Tuesday, February 1, 2005
Spellings Takes Office as Education Secretary; Stroup Says She'll Stay On
in Top Higher-Education Post mailto:[log in to unmask] By STEPHEN
President Bush on Monday swore in Margaret Spellings, a
self-described "hawk" on education accountability, as the new U.S.
secretary of education. Before the event, the department's top
higher-education official affirmed that, contrary to widespread rumors, she
would be staying on to serve under Ms. Spellings.
Mr. Bush, speaking at a ceremony that was held here at the
Education Department's headquarters, praised Ms. Spellings for her loyal
service as a domestic-policy adviser during his first term. In her new
post, he said, she would lead the administration's efforts to better
prepare students for college and to keep higher education affordable.
"Because most new jobs in our 21st-century economy will require
postsecondary education or training, Margaret understands we need to make
higher education more affordable and accessible for all Americans," the
The administration will accomplish that goal, at least in part,
President Bush said, by "increasing college assistance for low-income
students." He said the administration would seek to raise the maximum Pell
Grant, which has been $4,050 since the 2003 fiscal year, and make the
grants available to students year-round, rather than only over the nine
months of a traditional academic year.
In a talk last month at Florida Community College at
Jacksonville, the president said he would ask Congress, as part of his 2006
budget request, to raise the maximum Pell Grant by $500 over the next five
years and to pay for the increase by "reforming" the guaranteed
student-loan program, which relies on banks and other types of lenders to
deliver money to students
(<http://chronicle.com/weekly/v51/i21/21a02501.htm>The Chronicle, January
In his comments on Monday, Mr. Bush also said the administration
would seek to "expand access to community colleges, so that more Americans
can develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the
workplace." The president plans to ask Congress to provide $125-million to
create a new grant program to help community colleges improve their
services to students
September 7, 2004).
Ms. Spellings, who has been involved in shaping education policy
for Mr. Bush since he was governor of Texas, replaces Roderick R. Paige,
who stepped down from the post last week. At the White House, Ms. Spellings
was a chief architect of the president's proposals to reform elementary and
secondary education. Those plans laid the groundwork for the No Child Left
Behind law, which in 2002 introduced nationwide accountability standards
and mandatory annual testing.
In her own remarks on Monday, Ms. Spellings said that the
president's plans to reform education had taught policy makers "a new
equation," which she defined as "accountability plus high expectations plus
resources equals results."
She said she would work to fulfill the president's campaign
pledge to expand to high-school students the testing requirements laid out
in the No Child Left Behind Act. Under that law, states are now required to
test students in reading and mathematics only in the third through the
Mr. Bush said that his proposal would encourage high schools to
better prepare students for college. "We're committed to ensuring that
every high-school student succeeds and leaves with the skills he or she
needs to succeed in college or in the workplace," he stated.
Earlier on Monday, the Education Department's chief policy maker
for higher education, Sally L. Stroup, told The Chronicle that she has no
plans in the immediate future to leave the agency.
"I won't be leaving anytime soon," said Ms. Stroup, the
department's assistant secretary for postsecondary education. "I look
forward to working with Secretary Spellings."
College lobbyists, who credit Ms. Stroup for her expertise in the
federal student-aid programs, were delighted to hear that she was not going
"Sally's decision to stay is great news," said Edward M.
Elmendorf, senior vice president for government relations and policy
analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. "I
can think of no better person to be in charge of higher-education policy
making at the department."
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Textbook Publishers Overcharge American Students, Consumer Group Says in
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> By THOMAS BARTLETT
Textbook publishers issue new editions when none are needed,
"bundle" books with unnecessary supplementary material, and charge American
students more than they charge students overseas for the same books,
according to a report issued Tuesday by the State Public Interest Research
The report, "Ripoff 101," is a follow-up to a report of the same
name issued in 2004 that led to a Congressional hearing on textbook pricing
last summer (<http://chronicle.com/daily/2004/07/2004072102n.htm>The
Chronicle, July 21, 2004).
In the new report, the student division of the environmental and
consumer- advocacy group charges that publishers often issue new editions
of books that are nearly identical to older editions. The report calls on
publishers to issue new editions "only when educationally necessary."
The Association of American Publishers countered that the report
is based on flawed methodology and that new editions of textbooks are
necessary to keep up with the latest information. The trade group pointed
to a recent study, conducted by the Zogby polling organization for the
association, that it says undermines the "Ripoff 101" report.
David Rosenfeld, program director of the student division of the
State Public Interest Research Groups, disagreed with that assessment of
the Zogby study. "It's kind of like a Seinfeld study -- it's a study about
nothing," Mr. Rosenfeld said. "The only thing it reveals is that they have
no answer to our study and they have to fabricate something."
Not so, said Bruce Hildebrand, a spokesman for the publishers'
association. He said the Zogby study showed that, among other things,
professors were in favor of the supplementary materials included with many
textbooks. "The profs do like it, they do want it, they do use it," Mr.
Hildebrand said. "We provide what we're asked to provide to meet the needs
of the students."
"Ripoff 101" is available on the student-advocacy
A report on the Zogby study, "The Attitudes of College Faculty on
the Textbooks Used in Their Courses," is available on the publishing
MAGAZINES & JOURNALS
A glance at the January/February issue of "Change":
Giving credit to accreditation
Regional accreditation now focuses more on student learning than
in the past, but the real challenge is helping colleges learn
from what students are learning, says Jon F. Wergin, a professor
of educational studies at Antioch University.
Under the old model, the assumption was that if the proper
infrastructure was in place, students would learn well enough,
he says. But "with both the demand for access to higher
education and its costs at record levels," he writes, "it should
surprise no one that calls for institutional 'accountability'
for student learning have become ever more strident."
Accreditation reviews now help colleges examine how well their
student learning aligns with the institutions' own goals.
Accrediting bodies should not dictate particular learning
outcomes, though, he says, because that would "contradict the
respect for diversity that is so central to American higher
Instead, accreditors should try to get colleges to make public
their learning goals and progress toward those goals, to
articulate how their goals are linked to social values and
students' aspirations, and to reflect on the nature of academic
Colleges, meanwhile, should avoid slipping into a "compliance
mentality," Mr. Wergin says. While accrediting groups "may want
institutions to see them as sources of help in improving
academic quality," he writes, "those on campus who are digging
through an institutional self-study, trying to understand the
latest standards and guidelines, often feel an overwhelming
desire to simply get the whole thing over with." In the end,
neither party is happy and a chance to improve student learning
"Mandating assessment produces assessment -- but not necessarily
institutional learning," he writes.
The article, "Taking Responsibility for Student Learning: The
Role of Accreditation," is not online. Information about the
magazine is available at http://www.aahe.org/change
Thursday, February 3, 2005
President Bush Calls for Bigger Pell Grants, More Job Training at 2-Year
Colleges, and Less Federal Spending
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> By JEFFREY SELINGO
In his State of the Union address on Wednesday night, President
Bush called for increasing the size of the Pell Grant, expanding job
training at community colleges, and reining in federal spending.
The speech to a joint session of Congress, which focused mostly on Social
Security and national security, barely touched on higher-education issues.
When the president did talk about colleges or federal funds for research,
he provided few details of his plans or reiterated what he has said in the
Of most interest to colleges is the president's plan for Pell Grants. The
maximum grant has remained at $4,050 for the past three years because the
appropriations have not been enough to keep up with an unexpected surge in
demand for the awards.
"We will make it easier for Americans to afford a college education by
increasing the size of Pell Grants," Mr. Bush said Wednesday night.
Last month, at an appearance in Jacksonville, Fla., President Bush said he
would seek to raise the maximum grant by $500, to $4,550, over the next
five years, and eliminate a $4.3-billion shortfall that has plagued the
(<http://chronicle.com/daily/2005/01/2005011702n.htm>The Chronicle, January
17). But Mr. Bush is not expected to call for additional money for the
program when he releases his budget request for the 2006 fiscal year on
Monday. Rather, he has said that he will seek to generate savings by making
changes in the federal government's guaranteed-student-loan program.
Indeed, Mr. Bush made it clear during the State of the Union
speech that he plans to take aim at government spending in his budget
request. "Next week I will send you a budget that holds the growth of
discretionary spending below inflation," he told Congress.
The budget, he said, will reduce or eliminate 150 government
programs. While he did not mention any by name, higher-education advocates
have told The Chronicle that two of them will be Upward Bound and Talent
Search, popular programs that help needy students prepare for college
(<http://chronicle.com/daily/2005/01/2005012401n.htm>The Chronicle, January
What is not clear is whether the president will propose spending
any new money on job training. In his speech, Mr. Bush proposed helping
200,000 workers "get training for a better career, by reforming our
job-training system and strengthening America's community colleges." The
president offered no specific dollar figure for the plan and did not say
how it differed from the $250-million in federal funds that he pledged to
community colleges in last year's State of the Union address. Budget cuts
in other job-training programs eventually resulted in a net loss in the
federal funds community colleges get for training workers
(<http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i28/28a02301.htm>The Chronicle, March 19,
The president said that his 2006 budget would make the tax cuts
enacted over the past several years permanent and he asked Congress to work
with him on making major revisions in the tax laws "to give this nation a
tax code that is pro-growth, easy to understand, and fair to all."
A commission appointed by Mr. Bush to look at changing the tax
code is expected to issue its report this summer. Last week a Congressional
panel that performed a broad review of the tax code recommended several
changes that would affect higher-education institutions, including removing
the tax exemption for tuition benefits provided to college employees.
On Wednesday night Mr. Bush also repeated his support for
research that does "not take advantage of some lives for the benefit of
"America," Mr. Bush said, "will continue to lead the world in
medical research that is ambitious, aggressive, and always ethical."
The president did not specifically mention his controversial
policy of providing federal funds for only a limited set of embryonic stem
cells. But he did say that he would "work with Congress to ensure that
human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts."
Opinions in Congress are split on "therapeutic" cloning, the use
of cloning techniques to create embryolike cells to provide a source of
stem cells, a tool that biomedical researchers say is important to advance
Republicans in U.S. House Introduce Bill to Renew Higher Education Act That
Mirrors Last Year's
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> By STEPHEN BURD
The Republican leaders of the education committee in the U.S.
House of Representatives on Wednesday introduced a bill to renew the Higher
Education Act that is nearly identical to legislation they offered last
Efforts by the leaders of the House Committee on Education and
the Workforce to push the earlier bill
(<http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:h.r.04283:>HR 4283) through
the chamber died last summer amid partisan bickering over a controversial
provision that would have changed how the interest rate is calculated for
borrowers who consolidate federal student loans. The change would have made
the program less attractive to borrowers.
Congressional observers said at the time that the House
Republican leadership would not allow the legislation to reach the House
floor, out of concern that it would give Democrats ammunition to use
against the White House and Republicans in Congress during an election year
(<http://chronicle.com/weekly/v50/i43/43a00101.htm>The Chronicle, July 2,
Rep. John A. Boehner, the Ohio Republican who heads the House
committee, included the provision -- which would prevent borrowers who wish
to refinance their loans from being able to lock in a low, fixed interest
rate, as they can now -- in the new version of the legislation (HR 507).
Mr. Boehner has repeatedly said that the billions of dollars that
the government provides in subsidies each year to keep the costs of
fixed-rate consolidation loans cheaper for borrowers would be better spent
giving more benefits to current and future students. With that in mind, he
said, savings from the change would be used to offset the costs to the
government of other proposals in the bill that would benefit students, such
as an increase in the amount they are allowed to borrow in their first two
years of college and a cut in the origination fees they must pay to obtain
In a news release, Mr. Boehner said that the committee intended
to pass "revenue neutral" legislation that would pay for itself by making
"common-sense reforms," rather than by adding to the federal budget deficit.
"We need to reform federal higher-education aid programs to put
incoming low and middle-income students back at the front of the line," he
said. "The Higher Education Act's first mission is to improve college
access for low and middle-income students. It has drifted away from that
focus over the years, at the expense of the very students it was written to
serve. We've got to change that."
But Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the
committee, criticized the consolidation proposal, which he said "would make
college even more expensive for students."
"I hope to work with Chairman Boehner to find common ground where
we can," Mr. Miller said. "But I will oppose any changes to the law that
raise the price of college."
Specifically, the legislation would increase the loan limits for
freshmen to $3,500, from $2,625, and for sophomores to $4,500, from $3,500.
The total borrowing ceiling for undergraduates would remain at $23,000. It
would also reduce the origination fees students pay on their loans from 3
percent of the amount borrowed to 1 percent.
The bill would also:
Keep the authorized level for the maximum Pell Grant, set by
Congress in 1998, at $5,800 over the next six years. (The figure is a
ceiling that appropriators cannot exceed when setting actual grant levels
each year. The current maximum grant is $4,050.)
Make Pell Grants available to students year-round, rather than
only over the nine months of a traditional academic year.
Gradually phase out a part of the formula that the government uses
to divvy up funds from three programs -- College Work-Study, Perkins Loans,
and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants -- that essentially
guarantees colleges the same share of money that they have received since
Place colleges that consistently raise their tuition and other
costs of attendance by more than twice the rate of inflation on a
government watch list, and require them to provide a detailed accounting of
all of their costs and expenditures.
Eliminate a provision in the law that requires for-profit
institutions to earn at least 10 percent of their revenue from sources
other than federal student-aid funds.
Clarify that student-aid applicants who have been convicted of
drug-related offenses are ineligible for federal student aid only if the
offenses were committed while they were attending college.
The education committee's leaders are expected to resume holding
hearings on the legislation as early as this month. They have said that
they would like to bring the bill to the House floor this spring for a
vote. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions has
not yet begun work on its version of the legislation.
Bush Vows Reforms, Praises New Education Secretary
> By Peter Baker
> Washington Post Staff Writer
> Tuesday, February 1, 2005; Page A15
President Bush vowed yesterday to push a "reform agenda" for
education in his second term that would extend his academic accountability
program known as No Child Left Behind to the high school level and expand
access to college by reforming the financial assistance system.
At a ceremony swearing in his longtime adviser, Margaret
Spellings, as secretary of education, Bush hailed recent improvements in
math and reading test scores but lamented the failure of three out of every
10 students starting high school to make it to graduation four years later.
"The achievement gap in America is closing," the president said
during an appearance at Education Department headquarters. "We've made
important progress, but Margaret understands there is still more work to be
done. We will maintain the high standards of No Child Left Behind. We will
extend those high standards and accountability to America's public high
One of the chief domestic achievements of Bush's first term, the
No Child Left Behind Act aimed to introduce business-style accountability
to public schools, but critics have complained that the program has proved
too bureaucratic and that the federal government has not provided enough
money to make it succeed.
Spellings, one of the program's chief architects, defended it
yesterday as emblematic of revolutionary thinking that will help transform
"When you signed No Child Left Behind into law three years ago,"
she told Bush, "it was more than an act, it was an attitude -- an attitude
that says it's right to measure our children's progress from year to year
so we can help them before it's too late, an attitude that says expecting
students to read and do math at grade level or better is not too much to
Spellings, a longtime Bush aide from Texas who served as White
House domestic policy adviser in the first term, noted that she will be the
first mother with school-age children serving as education secretary.
"In carrying out my duties to the American people, I will be
carrying out my duties as a mom," she said.
Democrats have welcomed Spellings's appointment, praising her
passion and professionalism, but they have warned that they would hold the
administration responsible for living up to its promises.
"We simply cannot reform our public schools and expand access to
college education on a tin cup education budget," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy
(D-Mass.) told Spellings during her confirmation hearing. "If we are to
move forward in this new century to meet the demands of the global economy,
we must overcome the deficiencies in today's schools with continuing
reforms and new resources."
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Norman A. Stahl
Professor and Chair
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115
Phone: (815) 753-9032
FAX: (815) 753-8563
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