Full loan relief rare for students at for-profit colleges
By MARIA DANILOVA
Saturday, September 8
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is granting only partial loan forgiveness to the vast majority of students approved for help because of fraud by for-profit colleges, according to preliminary Education Department data obtained by The Associated Press.
The figures demonstrate the impact of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ new policy of tiered relief, in which students swindled by for-profit schools are compensated based on their earnings after the program.
Of the roughly 16,000 fraud claims approved thus far by the Education Department under DeVos, slightly more than 1,000 students received full forgiveness on their loans, according to an AP analysis of the data.
DeVos has been pushing to ease regulations for the for-profit sector and raise the bar for students seeking relief for fraud. Critics say DeVos, who has hired officials from the for-profit sector to top positions in her agency, is favoring industry interests. But DeVos counters that the previous approach was unfair to taxpayers who ended up paying for those forgiven loans. She says the new process will enable students to get their claims considered more quickly and efficiently and will be more balanced instead of an “all-or-nothing” approach.
More than 165,000 claims have been filed since the loan forgiveness program launched in full in 2015 under the Obama administration. A total of nearly 48,000 claims have been approved through the end of June.
Since DeVos took over, the agency has reviewed more than 25,000 claims.
Partial forgiveness awards have covered on average about 30 percent of a student’s outstanding loan, with the median loan of roughly $11,500 reduced to about $7,800, according to the data. The department computes the amount erased by comparing their income to peers in similar programs.
The statistics were collected over the summer in preparation for a report on loan relief claims that the agency must submit to Congress. The department has previously not provided such information publicly.
More than 9,000 loan forgiveness claims have been denied under DeVos, according to the data. The Obama administration didn’t issue any denials, but DeVos’ Education Department has said many of the claims that it rejected had actually been identified for denial, but never acted on, by the previous administration.
Of the total number of claims approved by the Obama and Trump administrations, about 31 percent have received partial relief, according to the data provided to the AP. However, the Obama administration didn’t grant partial loan forgiveness on any of the claims it approved.
Asked for comment, Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill pointed to DeVos’ remarks in December rolling out the partial relief program.
“No fraud is acceptable, and students deserve relief if the school they attended acted dishonestly,” DeVos said at the time. She said the new process “will allow claims to be adjudicated quickly” and “also protects taxpayers from being forced to shoulder massive costs that may be unjustified.”
Kimberly Fe, 53, studied medical administration and billing at a Corinthian college in California. She said she received poor quality education and was deceived into believing that her credits would transfer to four-year colleges, which wasn’t the case. The Education Department recently notified Fe that it has forgiven some $2,000 out of $7,000 of her federal student loan.
“It was just a money- making machine,” Fe said. “I want my money back, I want my time back.”
The for-profit industry experienced a boom over the past two decades, with enrollment rising from around 230,000 in the early 1990s to a record 2 million in 2010. The sector benefited from federal student loans and the fact that the global financial crisis left many Americans jobless and eager to go back to school to master new skills and get new credentials.
The schools recruited aggressively, often making deceptive statements about job prospects and delivering subpar education, which left many students with meaningless degrees and a mountain of debt. The Obama administration went hard after the sector, closing down two major for-profit chains, Corinthian and ITT, and spent $550 million to forgive students’ loans. Tens of thousands of students had their loans fully erased under the Obama administration, but an even bigger backlog remained.
DeVos took a different approach. In December she announced a new system of partial relief that would be determined by how students fared financially after graduating or participating in a program. DeVos is also seeking to weaken or scrap Obama-era regulations meant to police for-profits and help defrauded students get their loans forgiven.
“It’s very self-evident in the policies that they are proposing and implementing that they are there to look out for the for-profit colleges,” said Clare McCann, a higher education expert with New America, a Washington-based think tank.
The tiered system was challenged in a lawsuit filed by Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard University, a legal aid clinic that is representing defrauded students. In June, a federal judge ordered the department to halt partial relief for students, ruling that the method that it used to calculate the amount was unacceptable.
But Michael Dakduk of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the industry’s largest trade group, hailed DeVos’ efforts to reform industry regulations.
“Unlike the previous administration, the current administration appears to more concerned with supporting students at all colleges and universities — regardless of tax status,” Dakduk said in a statement. “Now is the time to move beyond ideological attacks on any one sector of higher education and establish a uniform commitment to transparency of outcomes that can stand the test of time.”
Preston Cooper, an analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said the tiered system reflected DeVos’ attempt to strike a balance between protecting the interests of students and taxpayers.
“This partial forgiveness operation, it’s not perfect, it’s hard to come up with a perfect solution,” Cooper said. “I would say the administration is pursing partial relief and they are trying to find one way to negotiate this balance.”
Nonprofit newsrooms are reaching bigger audiences by teaming up with other outlets
September 10, 2018
Assistant Professor of Journalism, Temple University
Magda Konieczna received a fellowship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to help with the completion of this project.
When images of NBC intern Cassie Semyon sprinting out of the Paul Manafort trial to deliver the verdict to her newsroom went viral, questions bubbled up on social media. Is she a trained runner? Was she barefoot? What was she holding?
What no one asked was, why was she running so fast? That was obvious: to beat the competition. After all, everyone expects journalists to fight for scoops and guard sources jealously to make sure no one steals their stories.
But a new group of newsrooms is changing that. Instead of taking pride in beating the competition, these organizations are sharing their high-quality journalism with other outlets. By teaming up, they can inform bigger audiences about the problems like corruption, environmental dangers and abusive business practices.
I examine this behavior, common among nonprofit news organizations across the U.S., in my new book, “Journalism Without Profit: Making News When the Market Fails.”
Growth followed long history
The nonprofit news media has a long history in the U.S.
The biggest and oldest example, the Associated Press, began to operate in the 1840s when newspapers teamed up to cover the Mexican-American War. The Christian Science Monitor – which belongs to The First Church of Christ, Scientist and gets support from donors and grants – got its start in 1908. National Public Radio, which draws about 15 percent of its budget from the federal government and gets the rest of its funding from corporate and individual donors as well as foundations, has been around since 1970.
But the modern nonprofit media model really took off about 10 years ago.
With the financial crisis hitting an already battered news industry, American journalists started to wonder how to fund journalism without relying on the plummeting advertising market or on the capriciousness of clicks.
In 2009, 27 nonprofit publishers started what became the Institute for Nonprofit News, which today has more than 180 members operating on vastly different scales.
The East Lansing Info, a citizen-run, hyperlocal news co-op in Michigan had only US$47,000 in funding in 2017 while the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative journalism organization had a nearly $10 million budget. NPR, meanwhile, had a $220 million budget.
Most are neither that big or that small. The median revenue for these organizations last year was $680,000, according to preliminary data from the Institute for Nonprofit News. No matter their size, what these newsrooms have in common is that they rely on philanthropy through foundation grants and audience donations, often supplementing that with earned revenue from activities like selling ads, holding events and subscriptions to print editions.
Most of the people starting these organizations are worried about the fate of public service journalism. That is, the coverage society needs for democracy to function – including reporting on government policies and elections. This is often the kind of reporting that’s hard to fund through advertising and subscription revenue.
That means that many of these journalists make getting their work out as broadly as possible a primary goal. And since many of these outlets are tiny or aren’t commanding a regular readership, their websites have few regular readers.
Instead of publishing exclusively on its own website, for instance, ProPublica partners regularly with big media outlets like The New York Times, as it did in 2017 with its reporting about deregulation in the Trump era, to reach a mass audience.
You have probably never heard of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, but you’ve likely heard of Panama Papers, a global collaboration of more than 100 news organizations working together to expose tax evasion and publishing the stories in their own papers and websites around the world. The project’s many repercussions ultimately led to the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and the dismissal and conviction of Pakistan’s prime minister.
Similarly, the Green Bay Press Gazette published in-depth reporting conducted by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism about flawed FBI investigations.
For news nonprofits, sharing coverage with other newsrooms to reach a wider audience helps elevate the quality of the media where people are already going for news: newspapers and newscasts, whether directly or through Facebook and Twitter.
My major concern about the sharing model is that it may limit innovation. That’s because to entice newspapers to publish articles from another news organization, those articles need to at least resemble conventional news coverage.
My preliminary research in Europe suggests a different process is playing out there, with nonprofit news outlets like the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the United Kingdom and Correctiv in Germany fighting nativism by not just reporting but by engaging their communities in that process.
And when it turned out that their reporting on domestic violence lent itself to a one-woman play about the issue, they were open to doing that, too.
Some critics, including the media scholar Victor Pickard and Jeff Jarvis, an expert on entrepreneurship in journalism, worry that funding from foundations and wealthy donors will never pay all of journalism’s bills. What’s more, they say that relying on readers to pay the bills can mean that the news media will focus on wealthy communities.
These critiques are certainly valid and important to keep in mind as the nonprofit news media continues to grow. Still, nonprofit newsrooms are making big strides in filling the gaps left as journalism shrinks. I believe that they’ll remain one important model for public service journalism going forward.
The Conversation, a nonprofit media outlet, relies on support from its university partners and grants from more than a dozen foundations.
Insects were not what my girlfriends wanted to study, until we ‘met’ Dana Scully
September 10, 2018
Associate Professor of Biology, Rutgers University Newark
Jessica Ware receives funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Rutgers University Newark
Rutgers University Newark provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Insects, those creepy, crawly residents of nature’s demi-monde, were not what the girls in my high school class wanted to study at university. I wasn’t sure I wanted to either. But I knew that invertebrates were the only thing that fascinated me about Dr. Lang’s grade 12 biology class.
When I arrived at the University of British Columbia, where I enrolled to study marine biology, I settled into dorm life with about 100 other women who had come to UBC to study art and sciences. I had great professors for my introductory science classes, most of whom were gray-haired, white men, who spent class time spewing inorganic chemistry formulas to lecture halls packed with more than 100 freshman students. Dorm life revolved around bland meals at the cafeteria, group venting sessions about various classes and coursework, and “must-see TV” in the common room Thursdays and Fridays.
It was through my dorm sisters that I was introduced to “The X-Files,” starring a brilliant, pragmatic female scientist, Dr. Dana Scully. For the first time, huddled around the small common room TV in the dark (for ambiance my roommate insisted), I saw someone on screen who was not only unfazed by insects and dissections, she was fascinated by them. Here was someone with the same innate curiosity I had about the natural world, successfully navigating the politics of her science career, side-stepping sexism and changing the face of science.
We watched “The X-Files” with cult-like zeal every Friday, spending commercial breaks talking about what we would do if we were in her situation in a particular episode. We never discussed her being our role model, but it clear that through her character we were learning about what we all could become.
I completed my Bachelor of Science at UBC, and went on to complete a Ph.D. at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I received a competitive National Science Foundation fellowship to study at the American Museum of Natural History for my postdoc. Ultimately, I built a research career as a professor of biology at Rutgers.
I study insects, specifically the evolution of insects over the last 400 million years. My Ph.D. focused on dragonfly evolution, and my postdoc on termite evolution, and I have built a lab that studies both. My research program presently focuses on termite relationships and how termite speciation patterns were driven by varying diets, dragonfly and damselfly wing and genital evolution, general insect behavior, as well as evolutionary analysis methodology.
We have used genetics and next generation sequencing tools to answer questions about how insects radiated over geological time. We examine insects from around the globe to understand how dispersal and climate events that have lead to present biogeographical distributions of insects.
My lab currently has five female, and one male, scientists working toward graduate degrees in insect evolution. Through my career I have had the opportunity to use my position to recruit and retain women in science. Over the years, I’ve tried to advocate for greater diversity and inclusion at both the university level and in professional academic societies.
When I first began at my position, I was routinely mistaken for a secretary or the assistant of a male professor. After 10 years, students know that I, too, am what a scientist looks like. Thinking back to those dark evenings watching “The X-Files” back at the University of British Columbia, we never would have imagined a female scientist with a lab full of other women scientists, writing papers and getting grants. Never having seen a woman leading a lab group, I didn’t know it was a possibility until I saw Scully on TV.
Since beginning my lab, I can’t say that I’ve ever been in the supernatural situations Dana Scully encountered, but her pragmatic and practical approach to research questions is something that I aim to use in my work and with my graduate students.
We have studied exploding insects, termites with jaws strong enough to demolish thick mahogany trees, ancient species surviving in small isolated populations and dragonflies that migrate around the globe. Not exactly “The X-Files,” but thrilling science nonetheless – and ours is nonfiction.