Leading the News
King Announces Federal Student Aid Enforcement Unit.
NBC News (2/8, Abdullah) reports acting Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., announced on Monday the creation of the Federal Student Aid Enforcement Unit, which “will work to root out fraud at institutions of higher learning.” King said in a statement, “When Americans invest their time, money and effort to gain new skills, they have a right to expect they’ll actually get an education that leads to a better life for them and their families,” adding, “When that doesn’t happen we all pay the price. So let me be clear: schools looking to cheat students and taxpayers will be held accountable.” In support of the effort, the President’s budget will include a request for “$13.6 million in additional funds to strengthen the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid’s enforcement and oversight activities.”
The effort, according to the Wall Street Journal (2/8, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) will include a review of applications for loan forgiveness that claim they were misled by the schools in which they enrolled. The Journal says that King intends to focus on for-profit colleges, but said that misconduct will be investigated in all schools. King said, “The logical next step is to streamline and enhance our enforcement capability to root out fraud and abuse by bad actors.” Robert Kaye, formerly of the Federal Trade Commission, will lead the unit. Undersecretary Ted Mitchell in describing the review of applications for loan forgiveness said, “Where we can group claims and then make a disposition of those claims available to all borrowers who are in the same circumstances, we will do so.”
The Washington Post (2/8, Douglas-Gabriel) in reporting on the new unit, quotes King saying, “This enforcement unit is not exclusively about for-profits. It’s about the higher education sector generally. We will follow the evidence on who is doing the wrong thing and move forward from there.” The unit “will be staffed with more than 50 people,” and led by Kaye. Kaye said, “It is simply imperative that students taking on substantial financial obligations to further their education not be subject to unlawful enrollment tactics, that they get accurate information … particularly about job placement,” adding, “Our office is going to work every day as hard as we can to stop abuses and to promote the fairness and the integrity of the financial aid process.” He “will report to Jim Runcie, chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid.” Undersecretary Mitchell said, “We believe that we can do our investigations and enforcement faster, better with the segregation of this work from the normal day-to-day program compliance work. Targeted resources and targeted talent will add to our enforcement capacity in ways that right now we’re having to borrow and stretch.”
Money (2/8, Mulhere) reports that the new “unit will investigate predatory enrollment tactics” according to Secretary King, while undersecretary Mitchell said, “I think that it’s right to say that we could be doing our investigations and enforcements faster and better.”
The AP (2/8, Kerr) in its coverage quotes King as in the NBC story, and Mitchell as in the Money coverage.
BuzzFeed (2/8, Hensley-Clancy) quotes Mitchell saying, “It’s simply imperative that students taking on significant financial obligations not be subject to enrollment abuses, that they get accurate information, and that their financial aid is properly allocated.” Mitchell also said that it will “move more quickly and decisively,” but that it “isn’t a big break — it builds on the work of the last seven years.”MarketWatch (2/8, Berman) quotes King saying, “This new unit will allow us to respond more quickly and efficiently to allegations of illegal actions by higher education institutions.”
University Of Phoenix Parent Company To Be Taken Private For $1.1 Billion.
The Wall Street Journal (2/8, Korn, Jamerson, Subscription Publication) reports Apollo Global Management will purchase Apollo Education Group, owner of the University of Phoenix, for $1.1 billion. Apollo has been expanding its offerings overseas in what is seen as an easier regulatory environment in which to operate. The purchase would have to be approved by ED and University of Phoenix’s accreditor. The company’s stock was valued at over $14 billion in 2009.
The New York Times (2/8, Cohen, Bray, Subscription Publication) reports that Vistria Group, one of the parties in the purchase has “close ties to the Obama administration,” as it was founded by “Marty Nesbitt, one of President Obama’s closest friends and the chairman of the Obama Foundation,” as well as “a longtime business partner of Penny Pritzker, the commerce secretary.” Vistria’s COO Tony Miller, deputy secretary of the United States Department of Education from 2009 to 2013, is set to be “the new chairman” of Apollo Education Group. The Chronicle of Higher Education (2/8, Thomason) also points out in its “The Ticker” blog that Vistria’s founder is a “close personal friend of President Obama.”
University Of Delaware Makes Test Scores Optional For In-State Applicants.
Philly (PA) (2/8, Moran) reports the University of Delaware has decided to make SAT or ACT scores optional for in-state applicants. Students who are accepted must submit scores “so the university can evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot program.”
Black Students Less Likely To Enroll In Higher Paying Fields.
Bloomberg News (2/9, Grant) covers a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce finding that “Black students major less frequently in the lucrative fields of engineering and pharmaceutical sciences than in such lower-earning areas as social work and psychology,” so that while “black college enrollment grew from 10 percent to 15 percent from 1976 to 2012,” these students are “not being funneled toward the highest-paying careers.” The study found that engineering and architecture “draw just 5 percent of black Americans,” while 9 percent study business.
Research and Development
Google Is Testing Wireless Charging For Self-Driving Cars.
Fortune (2/8, Korosec) reports in continuing coverage that Alphabet is currently “testing at least two wireless charging systems” for its self-driving electric cars, one from Hevo Power and another from Momentum Dynamics. Wireless charging could facilitate faster “adoption of individually owned electric vehicles,” but the company is more likely to “deploy its self-driving cars as a transportation service that users can order via an app.” According to Fortune, Evatran’s Plugless system already “supports wireless charging for the Chevy Volt, Nissan LEAF, and Cadillac ELR EVs.”
Analysts See Green Power Competitive Against Fossil Fuels Long-term.
Reuters (2/9, Felix, Lewis) in an analysis reports that investors and industry analysts say that cheap green power competitive with fossil fuels offers long-term returns with low political risk. The Paris climate accord, though nonbinding, has emboldened investors to shift from fossil fuels. Natural gas firms aim to supply a transition to a low-carbon economy as renewables compete.
Engineering and Public Policy
NYTimes: Obama Budget To Propose Abandoning MOX Project.
The New York Times (2/8, Risen, Subscription Publication) reports “time may finally be running out” for the “over-budget” Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility as new estimates for the “half-built plant near Aiken, S.C.” say total estimated costs to complete the project “could go as high as $30 billion.” Officials have warned “that the delays in the so-called MOX program are so bad that the plant may not be ready to turn the first warhead into fuel until 2040.” The Times adds that as a result of all this “in the budget that the Obama administration will present on Tuesday, the Energy Department proposes abandoning it.” But the project “is a source of 1,700 construction jobs to state officials and members of the South Carolina congressional delegation, who have vowed to stop the move.” The Times calls this “struggle” a “case study in the difficulty of cutting unnecessary or wasteful federal programs.”
The Augusta (GA) Chronicle (2/8) reports the plant, which contractors say is roughly 70 percent finished, “is designed to help the U.S. meet the terms of a 2000 agreement with Russia to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium,” Last year Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz put together the Plutonium Deposition Red Team to compare the MOX project with an alternative known as down-blending. The Red Team “found that down-blending plutonium for storage at the New Mexico plant could still save $400 million over the MOX project annually, The Chronicle reported.”
Cleveland School District Purchases Chromebooks.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (2/8, Piorkowski) reports that the Cleveland Heights – University Heights School District purchased 475 Google Chromebooks for its elementary school students. The work that students do will be stored on Google Cloud where teachers can check on the status of work, and students access it from their home computers. The schools will be using Google’s new Google Classroom tool for assignments, feedback, and communication with students.
Nebraska Students Learn Cybersecurity Skills.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (2/8, Stewart) reports that Kirn Middle School students participating in the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program are learning how to identify pre-programmed security flaws on virtual machines installed on school ChromeBooks in preparation for participation in the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition.
Omaha Schools Purchase Surface Pro 3 Tablets.
The Omaha (NE) World-Herald (2/9, Duffy) reports that Omaha Public Schools have approved a purchase of $97,000 worth of Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablets for use by students at Wakonda Elementary, funded through a $1.6 million federal school improvement grant. Wakonda’s instructional technology coach says that the tablets can help “individualize the learning process” and allow students progress through material and assignments at their own pace.
Also in the News
Orders For Manufacturing Technology Rose In December, Dropped In 2015.
IndustryWeek (2/8, LaWell) says new orders for manufacturing technology “jumped more than 20% in December, though still less than the recent average for that month,” according to a report issued Monday by the Association for Manufacturing Technology. December’s underperformance capped an “overall disappointing” 2015, which saw a 17.4% full-year decline in total orders, IndustryWeek says. It quotes AMT President Douglas Woods as saying that last year’s fourth quarter “turned out better than anticipated thanks to investment from the aerospace, automotive and consumer electronics industries.” However, “the overall market will remain flat through the first three quarters of this year, due to market forces like the strong dollar and low oil prices,” he added. AMT has projected that new manufacturing-technology orders in 2016 will be 3% greater than last year.
Monday’s Lead Stories
• Obama To Propose Doubling Investment In Clean Energy.