Leading the News
Federal Judge Blocks EPA Waterway Rule.
The AP (8/28) reports that US District Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo, North Dakota on Thursday blocked a new Obama Administration rule “that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some state waterways.” Erickson issued a temporary injunction against the rule, which would have given the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers authority “over some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.” The rule was scheduled to take effect today. In granting the request of 13 states to block the rule from taking effect, Erickson wrote, “The risk of irreparable harm to the states is both imminent and likely.”
The Wall Street Journal (8/28, Harder, Kendall, Subscription Publication) reports that Erickson said the states are likely to succeed in their lawsuit challenging the rule, and he said the rule had the “fatal defect” of allowing regulation of ditches and streams situated far from navigable waters over which federal authorities have jurisdiction. The Washington Times (8/28, Dinan) reports that Erickson called the rule “inexplicable, arbitrary and devoid of a reasoned process.” The Times notes that the EPA said in a statement that “it will only honor the injunction in the 13 states that had sued, and will move forward with the rules in the rest of the country. ‘In all other respects, the rule is effective on August 28,’ the agency said in a statement.”
Audit Finds Potentially Costly Financial Aid Lapses At Pennsylvania College.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/28, Snyder) reports that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has released an audit of member school Cheyney University, a historically black university in Delaware and Chester counties, finding that the school “failed to follow federal financial aid regulations and may owe the government more than $29 million.” The school had inadequate records for nearly half of financial aid recipients, and “could not substantiate that some students receiving aid were making the required progress toward a degree.” The Inquirer reports that the agency will turn the audit over to ED, which will determine “how much the school owes and what penalties should be assessed.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (8/28, Chute) reports that the review “found at least one error in 85 percent of the records for federal grants and loans over a three-year period, placing the awarding of $29.6 million in question.” The paper reports that the improperly handled funds include “Pell grants, TEACH, direct loans, PLUS loans, federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and work study.” The firm Financial Aid Services Inc., which conducted the audit for the state, has contracted to run the school’s financial aid office.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (8/28, Erdley) reports that state taxpayers could ultimately be responsible for the money, noting that state officials said that the 14-month audit found that “Cheyney officials failed to document that students were eligible for $29.6 million in federal grants and loans.” The AP (8/28) also covers this story.
Efforts To Address College Affordability Debated.
In an editorial, USA Today (8/28) says that while the leading Democratic presidential candidates have offered plans “they say will make colleges more affordable and provide debt relief for millennials,” the plans would “throw more federal money at colleges while offering little but hope that these institutions would hold expenses down.” USA Today argues that to address the issue of college affordability, rising tuition must be attacked “at its root cause,” adding, “The Democratic candidates need a little more educating on this.”
In an accompanying USA Today (8/28, Austin) op-ed, Barmak Nassirian, director of policy analysis with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, criticizes the “steady erosion of state support” for higher education, which has “shifted more of the cost to students and families.” Nassirian credits the Democratic presidential candidates for “correctly identif[ying] the state disinvestment trend as the primary driver of the tuition spiral,” adding that their proposals “would decisively deal with real college affordability.”
Bankruptcy Judge Approves Corinthian Liquidation Plan, Sets Aside Money For Students To Pursue Debt Relief.
Inside Higher Ed (8/27, Stratford) reports a federal bankruptcy judge approved Corinthian Colleges’ plan to liquidate its assets while setting aside $4.3 million in a special fund to “pursue discharges of billions of dollars of federal students loans” for the schools’ former students. The student committee in the bankruptcy said they will continue to negotiate with the Education Department to try to receive widespread debt forgiveness, but if those negotiations fail then they will consider litigation. Education Department officials have already announced that they will “fast-track the debt relief applications of certain students who attended Corinthian-owned Heald College” because the ED already has sufficient evidence to determine that Heald misled students, but that they will need more time to decide how to handle debt relief applications for students that attended other Corinthian schools. Reuters (8/27, Goenka) also covers the story giving more background. Corinthian shut down all of its remaining schools this April and then filed for bankruptcy in May.
NSF Gives $400,000 Grant To Promote STEM Education, Careers To Historically Black College.
Greensboro (NC) News & Record (8/27) reports the National Science Foundation awarded a $400,000 grant to Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina to help students at the school take STEM courses and pursue STEM careers. The grant is part of NSF’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program.
Utah State University Names Engineering Building For Local Alum.
The Logan (UT) Herald Journal (8/28) reports that Utah State University has named a new engineering building after local alumnus Richard Anderson, who “spent 40 years at Hewlett-Packard before retiring as a senior vice president, held up his smartphone.” The building “features ‘14 classrooms, eight teaching laboratories, a ‘student success center’ and computer lab,’ according to a USU news release.” The Cache Valley (UT) Daily (8/28) also covers this story.
Accreditation and Professional Development
Ohio Bill Would Require Continuing Ethics Education For Engineers.
The Columbus (OH) Daily Reporter (8/28, Parks) reports that Ohio State Reps. Louis Blessing III and Al Landis introduced a bill that “require professional engineers to complete continuing professional development hours in professional ethics or rules.” The bill before the Ohio General Assembly notes “six fundamental canons” that professional engineers must uphold and would require engineers to allocate “at least two of the already required 30 hours of continuing professional development” to professional ethics.
Research and Development
NSF Gives $2 Million Grant For Engineering Research To UC Berkeley.
KRON-TV San Francisco (8/27, Adams) reports the National Science Foundation’s Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities program will award a $2 million grant to the University of California at Berkeley to support “researchers engaged in advanced fundamental engineering research.” The grant was announced by Rep. Barbara Lee of California.
NSF, Northeastern University Recognized With Sarcastic Award For Wasteful Government Spending.
The Washington Times (8/28, Howell) reports it is awarding its weekly “Golden Hammer” award for wasteful government spending to the National Science Foundation and Northeastern University over a $8.4 million research grant for nuclear particle collider technology. The Washington Times says that NSF failed to properly monitor Northeastern’s use of the grant, which was supposed to fund research in the US, but instead funded research in Europe. Northeastern reached a settlement with the Department of Justice last week to repay $2.7 million, one third of the grant, because of the failure to comply with the grant’s requirements. US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said that, “Northeastern failed to adequately safeguard National Science Foundation grant money that had been awarded for the sole purpose of supporting important scientific research.”
Missouri University Joins Initiative To Increase Diversity In Engineering.
The Rolla (MO) Daily News (8/26) reports the Missouri University of Science and Technology College of Engineering and Computing recently joined a group of schools from across the country in a “commitment to provide greater opportunities for women and other underrepresented groups to pursue engineering careers.” The American Society for Engineering Education ranks the university as “19th in the nation for the number of bachelor’s degrees in engineering awarded to African-Americans and 26th in the nation for the number of bachelor’s degrees in engineering awarded to women.”
Civil Engineers Use Drones To Monitor Construction Sites.
MIT Technology Review (8/27) reports that civil engineers are using drones to monitor “workers building a lavish new downtown stadium for the Sacramento Kings in California,” noting that the drones “patrol the Sacramento work site, collecting video footage. That footage is then converted into a three-dimensional picture of the site, which is fed into software that compares it to computerized architectural plans as well as a the construction work plan showing when each element should be finished.”
Engineering and Public Policy
White House Says Keystone Decision Not Imminent.
The Hill (8/27, Cama) reports that White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Thursday that the State Department is still reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline application and has not submitted it to the White House. Earnest made the comments after a report in Canada’s Financial Post suggested that the President would reject the deal over Labor Day weekend.
California Says Cities Have Exceeded Water Conservation Goals.
The AP (8/28, Smith) reports that the California State Water Resources Control Board announced on Thursday that state cities “cut water use by a combined 31 percent in July, exceeding the governor’s statewide mandate to conserve.” Board chair Felicia Marcus suggested that “the strong water conservation figures show California residents are beginning to understand the dire need to cut back in a fourth year of drought.”
WPost Calls On Congress To Give Railroads Flexibility To Meet Safety Deadline.
In an editorial, the Washington Post (8/28) says that in 2008, Congress passed a bill “requiring passenger and freight railroads to implement a communications technology called positive train control (PTC), which keeps trains from speed limit violations and collisions,” and set a December 31 deadline “that the Federal Railroad Administration cannot waive.” Congress “alone has the power to delay. If it does not, liability concerns may stop trains from operating.” Congress, the Post says, should revise the law to give railroads more time to comply, “with consequences for those who fail to produce concrete plans for immediate improvement and meet milestones along the way.”
Green Poll Finds Majority Support for Obama Climate Rule For Power Plants.
The Hill (8/28, Cama) reports that a “survey commissioned” by the League of Conservation Voters “found that 6 in 10 voters support President Obama’s landmark climate rule for power plants.” The poll “also concluded that 70 percent of United States voters want their state governors to comply with the regulation.” Just “31 percent disagreed with the rule, and 17 percent said their states’ governors should not comply.” LCV “characterized the support for the rule as an ‘overwhelming majority.’”
More Schools Introducing Coding Into Elementary School Curriculum.
Education Week (8/27, Heitin) reports more schools around the country are teaching elementary school students how to code. Avondale Elementary in Arizona began teaching all of its K-8 students computer programming last year. San Francisco plans to introduce computer science as part of its curriculum for all elementary and secondary education students over the new few years. Chicago is also planning to make computer science a core subject in kindergarten.
Catholic School Teachers Attend STREAM Academy For Training.
WBFO-FM Buffalo, NY (8/27, Buckley) reports more than 150 Catholic school teachers from more than 25 schools in the Diocese of Buffalo attended the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) Academy at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Kenmore, New York. Teachers received training on how to better teach STREAM subjects to their students.
Tennessee Elementary School Kicks Off New STEM Program.
The Tennessean (8/27) reports Ashland City Elementary School in Tennessee is offering a new STEM program this school year, which will entail all students participating in a STEM class for 45 minutes per day for six weeks. The program was kicked off by an event hosted by Miss Tennessee Hannah Robison, Professor John Hall of Tennessee State University, and a STEM teacher at the school Kristin McQueen.
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• DOE IG Says Solyndra Misrepresented Facts To Secure Federal Loan.