February 7, 2018
Over 50 years ago, with the creation of Pell Grants and federal student loan programs, college access became a national priority for higher education. In the last decade, a broad agreement has emerged that institutions also need to do more to help students complete their degrees. These targets of college access and completion are now taken for granted as guiding goals for postsecondary institutions.
February 5, 2018
For many low-income students, a small amount of money—$300 or $600 or $900—can make the difference between dropping out and receiving the diploma. Rather, financial challenges for many students do not stop when they receive scholarships, loans or income from jobs. Financial distress can follow students throughout their college journey. A winter heating bill, a dead battery, the cost of a textbook or a family member in need of medicine can derail students—many of whom are in good academic standing. Given this, how do we rethink financial aid to improve completion, not just access?
January 31, 2018
Math departments fail too many calculus students and do not adequately prepare those they pass. That is the message heard from engineering colleges across the country. Calculus has often been viewed as a tool for screening who should be allowed into engineering programs. But it appears to be failing in that regard, too. That is, it is preventing students who should be proceeding from going on, and it is letting students through who do not have the mathematical preparation that they need.
January 29, 2018
Once a week students in professor Cristina Villalobos’ Calculus I class form groups of four to solve math problems. They are encouraged to talk to each other, use their phones to create graphs and ask as many questions as possible. Since 2016, Villalobos and other professors in the Statistical Sciences department at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley have been rolling out the implementation of Active Learning in their introductory math courses, mainly Pre-calculus through Calculus II. The idea is to keep those who are entering STEM related fields — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — from becoming discouraged due to lack of understanding.
January 26, 2018
The U.S. Senate education committee got into the weeds of higher education policy again Thursday, examining how the federal government could open up innovation by colleges and universities. But the biggest buzzword that emerged from a two-hour hearing -- “guardrails” -- signaled the focus of Democrats and expert witnesses on the quality protections that should come with opening up federal aid to nontraditional providers, as congressional Republicans have proposed doing. The tension over that specific issue reflects a larger divide between the parties that applies to many questions involved in an update of the Higher Education Act.
January 26, 2018
Math is widely seen as a barrier for students. When the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities announced this week that it will work with a dozen institutions to study various approaches for using active-learning techniques in introductory math courses, it called those courses “the most common roadblock to a degree” in the STEM disciplines. The project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, is focused especially on helping students from underrepresented minorities succeed. By examining the 12 universities’ approaches, it aims to develop models “that can work at virtually any institution.”
January 22, 2018
Congress failed to reach a last-minute agreement Friday night to avoid a government shutdown. That won't mean immediate consequences for federal student aid recipients or institutional funding. But institutions and students depending on Education Department programs could see an impact if the shutdown drags on. For academics and institutions that receive grants from research agencies, funds already awarded are not affected, but peer review and other activities to select new grants may halt, and new funds will not be going out. The impact on academic science may be minimal if the shutdown lasts just a few days, but it would get significant in a longer shutdown.
January 22, 2018
A National Science Foundation-funded initiative aimed at expanding the use of "active learning" techniques in introductory mathematics courses is expanding from three to 12 universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities announced today. The project, known as SEMINAL: Student Engagement in Mathematics through an Institutional Network for Active Learning, has been led by San Diego State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, which have reworked their math curricula to improve student success in early courses, particularly students from underrepresented minority groups.
December 19, 2017
The Republican-drafted tax reform bill, headed for votes in both chambers of Congress this week, does not contain several earlier proposals that would have adversely affected graduate students. But a tax on some large private college endowments made it into the final version of the legislation (H.R. 1). Additionally, the 505-page bill sharply cuts business taxes while also halving a tax break intended to encourage development of drugs for rare diseases.
December 14, 2017
Senate and House negotiators meeting this week to craft compromise tax-reform legislation plan to exclude from a final bill some controversial proposals affecting students and colleges, according to multiple reports. Lawmakers from the two chambers of Congress agreed to drop provisions that would treat graduate student tuition benefits as taxable income and repeal student loan interest deductions. Both provisions were included in House tax legislation passed last month but left out of a bill that narrowly cleared the Senate Dec. 2.