get you through college.

First, and perhaps the most important: the FAFSA is free. There are no fees involved. Some companies will charge you a “small fee” to help you fill out the form. Stay away from them. Instead, go to a trusted source (teacher, counselor, community center) that will help you navigate the process. The Department of Education has developed many resources and a number of videos that will walk you through the process, which should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Second, be prepared. The first thing you will need to do will be to create your FSA ID, which will allow you to access and update the FAFSA as needed. If you are a dependent of your parents, they will also need to create an FSA ID. In addition, you will need a number of documents to fill out the form:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you aren’t a U.S. citizen)
  • Your most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned (Note: If you’re eligible, you can transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)

Third, know the deadlines for submitting your forms. You can apply for federal student aid anytime between January 1 and June 30, 2016. States and institutions have different deadlines that are important to be aware of, as certain grants and other forms of aid may be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. The earlier you submit the FAFSA, the better. However, don’t give up if you’ve missed the deadline. Turn it in anyway and you may still be eligible for funds. Click here for a document with state deadlines that you can print and keep as a reference.

I have talked to many students across the country about their hopes and dreams. They understand the value of a college degree to secure a better future. “Can I afford college?” is the one constant question I get. Filling out the FAFSA is a first step to answering this, as you become more aware of your college financing options. Knowledge is power—knowing your options now will help you make important decisions about your future.

Weekly Washington Outlook — March 7, 2016

By Vinoth Chandar (Flickr: Capitol Hill - Washington, DC) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Vinoth Chandar (Flickr: Capitol Hill – Washington, DC) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What to Watch This Week: 

Congress:

House:

The House is in recess this week, returning Monday, March 14.

Senate:

On Monday, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 524, the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act of 2015. The Senate may also vote on final passage of energy legislation S. 2012. The measure has been stalled as Senators seek a path forward on an amendment that would assist municipalities such as Flint, Mich., clean up tainted drinking water supplies.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host a meeting at the White House with financial regulators to receive an update on their progress in implementing Wall Street Reform. Eight years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the participants will discuss efforts to continue to implement the strongest consumer financial protections in history that have afforded millions of hard-working Americans new protections from the kinds of abusive practices that predated the crisis.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, the president and the first lady will welcome The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, and Mrs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to the White House for an Official Visit with a State Dinner. The visit is intended to advance cooperation on important bilateral and multilateral issues, such as energy and climate change, security, and the economy.

On Friday, President Obama will travel to Austin, Texas to participate in South by Southwest Interactive. The President will sit down with Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune, Evan Smith, for a conversation about civic engagement in the 21st Century. In the lead-up to the event, The Texas Tribune will also source questions for the discussion from its online audience. Afterwards, the President will attend DNC events.

On Saturday, President Obama will attend a DNC and DSCC event before returning to Washington, D.C.

Also this Week:

Budget/Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Committee will continue to hear from Administration officials regarding the President’s budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. Among those scheduled to testify before their Subcommittees of jurisdiction are Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Tuesday; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday; Education Secretary John King on Thursday; and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro on Thursday. In addition, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will appear Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to discuss the Department’s budget request.

Health – The Senate Finance Committee plans a hearing Thursday on the HealthCare.gov website. The Health and Human Services Department’s Inspector General released a report last month providing some insight into the site’s troubled 2013 rollout. A member of the Inspector General’s office, as well as an official from the Government Accountability Office, are expected to testify. Elsewhere, Senate Leadership is seeking a path forward to vote on an amendment that would authorize a loan to municipalities like Flint, Mich. to clean up tainted drinking water. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is blocking the measure arguing “federal aid is not needed at this time.” Finally, the Senate HELP Committee plans to consider legislation (S. 2512) on Wednesday to encourage the Food and Drug Administration to incentivize private drug-makers to develop a Zika vaccine.

Education – The Senate HELP Committee is expected to vote on the nomination of Dr. John B. King to be Education Secretary on Wednesday.  Dr. King’s nomination could be considered by the full Senate before the end of March.

Criminal Justice – The Senate Judiciary Committee approved bipartisan sentencing reform legislation, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, in the Fall of 2015. The legislation’s sponsors, including Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and others have been asking Senate Leadership to bring the legislation to the Senate floor for a vote. However, some conservative Senators including Sen. Cotton (R-Ark.) have argued that the legislation will result in the release of certain violent offenders.  To address this concern, it is likely that the sponsors of the bill will introduce as soon as this week a compromise to pave the way for floor consideration.

How Education Reform Will Affect Latino Students

You’re invited!

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John B. King, Jr.

Join the Honorable John King, Delegated Deputy Secretary of Education, and our President and CEO, Janet Murguía, for a conference call on reforming the nation’s education system.

Congress is currently working to rewrite one of our signature civil rights laws, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. You might know it better by the name it was given the last time it was rewritten: “No Child Left Behind.” On the call you’ll hear what this rewrite means for English learners and Latino students.

Don’t miss it!

NOTE: This call is closed to the press. 

Date: November 16, 2015
Time: 2:00 p.m. EST
RSVP: oraledu@nclr.org

Call-in Number: (877) 888-4314
Conference ID: NCLB
Program Title: Reviewing No Child Left Behind

This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending October 23

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Week Ending October 23

This week in immigration reform: Education Department releases resource aiming to assist undocumented students, #RacismIsntFunny website launches; and anti-immigrant bill fails in the Senate.

Education Department Releases Guide to Support Undocumented Students: In an effort to ensure that all students have access to a world-class education that prepares them for college and careers, the U.S. Department of Education released a resource guide to help educators, school leaders and community organizations better support undocumented youth, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. The guide provides an overview of the rights of undocumented students, federal financial aid and scholarship information, and tips for educators on how to support undocumented youth in high school and college.

In Response to Trump Hosting SNL, NCLR Cosponsors #RacismIsntFunny Website: Following the announcement that Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump will be hosting an upcoming episode of “Saturday Night Live,” NCLR has joined with eight other civil rights and advocacy organizations to promote the website RacismIsntFunny.com. The site’s partners call on NBC and Saturday Night Live to rescind Trump’s invitation to host following the bigoted statements made throughout his campaign. The website brings together a chorus of people calling for NBC’s cancellation of Trump’s appearance, a growing list that includes Congressman Luis Gutierrez, and a petition with over 227,000 signatures via the site Change.org.  

 

Bill Threatening Community Trust Policies Fails in the Senate: In the latest developments in a bill that we have been covering the past few weeks, S. 2146, the “Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act,” failed in the Senate by a 54-45 margin (the bill would have required 60 votes to pass).

Working Toward Increased Latino Graduation Rates

By Emily McGarry, Communications Department Intern, NCLR

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Maria Thurber and her parents, Monica and James.

There is nothing quite like a college graduation ceremony, with young people in robes and mortarboards filled with hope for the future and proud relatives taking photos to document this milestone. For many families, this graduation season was their first. One such family is that of Maria Thurber, who just earned her Bachelor of Arts degree and is the first in her family to go to college.

Maria studied Spanish and theology and minored in art at Catholic University of America. Her dream is to one day become a museum curator. She credits her parents’ support and constant encouragement to work hard, as she always wanted to make them proud.

Furthermore, Maria wanted to show others—especially children whose family members might not have a college education—that earning a degree is possible. She knows that the cost of college and other factors can seem overwhelming and may discourage students from pursuing a degree. Maria believes strongly, however, that her degree will pay off immensely.

“I think earning a college degree is difficult, and I would consider it a great personal triumph to graduate,” said Maria. “As a Latina woman, I feel very proud of my roots and wish to show others the importance of college and how it can be done!”

Maria1Maria is one of many Latinos forging new paths to college. A 2012-2013 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that the Hispanic high school graduation rate was 75.2 percent, compared to the national average of 81.4 percent. The GradNation campaign aims to have a 90 percent national high school graduation rate by 2020. Although this may seem hard to achieve, we are not far from reaching this goal.

NCLR is encouraged that there will be many more young Latinos like Maria who will help the U.S. get to that point. Our work on increasing the number of Latino high school graduates will also ensure that more young people attend college. We hope to hear many inspiring stories like Maria’s in the future and see the college graduation gap narrow.

Latino Students in For-Profit Schools, What the New Rules Do and Fail to Do

By Brenda Calderon, Policy Analyst, Education Policy Project, NCLR

GraduationNCLR and seven other civil rights organizations have released a brief urging the Obama administration to enforce regulations in order to protect Black and Latino students from poorly performing for-profit schools. The brief comes on the heels of the administration’s release of final rules to a section in the Higher Education Act to address “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” We are pleased the administration has released new rules to provide greater accountability for career education programs, such as schools that prepare students to become dental assistants, auto mechanics, etc. However, given the disproportionate enrollment of Latino students at for-profit schools, high loan default rates, and low graduation rates, NCLR hoped for a stronger ruling that accounted for students who do not complete their programs.

What do the regulations do?

The new regulations, set to take effect July 2015, create a more substantial accountability system for career education programs. The regulations create three different performance categories for the programs: passing, failing, and zone (schools in between the passing and failing thresholds). A school is considered passing if its annual and discretionary debt-to-earnings ratios (the average income of graduates after leaving school compared to their annual loan payments) is less than or equal to 20 percent for discretionary income or if its annual earnings rate is less than or equal to 8 percent. Schools would lose eligibility to participate in federal financial aid programs if they failed to meet the passing thresholds within a three- or four-year period for schools in the zone category. Furthermore, the regulations require schools to notify students if the school is at risk of losing eligibility. This will help potential new students from being misled to enroll in poorly performing schools and it will also signal to current students that they may need to continue their education elsewhere.

What was missing?

In a letter released to the administration earlier this year, more than 40 national civil rights, education, and other organizations, including NCLR, called for stronger accountability to include students who did not complete their programs. As our brief shows, students who attend for-profit institutions incur more debt than those enrolled in public and private nonprofit schools. Students who enroll but do not finish their programs face even worse consequences, as they incur the debt, but lack the certificate and skills to be gainfully employed and make sufficient income to repay their debt. These new regulations did not include a metric that would have captured noncompleters and held schools accountable for nongraduates. Additionally, there is nothing in the new regulations for students in programs who lose eligibility to receive financial relief from schools that welcomed them, but which failed to deliver on promises of new careers and upward mobility.

How does this impact Latino students?

An analysis from the Department of Education showed about 1,400 schools would be affected by the ruling, with the majority of schools in the zone category. Together, these schools serve 840,000 students. Those against a strong rule argued that schools where Latinos constitute a larger share of enrollment would lose eligibility, thus displacing minority students in higher education. However, analysis of the new regulations shows that the number of passing, zone, and failing program rates are similar for Hispanic students. The table below shows that accountability measures are equal across the spectrum, from programs that enroll very few to those with a very high Hispanic student population. These findings show that the potential impact on Latino students is not dictated by Hispanic student enrollment, thus challenging the notion that only schools that disproportionately enroll high numbers of Latino students would be affected. GainfulEmployment_blogpost_table

Source: U.S. Department of Education

These new regulations provide much-needed accountability that was missing in post-secondary education. NCLR encourages students seeking to enroll in career education programs to research the school or program to make sure they will gain a return on their investment. Students should also consider low-cost alternatives where they are least likely to incur massive student debt and more likely to achieve positive outcomes.