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Syllabus: Week of February 3

Published:  February 8, 2013
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The clock isn't as close to running out on Pell than we thought. Image licensed CC by Tax Credits.

Welcome to the Syllabus, a weekly guide that provides insight into what’s happening in higher education.


American Council on Education Recommends 5 MOOCs for Credit, Steve Kolowich
The Chronicle of Higher Education

While there has been a lot of buzz about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) over the past few months, there has been little headway in figuring out a sustainable business model or how to award credit. The credit question just got easier to answer this past Thursday when the American Council on Education (ACE) endorsed five MOOCs. But it will still be up to individual institutions to grant the credit. So far one institution—Excelsior College—has said it will not accept them. The college’s president, John Ebersole, commented, “We would hope that ACE would support a more rigorous process as is the case with other forms of noncredit instruction.”

Rep. Foxx Invokes Holocaust in Describing Rules That Affect For-Profits, David Halperin
Huffington Post

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the House’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, used a famous quote about the Holocaust to describe the Obama administration’s regulation of for-profit colleges. “They came for the for-profits, and I didn’t speak up,” Foxx told an audience of college presidents from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Foxx suggested that NAICU members didn’t do enough to oppose the Obama administration’s Gainful Employment Rules, which mostly affected for-profit schools. It’s not surprising that Foxx is a staunch defender of the for-profits since, as Halperin writes, “Foxx received at least $48,668 from people or PACs associated with for-profit colleges.”


Reports of the Pell Grant’s imminent funding cliff have been greatly exaggerated. According to a Congressional Budget Office report released on Wednesday, there is at least one more year of sound financial footing for the Pell Grant program. Although there will be a shortfall by 2015, the situation is not as dire as previously thought. Recent changes were made to Pell eligibility and federal student loans to maintain the maximum grant including ending subsidized loans for grad students and ending summer Pell. “While some of those changes, as well as the money Congress pumped into the program from changes to student loans, contributed to the Pell Grant’s surprising fiscal health,” writes Inside Higher Ed’s Libby Nelson, “The CBO report casts doubt on whether the grant’s problems were as big as they were believed to be when cuts were made.”

But no one should sigh in relief just yet. Pell will be facing budget trouble again soon enough. Now that we have breathing room, it’s even more important that we have a discussion around how to fix Pell so that it works better for students. We’ve already changed eligibility to save money, but continuing to limit Pell eligibility narrows its scope, often for students who need it the most. Now that there’s more time, policymakers should read Rebalancing Resources and Incentives in Federal Student Aid, our report on redesigning federal student aid. Not only do we end the Pell shortfall, we also increase the maximum grant and restore eligibility of Ability to Benefit students and Summer Pell.

Higher Ed Watch readers, what are your thoughts about Pell? Now that the program isn’t as badly off as we thought, what should we change, if anything?   


Did you know that New America’s Amy Laitinen spends her off hours moonlighting as a poet? Check out some of her higher-education related haikus below:

You say quality
I say show me evidence

But we are unique    
You can’t possibly measure
So give a blank check

Do you have any higher ed haikus of your own? 



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