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The New State Achievement Gap: How Waivers Could Make It Worse-Or Better

June 11, 2013 Comments off

The New State Achievement Gap: How Waivers Could Make It Worse-Or Better
Source: Education Sector

With the adoption of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, the federal government signaled its intention to close achievement gaps in K-12 education, particularly for minority students. While there has been surprising progress in educating disadvantaged students since the law was passed, according to a new report released today by Education Sector, the progress has not been nationwide.

In The New State Achievement Gap: How Federal Waivers Could Make It Worse—Or Better, Education Sector Interim CEO John Chubb and Policy Analyst Constance Clark examine how states have performed since NCLB and find that the achievement gap among states is growing—it now approaches the already significant national racial achievement gap of 2.5 years in achievement. “In just eight years, the states have created an achievement gap that is about 60 percent of the magnitude of the racial achievement gap — that took two centuries to establish,” write the authors.

Chubb and Clark also evaluate how the new state achievement gap will affect the Obama administration’s ESEA waiver program, which grants states exemptions from ESEA’s major regulations in exchange for adopting innovative approaches to helping disadvantaged students. The authors examine what states have promised to do in their waivers and how they will achieve those goals by comparing the progress made by the highest performing states with progress of the lowest. What they find is that high performing states are implementing more robust plans, going above and beyond the federal requirements to build on existing successes, while low performing states seem to be taking the easier road, driven by the basic guidelines provided by the administration, such as signing onto the Common Core standards to meet the “college ready” requirement, but failing to benchmark their assessments against other measures of college readiness.

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For Release: Eliminate College Tuition Tax Breaks, New Education Sector Report Argues

April 25, 2012 Comments off

For Release: Eliminate College Tuition Tax Breaks, New Education Sector Report Argues
Source: Education Sector

During the last several years, Congress and the Obama administration have made significant cuts to federal student aid funding to shore up the budget of the Pell Grant program, the primary source of government aid to low-income students. But in a new Education Sector Chart You Can Trust, Stephen Burd argues that the federal government has a better way to keep the Pell Grant program viable: eliminate the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the other federal tuition, tax-break programs.

“At a time when the budget axe is falling on the Pell Grant program, providing billions of dollars in tax benefits to upper-middle income families who would send their children to college without the help is a luxury that the government can no longer afford,” Burd says in Moving On Up: How Tuition Tax Breaks Increasingly Favor the Upper-Middle Class.

Burd analyzed data from the Internal Revenue Service collected by the College Board to document how tuition tax credits have increasingly shifted away from the students and families who need them most. In the years between 1999 and 2001, nearly 83 percent of the higher education tax benefits went to families earning less than $75,000 per year. No benefits went to those earning more than $100,000. By contrast, in the last three tax years alone, families making between $100,000 and $180,000 received nearly a quarter of the benefits. The share going to middle-income families sharply declined.

Burd’s proposal is certain to be controversial. Providing tax breaks for college tuition is one policy area in which both Democratic and Republican elected officials have agreed. In 2001, President Bush included a tax deduction for higher education in his tax cut plan. President Obama made the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) a centerpiece in the budget stimulus package Congress passed in 2009.

But although the tax breaks do not count as spending in the federal budget, Burd points out that they are still very expensive. He quotes figures from the U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation, estimating that the government will spend about $55 billion on the tuition tax-break programs from 2010 to 2014. The largest amount and share of these benefits will likely go to families making more than $100,000.

Instead of making further cuts to Pell eligibility, reducing grant amounts, or eliminating interest subsidies for student loans, Congress should allow the AOTC to expire at the end of this year, eliminate all of the other tuition tax breaks, and use the savings to ensure that the Pell Grant program remains on a sustainable path, Burd argues.

+ Full Report

Hat tip: PW

Debt to Degree: Education Sector Chart Offers a New Way to Measure the Value of College

August 6, 2011 Comments off

Debt to Degree: Education Sector Chart Offers a New Way to Measure the Value of College
Source: Education Sector

The American higher education system is plagued by two chronic problems: dropouts and debt. Barely half of the students who start college get a degree within six years, and graduation rates at less-selective colleges often hover at 25 percent or less. At the same time, student loan debt is at an all-time high, recently passing credit card debt in total volume. Loan default rates have risen sharply in recent years, consigning a growing number of students to years of financial misery. In combination, drop-outs and debt are a major threat to the nation’s ability to help students become productive, well-educated citizens.

The federal government has tracked these issues separately by calculating for each college the total number of degrees awarded, the percentage of students who graduate on time, and the percentage of students who default on their loans. Each of these statistics provides valuable information, but none shows a complete picture.

In a new Chart You Can Trust, Debt to Degree: A New Way of Measuring College Success, Education Sector has created a comprehensive measure, the “borrowing-to-credential ratio.” For each college, authors Kevin Carey and Erin Dillon have taken newly available U.S. Department of Education data showing the total amount of money borrowed by undergraduates and divided that sum by the total number of degrees awarded. The results are revealing.

  • Nationwide, the overall borrowing-to-credential ratio has risen sharply in recent years. The average amount of student debt needed to produce a degree in America is increasing rapidly. In 2006–07, students borrowed $13,334 for every credential earned. In 2007-08, that amount rose to $14,560, a 9 percent increase. In 2008–09 it rose by another 24 percent to $18,102.
  • There are significant differences among the various sectors of higher education. the average ratio at public four-year universities was $16,247. At private nonprofit colleges and universities, it was $21,827. For-profit universities, by contrast, produced $43,383 in debt for every degree.
  • Some elite colleges and universities are making good on their pledge to help low- and middle-income students graduate without major financial burdens. The average debt for a Princeton graduate, for example, is $2,385. The borrowing to debt ratio at New York University, however, is $25,886—exceeding that of some for-profit colleges.

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Hat tip: PW

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