3 Wins for Higher Education in 2015

2015 was a good year for higher education; we experienced some great wins. Let’s look back at just a few of these accomplishments:

Bernie Sanders released plan to ease student loan debt. According to Forbes.com, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the Democratic candidates in the 2016 presidential race, has plans to work to forgive some student loan debt if elected president.

In a speech he gave to students at the University of Iowa back in February, Sanders said that the federal government has made billions of dollars off student loan interest payments in the last 10 years.

“We must end the practice of the government making billions in profits from student loans taken out by low and moderate income families. That is extremely regressive public policy. It also makes no sense that students and their parents are forced to pay interest rates for higher education loans that are much higher than they pay for car loans or housing mortgages,” Sanders said.

Sanders’s numbers are correct by the CBO’s standards but have been openly challenged. According to the Washington Post, the math is fuzzy, and there is no way of knowing if the federal government is making a true profit off student loan payments.

Either way, numbers show and prove that the federal government has to pivot towards a new process for collecting payments from student loans or risk creating a new set of economic problems.

That, more than anything, seems to be part of the point that Sanders is making. He also acknowledges that if students weren’t forced to pay back so much of the loan, or if the interest rates were lower, they would then have the ability to reinvest into the economy by purchasing a new car or a new home.

Talk of student loan debt and higher education will continue to increase as we head into the 2016 election season. Sanders is an Independent running as a Democrat, and he is a socialist and fiery progressive. His approach to certain issues may turn some off, but the radical views that he has on fixing the financial issues within higher education should turn positive attention to a problem many students struggle with.

FIU to receive federal grant to train autism certified teachers. Florida International University received some good news: the United State Department of Education will bestow the university with a new grant aimed towards training more teachers certified to work with students who have autism.

According to fiu.edu, the grant is worth $1.25 million and will be used to pay for the tuition of students who attend the school to attain their Master’s of Science in Special Education.

As of this fall, “the $1.25 million grant, Project OPERATE, will pay for the tuition of nine students who are accepted into the accelerated master’s program every year through 2020.” The program is just 12 months but is targeted at “educators who already teach students on the autism spectrum.”

Information posted in FIU’s article portends that more students will continue to be identified as autistic, so the need for more educators who work in this discipline will increase as well.

Not only is this great news for FIU, it is a positive for those who work in education. Hopefully, by graduating more students through this program, we will see an increase in attention paid to special education and autism. With the rapid rate at which children are being diagnosed with spectrum issues, this next generation of teachers must know how to help students with autism succeed. I hope it is only a matter of time before more colleges have robust autism-in-education training programs too.

For any students who may want to apply for the program, the deadline to do so is August 3rd. The deadline to receive consideration for Project OPERATE is July 15th, and details may be found by e-mailing prepare@fiu.edu.

Future of higher education upgraded to stable. Higher education might not be in bad shape after all. According to Washingtonpost.com, Moody’s has officially upgraded the higher education industry from negative to stable.

In July, “the firm predicted that higher education will stabilize, for the first time post-recession, allowing more predictability in operating budgets. They upgraded the whole sector to ‘stable.’”

The article lightly detailed why the rating was elevated and whether it is sustainable. Due to rising revenue based on growth in tuition and federal research funding, the industry has experienced stability, which is something higher education hasn’t been accustomed to since the start of Obama’s second term.

But that news isn’t necessarily grand for students. Tuition growth may be great for the industry as a whole because it decreases volatility, but rising college costs due to tuition increases have priced many students out of higher education. Hopefully this will lead to a reduction in how often colleges and universities are forced to raise tuition because of budget cuts and low funding from state legislatures.

But overall, this is good news. Higher education’s former negative outlook was bad for all involved. An uptick in that outlook will surely help this arena in remaining stable and improving its standing in the coming years.

In your estimation, what were the biggest wins for higher education in 2015?

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