ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Report Finds 40 Million Consumers Have At Least One Student Loan.

The Consumerist  (9/10, Kieler) reports an 84% increase in student loan debt from 2008 to 2014, with nearly 40 million having at least one student loan open and a majority averaging 3.7 open loans at $29,000, according to findings from the Experian credit bureau. The report goes on to expose regional differences in default rates and credit score distributions, citing the effect of loan deferrals on statistics, then closing by citing legislative consumer relief efforts such as refinancing interest rates, clarifying loan negotiations, and protecting borrowers whose co-signers die or file for bankruptcy.

Sen. Warren On The Bank On Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act: In an op-ed for Credit.com, shared by the Huffington Post  (9/10), Sen. Elizabeth Warren discusses the Republican filibuster of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which would ease the currently outstanding $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, which the government profits from at the expense of economic growth. To offset losses from refinancing student loans, Warren proposes the closure of “tax loopholes” that allows “some millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families,” reducing the deficit by $14 billion. Warren closes by citing needs to reduce systemic causes such as the cost of education and school accountability, rather than simply treating the symptom of student loan debt.

Higher Education

NGA COO: Attracting Women To STEM Fields Is A “National Security Prerogative.”

The US News & World Report  (9/9, Bidwell) reports that Ellen McCarthy, COO of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, framed the recruitment of women in STEM fields as a “national security prerogative” at a FedScoop hosted panel discussion. McCarthy called for parents, teachers, and both the private and public sector to show young girls alternative education and career pathways in different fields. Mary Jean Schmitt, business development manager at NetApp, added that educational backgrounds in alternative fields don’t preclude individuals from work in STEM fields.

Branstad Announced Plan To Reduce College Costs.

The AP  (9/10, AP) reports Gov. Terry Branstad called on Iowa public universities to reduce tuition (to as low as $10,000 for some bachelor programs) through a combination of online coursework, opportunities to earn college credit in high school, and on-campus learning. Branstad also suggested reducing student debt through tax credits to businesses that donate to designated “student debt reducing organizations.” Brandstad’s Democratic opponent Jack Hatch released an affordability plan featuring accelerated degrees and state low-interest loans earlier.

The Ames (IA) Tribune  (9/10, Aronsen) reports Branstad’s hopes to implement fixed-price value degrees by Fall 2016, which as proposed would reduce 50 percent or more off current tuition costs for at least half of available majors. According to a review by Deloitte, contracted by the Iowa Board of Regents, the plan could save $3.3 million in costs. The measures would require approval from the Board of Regents and State Legislature.

Colleges, Firms Partner To Train High-Tech Workforce.

US News & World Report  (9/9) profiles Tom Hubschman, a mechanical engineering student at Boston University who “is working on his senior design project in the school’s 9-month-old Engineering Product Innovation Center,” which boasts “hardware and software for computer-assisted design and 3-D prototyping, a machine shop, an automated robotic manufacturing line, a metals foundry and a carpentry shop.” The article reports that the center is “the result of a collaboration with four big partners – General Electric Aviation, Schlumberger, Procter & Gamble and technology company PTC – plus a substantial investment by the university.” The piece presents the center as an example of how colleges and businesses are partnering to train high-tech workers and shepherd them into the workforce.

WSJournal: New Study Shows Obama Student Loan Policy Burdens Taxpayers.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (9/10, Journal, Subscription Publication) comments on a study by the New America Foundation which outlines how student loan policies will adversely affect taxpayers. According to the Journal, the study, to be released Wednesday, outlines how President Obama’s expanded policies of student loan repayment based on income, as well as forgiveness of debt for those in certain public sector jobs, will effectively force taxpayers to subsidize graduate education for many borrowers. The editorial says that the study’s authors claim the policies will incentivize more borrowing and allow tuition prices to rise, and concludes by criticizing the policies.

From ASEE
Engineering Technology Leadership Conference
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Learn about ASEE’s Year of Action on Diversity

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Research and Development

NCI’s Varmus Helping Organize Summit On Biomedical Research Funding Crisis.

In its “Shots” blog and on its “Morning Edition” program, NPR  (9/10, Harris, Benincasa) reports, “Nationwide, about 16 percent of scientists with sustaining (known as ‘R01’) grants in 2012 lost them the following year, according to an NPR analysis,” leaving some “3,500 scientists nationwide scrambling to find money to keep their labs alive.” Harold Varmus, MD, director of the National Cancer Institute, “is helping to organize a major summit meeting on” the biomedical research “funding crisis, to be held later this year.” Dr. Varmus stated, “We have a system that has worked well in the past, that has made the US the leader in biomedical research worldwide.” He added, “And while I don’t think we’ve lost that yet, we do see a rising tide in lots of places.”

U.S. Science Suffering From Booms And Busts In Funding.

In its “Shots” blog and on its “Morning Edition” program, NPR  (9/10, Harris, Benincasa) reports, “Nationwide, about 16 percent of scientists with sustaining (known as ‘R01’) grants in 2012 lost them the following year, according to an NPR analysis,” leaving some “3,500 scientists nationwide scrambling to find money to keep their labs alive.” Harold Varmus, MD, director of the National Cancer Institute, “is helping to organize a major summit meeting on” the biomedical research “funding crisis, to be held later this year.” Dr. Varmus stated, “We have a system that has worked well in the past, that has made the US the leader in biomedical research worldwide.” He added, “And while I don’t think we’ve lost that yet, we do see a rising tide in lots of places.”

NEEMO Helps Train For Spacewalks, Isolation In Space.

The Washington Post  (9/9, Feltman) “Speaking of Science” blog posted a video of astronauts explaining why astronauts are working at the Aquarius underwater research laboratory as part of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) program. According to the article, NEEMO allows astronauts to “practice their spacewalk techniques” similar to the way ISS astronauts prepare before conducting their spacewalks. The article notes that Aquarius has the added benefit of being an isolated environment that allows NASA to simulate the psychological effects of being in space.

Engineering and Public Policy

White House Threatens To Veto Bill On EPA Clean Water Regulations.

McClatchy  (9/9, Adams, Subscription Publication) reports that on Tuesday, the House voted 262-152 in favor of a bill that would “stifle” the Administration’s “ability to push through new clean-water rules.” The bill targets a proposed rule by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, which is intended to clarify and expand the scope of the 1972 Clean Water Act. The White House said that is “strongly opposes” the legislation and that the President’s team “would recommend that he veto it.”

The AP  (9/10, Daly) reports that the EPA “has proposed a rule that it says will clarify which streams and waterways are shielded from development under the Clean Water Act, an issue that remains in dispute even after two U.S. Supreme Court rulings.” Agriculture groups and “farm-state politicians call the proposed rule a power grab that would allow the government to dictate what farmers can do on their own land.” In Tuesday’s vote, 35 Democrats joined 227 Republicans backing the bill.

The Hill  (9/9, Barron-Lopez, Cama) reports that while the vote “was nearly along party lines…some vulnerable Democrats up for reelection joined Republicans supporting it.”

Summers Calls For End Of Oil Export Ban.

Bloomberg News  (9/10, Snyder) reports that former White House economic adviser Larry Summers “gave a full-throated endorsement of lifting the U.S. ban on crude oil exports” on Tuesday, arguing that “few public policy issues held such unequivocal benefit.” Speaking at the Brookings Institution, Summers said, “I don’t really understand who the losers are who are very important.”

Finances Of LNG Exports Complicated. Roll Call  (9/9, Dumain, Fuller, Subscription Publication) reports that “some members of Congress” are continuing to push for more exports of liquefied natural gas, but they are “trying to make a simplified narrative out of complex market factors.” Key among those factors are the volatility among LNG prices in potential foreign markets, which must be much higher than production costs in order to make the cost of shipping the product profitable.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Pascagoula School District To Host Science Event.

Gulf Live  (9/9) reported that on Saturday, “The Pascagoula School District will host Mad Scientist Super Saturday,” noting, “Engineers from Chevron, Ingalls Shipbuilding, Mississippi Power Company, Omega Protein, Mississippi Extension Service and others will be on hand to work with the children on cool science experiments to spark a love of science.”

Wichita Middle Schools Receiving 3D Printers From Cargill Cares Grant.

The Wichita (KS) Eagle  (9/9, Wenzl) reports with an embedded video report on the new 3D printers at Hadley Middle School, where the results left one student and his teacher “awestruck.” Wichita’s 18 middle schools are all due to get 3D printers during the year because of a $46,000 grant from Cargill Cares, which “should go down in local history as one of the most successful grants ever bestowed on Wichita schools,” according to Eldon Chlumsky, a teaching specialist for the Wichita district office of career and technical education. John Bardo, president of Wichita State University, has “said 3D printers are central to his plans to generate more Kansas technology jobs.”

Regents Consider Proposal For New STEM Academy At University Of Iowa.

The Iowa City (IA) Press-Citizen  (9/9, Castle) reports the Iowa state Board of Regents will consider a proposal Wednesday for $1.5 in funding for a STEM academy for high school students that would be based at the University of Iowa. The academy would expand the existing Belin-Blank Center there and offer a two-year, intensive program of STEM classes for juniors and seniors. Their completed course work would earn college credit, and students “would live in UI residence facilities and undergo a curriculum influenced by several existing programs at UI.”

Five Texas Middle Schools Add New STEM Courses From PLTW.

The Houston Chronicle  (9/9, Sansbury) reports that five middle schools in the Fort Bend Independent School District have added “hands-on courses” in STEM topics, including “robotics, design, automation and modeling.” Students will receive credit toward high school in the Gateway to Technology program, a new one. There are two courses in the program that form the first year of the STEM-related curriculum and are from Project Lead The Way. The classes, electives, “are taught in labs with a 1-to-1 student-to-computer ratio.” The report notes that “each campus maxed out the enrollment with 110 students each.”

STEM Programs Gain Momentum At Tribal Colleges.

The Indian Country Today Media Network  (9/9) reports that as a result of tribal colleges partnering with the Secretary of Education, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Nuclear Security Administration, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs are “booming” at tribual colleges, where students are not only taking interest in the programs, but are also “excelling” at it. The article also talks about the “growing interest” of tribal institutions in “environmental studies” and projects focusing on the “needs of the communities they impact.” Julia Goodfox, Pawnee, Haskell Indian Nations University’s Interim Dean of Natural and Social Sciences said that now there is “more access to grants” and “internship opportunities” making the science fields more “accessible” to the students.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

 

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