Leading the News
EDMC To Pay $95 Million In Settlement Over Recruitment Practices.
Several national media outlets are covering the announcement of a settlement between for-profit college firm Education Management Corporation and Federal and state authorities over its student recruitment practices. The New York Times (11/17, Saul, Subscription Publication) reports that EDMC “will forgive loans to about 80,000 former students nationwide as part of an agreement with state attorneys general resulting from a multiyear investigation of the company’s aggressive recruitment practices.” The deal includes $102.8 million in loan forgiveness and a $95.5 million DOJ fine, and is “the result of a whistle-blower lawsuit accusing the company of using boiler-room tactics to enroll students who had little chance of succeeding in college.” The Times quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying, “EDMC wasn’t interested in playing by the rules. The company seemed to care only about revenue at significant cost to students and taxpayers.”
Bloomberg News (11/17, Harris) reports that Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the settlement the largest such deal in US history, calling the firm a “high pressure recruitment mill.” This article places this story within the context of the “imploding” for-profit sector, explaining that “federal and state regulators have been reining in schools, accusing them of preying on low-income students and saddling them with student loans they can’t repay.” Bloomberg draws a comparison with Corinthian Colleges, which “collapsed earlier this year in the largest shutdown in U.S. higher education.” The piece notes that 39 state attorneys general were also part of the settlement.
Noting that the firm is based in Pittsburgh, the AP (11/17, Mandak, Tucker) reports that EDMC “enrolls more than 100,000 students at for-profit trade schools and colleges across the U.S. and Canada.” This piece quotes Lynch saying, “This case not only highlights the abuses in EDMC’s recruitment system; it also highlights the brave actions of EDMC employees who refused to go along with the institution’s deceptive practices.” The AP points out that EDMC “didn’t acknowledge wrongdoing” in the settlement.
Noting that EDMC is the nation’s “second-largest for-profit college chain,” the Washington Post (11/16, Douglas) reports that other for-profit firms, such as ITT Tech, University of Phoenix, and Career Education Corp. are also facing an increased level of governmental investigation. Federal authorities say that EDMC “flouted” a ban on “incentive compensation at schools participating in federal financial aid programs” by “paying recruiters based on the number of students enrolled, leading employees to use aggressive and deceptive tactics to get students in the doors.” Notwithstanding these actions, the firm “swore to the Department of Education that it was complying with the rules.” This piece quotes Duncan saying, “This settlement should be a warning to other career colleges out there: We will not stand by while you profit illegally off of students and taxpayers. The federal government will continue to work tirelessly with state attorneys general to ensure that all colleges follow the law.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (11/17, Moore) reports that the firm also agreed to “provide greater transparency into its recruiting practices.” The deal includes “a number of measures aimed at simplifying information given to current and prospective students, including a free orientation at the beginning of their first year and an online tool to help them make decisions during their time in school.”
Other media reports covering this settlement include the Los Angeles Times (11/16, Los Angeles (CA), Times), the Chicago Tribune (11/16, Chicago (IL), Tribune), the Wall Street Journal (11/17, Barrett, Subscription Publication), the Miami Herald (11/17, Vasquez), Reuters (11/16, Sullivan), the Chronicle of Higher Education (11/17, Thomason), CNN (11/17, Lobosco), NBC News (11/17), the NPR (11/16) “NprEd” blog, the Chicago Sun-Times (11/17, Bosch), the Arizona Republic (11/16, Woodworth), Philly (PA) (11/17, Rowan), Fortune (11/16), WESA-FM Pittsburgh (11/17, Kovash), US News & World Report (11/16, Camera), the Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise (11/17), and The Street (11/17).
FCC Has Nine Months To Clarify New Rules On Robocalling Government Backed Student Loan Borrowers.
Bloomberg News (11/16, Kitroeff) reports on the recently passed budget bill’s provision allowing collectors of government debt to robo call borrowers mobile phones. The article notes that debt collectors have lobbied Congress for years to allow them to contact student debtors with automated calls, and that they have gained the support of both the Administration and the Education Department. According to White House estimates, the provision could bring in an extra $120 million over 10 years. Though, the Congressional Budget Office said the new law “would not necessarily generate any revenue by 2025.” Looking ahead, the FCC has nine months to determine any limits on the timing and number of calls allowed, and whether or not collectors must honor debtors requests not to be autodialed.
Politicians Focusing On Less Needy Borrowers In Student Debt Debate.
The Politico (11/17, Ciaramella) “Morning Education” blog reports that the country is having the wrong discussion on student debt, since very few with bachelor’s degrees default on their student loans, specifically only four percent of defaulters. Instead of focusing on those borrowers with high debt who “usually also have a degree and a good shot at a decent job,” the article suggests that “the borrowers with the most acute problems, advocates say, are those who took out $10,000 or less in loans.”
Report: International Student Enrollment Grows 10% In One Year.
The Wall Street Journal (11/17, Jordan and Belkin, Subscription Publication) summarizes a new report released by the Institute of International Education about the growth of international students at US colleges and universities. The report found that the number of international students increased nearly 10% between the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years bringing the total number of international students to nearly 1 million. Students from China make up approximately one third of all international students and on some campuses have been the targets of criticism and harassment from other students. Some domestic students have also questioned why states would admit international students over in-state students if they are more likely to stay and benefit the state economy. Newsday (NY) (11/17) also covers the report and quotes Institute of International Education deputy vice president Rajika Bhandari who said that while Chinese students remained the biggest cohort, “the real growth story” was a 29% increase in students from India between the two school years. US News & World Report (11/17, Ross) highlights the finding that the enrollment of students from Latin America and the Caribbean is now growing faster than the enrollment of students from Asia. Part of this growth was the result of efforts by the US and several Latin American governments to boost exchange programs. The number of international students from this region studying at US colleges or universities temporarily increased 116.5% during the period covered by the study.
California Board Of Governors Oust Old Accreditor For Community Colleges.
The San Francisco Chronicle (11/17, Asimov, Subscription Publication) reports the Board of Governors that oversees community colleges in California voted on Monday to oust the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The accreditor’s oversight of the City College of San Francisco was particularly controversial as some criticized the accreditors for focusing too much on regulatory compliance and not enough on educational quality. The accreditor attempted to withdraw accreditation from the college, which generated protests and calls for a new accreditor. The Los Angeles Times (11/16) reports the Board of Governors also voted in favor of Chancellor Brice W. Harris reporting back in March with recommendations on a new accrediting agency for community colleges and how to improve the process to avoid similar conflicts in the future.
Research and Development
Energy Researcher Calls Renewable Fuel Standard “Indispensable.”
John Sedbrook at Illinois State University and DOE’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center writes for The Hill (11/17, Sedbrook) that the Renewable Fuel Standard is an “indispensable” policy. “While corn ethanol isn’t perfect, it is a considerable improvement over fossil fuels for the environment, an economic engine for America’s heartland and a necessary stepping stone for next-generation biofuels,” Sedbrook writes. He accuses critics of “cherry-pick[ing] less meritorious studies” on the environmental impacts of corn ethanol, arguing that “credible and more complete studies, including cradle to grave greenhouse gas emissions analyses carried out using Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET model,” find that the impacts are “significantly lower than those associated with crude oil.”
Chicago Argo Ethanol “Sluggish” On Weaker Corn Prices, Looming RFS Decision. Platts (11/16, Papke) reports, “Chicago Argo ethanol was heard at a bid/ask range of $1.4675-$1.4750/gal Monday, continuing sluggish movements from Friday,” which market sources attribute to weakened CBOT corn futures and “little buying interest” ahead of the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard decision.
Cool Roofs Can Boost Home Efficiency.
The Electric Co-op Today (11/17) reports on heat reflecting cool roofs. “For a home, a traditional black or gray roof does a good job of keeping the rain off, but it also does a really good job of absorbing sunlight and heat,” explains Brian Sloboda, NRECA Cooperative Research Network senior program manager. Sloboda says cool roofs cost a few more cents per square foot than traditional roofs, but cautions that they would be more appropriate in warmer southern states than in cool northern ones.
Reports: Apple To Launch 4 Inch iPhone In Mid-2016.
UberGizmo (11/16, Lee) discusses comments from China’s IHS Technology Research Director Kevin Wang posted to Chinese social media platform Weibo indicating that Apple will launch a 4-inch iPhone sometime in the middle of 2016. The article notes that Wang’s post comes after similar claims earlier this month from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
TechnoBuffalo (11/16, Kleinman) dubs the new phone the iPhone 6c and cautions that Wang has mistakenly predicted the launch of the device before, previously claiming that it would be released in late 2015. The article speculates that the iPhone 6c could feature a “glossy plastic frame like the iPhone 5c, or it might simply be a smaller metal smartphone designed for anyone who’s uncomfortable with the 4.7-inch iPhone” and will likely offer “Touch ID and an NFC chip so you can use Apple Pay.”
Congress Approves Space Act.
The Washington Times (11/16, Dinan) reports the House has approved the Space Act, “paving the way for private companies to own any natural resources they manage to mine from asteroids.” The bill, already approved by the Senate, keeps private spaceflight “free of heavy government regulations” and “also extends the US commitment to the International Space Station.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Senate Set To Vote Against Clean Power Plan.
The Hill (11/17, Cama) reports that the Senate “will vote as early as this week to block President Obama’s climate change rules for power plants.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Monday that resolutions were placed on the Senate floor calendar. “These regulations make it clearer than ever that the President and his administration have gone too far, and that Congress should act to stop this regulatory assault,” McConnell said in a statement.
Green Groups Urge Senators To Oppose Republican Resolutions Against Clean Power Plan. The Hill (11/17, Henry) reports that Environmental groups and climate change activists in letters sent Monday are urging senators to oppose Republican efforts to overturn the Clean Power Plan. The two resolutions against the rules “are an extreme assault on public health, the clean energy economy, and modernizing our energy sector,” a coalition of green groups, including the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and 350.org, wrote.
Rep. Sensenbrenner: Clean Power Plan Will Hurt Taxpayers. In a “Congress Blog” post for The Hill (11/16), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner argues that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan “will be an economic disaster for the United States.” Sensenbrenner notes that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has estimated “that the initiative will cost American taxpayers $51 billion.”
EPA Holds Public Hearing In Denver On Clean Power Plan. The Denver Post (11/17, Finley) reports on a public hearing on Clean Power Plan implementation where EPA officials “faced 95 speakers Monday morning.” Environmentalists from the Sierra Club and other groups in Denver “urged aggressive action,” while the coal industry “rallied opposition.”
DOE Provides Additional Funding To UMaine-led Offshore Wind Project.
The AP (11/17, Sharp) reports the Energy Department “is awarding another $3.7 million to a University of Maine-led offshore wind power pilot project, a sign of confidence in the project, officials said Monday.” The agency “found enough promise in the project’s progress to spend the additional money, bringing the total investment to $6.7 million and allowing the consortium to complete engineering and design work and to address remaining technical concerns, David Danielson, assistant secretary, wrote in a letter to Sen. Angus King.” Research team leader Habib Dagher “said the DOE was impressed by the Maine project’s low cost.” On Monday, Dagher said, “The big goal is to close together all of the pieces that you need to be construction ready. That means closing on financing for the project. Certainly our project is in good shape with the power-purchase term sheet.”
Google Self-driving Cars Hindered By California DMV Rules.
The Christian Science Monitor (11/16, Tokars) in continuing coverage reports on Google’s efforts to launch self-driving cars, which seem to be hindered by the California DMV as the regulator is asking “that manufacturers must meet to certify that their autonomous vehicle has been successfully tested, meets certain safety requirements, and is ready for the general public to operate on public roads.” The regulations were expected on Jan. 1, 2015, but were delayed. Prof. Susan Shaheen of the University of California-Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center said the California DMV is “taking this relatively slowly compared to what Google wants to see.” She explains that this measure of caution is due to the possibility that the California rules will influence laws nationwide. California Secretary of Transportation Brian Kelly said, “My sense of it is we’re getting a go-slow message from the federal government.” He explained that California is getting feedback from the NHTSA too.
Research Fellow: Link Between Induced Seismicity, Oil and Gas Production Important To Study.
In commentary carried by the Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram (11/17), Isaac Orr, a research fellow with the Heartland Institute, wrote that an increase in earthquake activity in Oklahoma and Texas “spurred a coalition of scientists, regulators, industry experts and environmentalists to produce a 148-page report exploring why these earthquakes are occurring and how to prevent future incidents.” Said Orr, “Understanding the historical relationship between induced seismicity and oil and natural gas production is important for scientists and state regulators because it provides a road map for determining the causes of the current tremors and a toolbox of approaches to limit their occurrence in the future.”
Carbon Capture Said To Appeal To Republicans, Democrats.
Former Assistant Secretary and Undersecretary of Energy David Garman and Dan Reicher, executive director of Stanford’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, write for The Hill (11/17, Garman, Reicher) that carbon capture and storage (CCS) “provides specific policy benefits that each party truly wants.” For Republicans and coal state Democrats, “CCS represents a way to more fully utilize America’s vast coal and natural gas reserves while increasing domestic oil production through the use of enhanced oil recovery,” while for Democrats it “represents a way to cut CO2 emissions, not only from fossil fuel power plants but also from industrial sources such as oil refineries, cement plants and ethanol facilities.” They argue that the US “should provide targeted, cost-effective incentives to drive down CCS technology costs and thus eliminate the need for government support over time.”
NSF Awards $3 Million Grant To Dartmouth To Create STEM Learning Centers At Rural Libraries.
The Dartmouth (NH) (11/16, Qin) reports the National Science Foundation awarded Dartmouth a $3 million grant for “Rural Gateways”, a program that will create STEM learning centers in rural libraries around the US. The project will be led by a number of STEM professors at several universities including Dartmouth, Dominican University, and Oregon State University.
Arizona School District Teaches Students STEM Skills With “Engineering Is Elementary” Program.
The East Valley (AZ) Tribune (11/17, Ridenour) reports 51 elementary schools in the Mesa school district in Arizona are participating in the Engineering is Elementary program, which requires them to work on STEM projects. As part of the program, sixth-grade students at Sandra Day O’Connor Elementary School recently worked as bioengineers to create model membranes using “measuring cups, sponges, coffee filters, pieces of screen, felt, cheesecloth, and aluminum foil.” The program aims to help students learn how to think like engineers.
Chicago Area Schools Interested In Replicating One District’s STEAM Lab.
The Chicago Tribune (11/16) reports school districts in the Chicago area are interested in creating STEAM labs. So many educators have inquired about the recent STEAM lab built by Homer School District that the district has begun giving tours to interested parties. Students in Homer’s STEAM lab can use 3D printers, build Lego robots, and work together to solve problems.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Energy Secretary To Tout Technology Advancements During Climate Talks.