Posts published in February, 2009

Education Secretary Duncan Highlights Budget Proposals For College

This is long but worth reading because of so much new policy. Note the last section includes a new 2.5 billion program for state incentives to improve college completion rates for low income students.


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today highlighted provisions of the Department of Education’s proposed FY 2010 budget overview that would dramatically expand student financial aid while making it simpler, more reliable and more efficient.

“We need to invest in our economic future and enable our kids to compete in today’s global environment.  America’s students and workers need a higher level of education and training,” Duncan said.  “President Obama’s proposed budget calls for a historic investment to make college more affordable and accessible and to help more students succeed once they get there.”

“The new funding announced today represents a significant expansion of our federal student aid programs, providing more dollars to allow more students to attend more schools,” he said.

The secretary noted that the proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Education builds on the historic increases in the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) by taking additional steps to advance education reform and restore the nation’s economy.  The ARRA would provide an additional $17 billion for Pell Grants in Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010; the current year funding is $16.2 billion, with 6.1 million students participating.  The stimulus package is also providing nearly $14 billion in tuition tax credits for middle class families, raising the credit to $2,500 from $1,800.

Details of the FY 2010 budget proposal will be released in late April.  The budget overview issued today contains provisions that would:

.       Guarantee funding for the Federal Pell Grant program and ensure that
grant amounts would keep pace with inflation.  By making funding mandatory, the Pell Grant program would no longer be subject to the discretionary budget process, would eliminate uncertainty in funding from year to year, and would ensure that the grants reflect cost of living increases.
Beginning with academic year 2010-2011, the Pell grant maximum would be indexed to the consumer price index plus one percent, thus ensuring that Pell grant awards would meet their original objective to cover a substantial percentage of college costs.  The maximum for the 2010-11 academic year would be $5,550.

.       Make college loans reliable, stable and efficient, thus eliminating
uncertainty families have experienced due to the turmoil of the financial markets.  All new student and parent loans would be provided directly from the federal government through the same electronic system that colleges use for Pell Grants.  Taxpayers would save more than $4 billion a year in reduced entitlement subsidies, and those funds could  be reinvested in more aid to students seeking a higher education.  Private sector companies would continue to perform loan collection and related services through performance-based contracts with the Department of Education.

.       Restructure and expand the Federal Perkins Loan Program to ensure
that all colleges and universities can take part in the program.  The revamped Perkins program would provide $6 billion in loans every year, a significant increase from the current $1 billion in funding.  Funds would be distributed to reward schools that provide more need-based aid to students and that maintain reasonable student costs relative to other schools in their sector.  As now structured, the formula for distributing Perkins loans is weighted by a decades-old formula that favors particular schools, as well as schools that increase college tuition, rather than to those that keep
costs down.   Colleges and universities participating would increase from
1,800 to 4,400.

Secretary Duncan also noted that the budget overview includes a $500 million grant program for a new federal-state-local partnership to improve retention and graduation rates, particularly for low-income college students.  Funds would support research into what works to help increase college completion.

“Currently, our young people face too many financial and other hurdles to obtaining a college education,” Duncan said.  “With the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the proposals announced today, we are taking several major steps to clear those hurdles.”

“By ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible for all our young people, we will make certain that our nation is prepared to compete in an information-age economy,” he said.

Information on the U.S. Department of Education budget overview is available at:


Note to editors: Below is a fact sheet on the Education Department budget overview.


President Obama’s fiscal year 2010 request for the Department of Education will build on the historic investment in education provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to leverage significant improvements in early childhood education, more effective reform of elementary and secondary education, and expanded opportunities for students to enter and complete a college education.  The request is focused on the following areas:


The 2010 request will provide additional resources, on top of those provided in the Recovery Act, to help States build high-quality “Zero to Five” early childhood programs.  These resources will leverage state and local investment in early childhood education, support coordination at all levels of government to ensure seamless delivery of services, and help give parents the information they need to choose a high-quality program that meets the needs of their children.


The department’s 2010 budget also will help states develop and implement rigorous, college-ready academic achievement standards along with improved assessments, including assessments for students with disabilities and English language learners, to accurately measure students’ knowledge and skills.


The 2010 request will support a wide range of efforts to strengthen the education workforce, including greater accountability for teacher and principal preparation programs; improved systems and strategies for recruiting, evaluating and supporting teachers; and incentives for rewarding effective teachers and encouraging them to teach where they are most needed.


The department will continue to use the Innovation Fund to identify and replicate successful models and strategies that raise student achievement, including comprehensive approaches such as Promise Neighborhoods that aim to improve college-going rates by combining a rigorous K-12 education with a full network of neighborhood-based social services.  In addition, the 2010 budget will help turn around high-need, low-performing schools by giving states additional resources to diagnose and address the root causes of low performance.  Finally, the request will increase funding for education research on both promising practices and the effectiveness of Federal education programs.


For decades, the Pell Grant program, the foundation of federal postsecondary financial assistance for students from low-income families, has failed to keep pace with the rising costs of a college education.
Moreover, the program has been plagued by funding shortfalls that complicate the federal appropriations process and threaten the funding of other federal education programs.  To address these problems once and for all, the 2010 request not only would increase the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,550, but also would index the Pell Grant maximum award to the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percent and eliminate discretionary shortfalls by moving Pell Grants to the mandatory side of the budget.


The department’s guaranteed student loan program (Federal Family Education Loans) includes subsidies for private lenders that have needlessly cost taxpayers billions of dollars over the past 30 years, while also subjecting students and families to uncertainty because of turmoil in the financial markets.  The 2010 request would stabilize the postsecondary student loan programs and save taxpayers $4 billion annually by originating all new loans in the direct lending program (Direct Loans).


The administration also will simplify the student aid application process, but it is not enough to simply enroll more students in college; we must do a better job of giving all students, especially students from low-income families, the support they need to complete school.  This is why the 2010 request includes a new, five-year $2.5 billion Access and Completion Incentive Fund that will support innovative state efforts to improve college completion rates for low-income students.

Obama Features College Transition And Completion

Obama”s speech last night stressed that half of college students do not complete college, and we are losing ground compared to other countries in postsecondary completion rates of all types. He stressed that at least one year of postsecondary education is needed in this century , and mentioned technical degrees or certificates. This suggests the adminstration will develop some new initiatives in the seam between high school and college. Financial aid forms that are too complex will be part of this.

Education did not recieve much visibility during the Presidential campaign, so all of this education action including the 115 billion stimulus spending for education was not predicted by many observers.

MDRC Community College Experiment Is Wave Of The Future

MDRC is one of the leading research organizations that conducts random trial experiments to improve college persistence and completion. Gates Foundation has signaled that they want to fund more experiments. In January MDRC published a study called Rewarding Experience: Effects Of a Perfomance Based Scholarship Program On Low Income Parents (go to Students in New Orleans were paid $1,000 per semester if they enrolled in community college half time and maintained a grade point average of at least a C. Also, Counselors provided Pell grants and handed checks to students 3 times a semester.

Compared to a control group of similar students , the paid students increased college persistence , earned more credits, and perceived a higher level of social support. These incentive programs will be featured much more in future research. Student get Pell grants with few strings.

Related Website That Has Many More Articles

I began studying the transition from secondary school to broad access postsecondary education  in 1997 with large grants from the Pew Charitable Trust.  Our flagship publication, Betraying The College Dream, was published in March 2003 on the bridge project website. Many papers followed and can be accessed on, or put the bridge project in a search engine.

The theme of the Bridge project was how disconnected k-12 and postsecondary education systems undermine student aspirations. The historical roots of this separation are covered in depth on the website, as well as many other topics. The blog began on blogspot in July 2006 to keep all the issues current.

Blog Archives Have A Large Amount Of Information

 This blog has been publishing for almost 3 years, and prior posts have in depth information on topics such as college preparation, college success, and the inadequate transition form secondary to postsecondary education. Very few of these posts are outdated, because the blog provides information on studies and trends, not short term opinions. For example, some of the posts feature the historical roots of the disconnect between secondary and post secondary education. Look for the heading that is the fourth down on right hand side of blog- Archives Old: Referral To Prior Site. This takes you the Google blogspot site that the blog began using. These Archives, like the current blog ,focus upon the succes or failure of students who enter broad access postsecondary education after secondary school.

Overcoming Barriers To College Completion :New Study From Chicago

Guest blogger : Chris Mazzeo

*Overcoming Barriers to College Completion: What We are Learning in Chicago

As readers to this blog no doubt know, the aspiration to attain a college degree has become nearly universal among high school students, and the percentage of students making the immediate transition to college has risen among all racial and ethnic groups. However, while college enrollment is now a reachable goal, the proportion of students who complete a college degree has barely changed. And despite increases in enrollment, minority students continue to lag in both four-year college enrollment and degree completion rates. The primary issue in college access is no longer building college aspirations, but helping all students to achieve their college goals.

Barriers to College Attainment: Lessons from Chicago, a recent report from the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) published by the Center for American Progress (CAP), sheds light on ways to close the gap between aspirations and attainment. The paper draws on the findings from a multi-year study of the college qualifications, enrollment, and graduation patterns of Chicago graduates. The goal of this research is to better understand the determinants of students’ postsecondary success and to identify key levers for improvement in Chicago and elsewhere. By focusing on the issues facing students in one large urban district, the project can also serve as a case study for other cities and communities.

Chicago is a useful laboratory for national and state policymakers for a number of reasons. Over the past several years, the Chicago Public School system has engaged in a major initiative to address what has become a national policy question: How do we increase college access and attainment for low-income minority and first generation college students? In 2003, the CPS administration established the Department of Postsecondary Education and Student Development, charged with ensuring that all Chicago students have access to the courses, opportunities, and experiences that will prepare them for a viable postsecondary education or career. As part of this initiative, CPS tracked and reported college participation rates of its graduates using data from the National Student Clearinghouse, becoming the first major school system in the country to do so.

The data from Chicago suggest that the current policy focus on increasing qualifications is warranted; low qualifications pose a significant barrier to college enrollment and degree attainment for graduates, particularly Latino, African-American, and male graduates.
Yet CCSRs research on Chicago also suggests that if we are to address the central barrier to college access—raising academic qualifications—there must be an equivalent attempt to ensure that first-generation students aspire to attend the colleges that demand those qualifications, and that they have access to the guidance, information, and support they need to effectively navigate the college application process that their more advantaged counterparts have. Our analysis suggests that Chicago students, even those who are qualified to attend four-year colleges, often do not conduct broad college searches, and, as a result, they enroll in colleges that are less selective than their qualification warrant. Moreover, the colleges many of these students attend have very low college graduation rates

How can folks concerned with college completion address both academic qualifications and the problem of “college knowledge”? CCSR suggests three potential strategies that district, state, and federal policymakers can productively employ. First, our work in Chicago—and any efforts to increase college attainment—rests on having data systems that link high school to college outcomes. Accountability systems and understanding the nature of the problem require tracking outcomes across schools and institutions and over time. Second, improving college readiness and college access will require supporting and building the capacity of high school educators to meet the challenge of providing their students the skills and guidance they need. Finally, the federal government, states, and districts must develop policies that send strong signals and provide incentives to students and schools about what is required to gain access to and succeed in college.

Guest Blogger:

Christopher Mazzeo
Associate Director for Policy and Outreach Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) University of Chicago
1313 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60657

Grading Disparities In College Prep Courses Cause College Remediation

Education Week has a Report Roundup section on p5 of feb 11 issue. One story highlights a Georgia study showing that many students pass their academic course , but fail the state end of course exam. For example, in US history 29% failed the state test , but only 9% failed the class, in economics it was 36 and 6. Ga officials correctly said these grading disparities cause problems in college admissions, remediation, and completion. Colleges do not know what grades mean except AP in many states. About 55% of Cal State freshman are in remdiation even though they have a B average in academic courses.

New approaches are needed to examine and upgrade what is behind a high school course label and grade.

Understanding History Helps Us Devise Solutions

 With a new blog format, it is a good time to explore the historical evolution of the USA decline in college success relative to some other nations, and our stagnant rates of college completion. The best new book is Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, The Race between Education and Technology, Harvard, 2008. High school graduation rates rose significantly between 1915 and 1950, but in the past 30 years have flatlined. So there is a stagnant pool of college prepared students.

 Between the early 1950s and early 1980’s the share of bachelors degrees of young adults shot up by from 7% to 24% , but in the last 30 years has only risen to 32% ( and is now not increasing). Nearly all the recent increase in younger  college grads is from women. Young men are not much beter educated than their fathers for the first time in USA history. Meanwhile 9 nations have overtaken our college graduation rate, and more are poised to do so. This blog will explore the many causes of these trends, but one of them is the failure to transfer from community colleges that enroll half of our young first year students.

New Blog Location For College Puzzle Blog

  Yes, you made the transfer to a new location with new features. Since I started the blog over 2 years ago this entire domain of transition to broad access colleges and universities has grown exponentially.  This blog focuses on the 80% of students and 85% of colleges that are open enrollment , or accept all qualified students. Initiatives and reports abound.  There were three incisive and comprehensive reports last week alone.

 Robin Chait and Andrea Venezia-Improving Academic Preparation for College: What We Know and How Federal and State Policy Can Help, Center For American Progress

Bridging The Gap, New Amerca Foundation

Barriers to College Attainment:Lessons From Chicago, Consortium on Chicago School Research

  All of these are useful additons and stress the problems of college prep and sucess go beyond just academic attainment ,and include a college going culture in secondary schools and finacial aid. Students must make good college choices and follow up and apply/enroll at colleges.