Kamala Harris says lower-income kids should go to college for free

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Kamala Harris, in the final weeks of her U.S. Senate campaign against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, released a higher education plan Tuesday calling for making public colleges and universities free for students whose families earn less than $140,000 a year.

She also wants to allow borrowers to discharge student loans in bankruptcy.

Harris announced the benchmarks ahead of a roundtable discussion with students at Los Angeles Trade Tech College. She joins other Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, in pledging to eliminate public university tuition. Clinton’s plan would by 2021 offer free public university tuition to families making less than $125,000 a year.

Harris’ plan, which builds on her efforts in taking on for-profit colleges, comes a week after she took criticism from Sanchez for accepting campaign contributions from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2011 and 2013, and then not bringing charges against Trump University, a for-profit program mostly shuttered in 2011. …

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California State University faculty protest, threaten to strike

As reported by the The Sun:

Faculty from throughout the state protested Tuesday at the Cal State University chancellor’s office in Long Beach, threatening to strike after locking horns with administrators over pay.

The California Faculty Association voted in October to authorize a strike should an agreement not be reached. The union is demanding a 5 percent salary increase for 2015-16, while management for the 23-campus system has offered a 2 percent pay raise — the same increase authorized for all other CSU employee groups.

Tuesday’s protest was timed to coincide with the Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach. …

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CA Student Debt “Crisis” Attracting Varying Attention

graduation college debtWhile California students mustered to lead a nationwide movement for college debt relief, policymakers and innovators grappled with the issue in ways of their own.

Students in the UC system — particularly the Berkeley campus — have taken a central role in pushing the co-called Million Student March. Protest organizers have announced a sweeping agenda including “a $15 minimum wage for student employees on college campuses, free tuition at public universities, and the abolition of student debt,” according to Time. “The Million Student March was an idea that started with a remark made by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, stating elected officials wouldn’t care about supporting higher education until a million students were out marching,” as UCSA President Kevin Sabo told the Daily Californian.

An uncertain path

The latest elements of student debt policy emanating from Washington have been a mixed bag. The new revisions to the federal Pay As You Earn program “will let all borrowers with federal direct student loans who are not in default cap their monthly payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, no matter when they borrowed or their debt-to-income ratio,” as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, a twist in federal robocall law has raised the specter of heightened fraud risks for targeted students. “Under the new provision, robocalls could only be directed at people with student loans backed by the federal government,” noted KOMO Channel 4 News. “For many, that’s just one more opportunity for scammers and deceptive marketers to expand their operations. State and federal regulators already have their hands full with illegal companies that make unsolicited calls claiming they can help consumers consolidate student loan debt or get loan modifications  for a large and illegal up-front free.”

Tuition politics

Californians have actually fared better than others as the debt crisis continues its upward spiral. “Students graduating from California colleges had just $21,382 in loans, fourth-lowest among the states,” the Institute for College Access and Success noted in its tenth annual report on student debt, according to the Chronicle.

“The state’s Cal Grant program pays up to the full cost of systemwide tuition and fees at University of California and California State University campuses, and up to a certain dollar amount ($9,084 in 2014-15) at qualifying private colleges. These grants, available to California residents from low- and moderate-income families, have helped defray soaring tuition.”

ICAS research director Debbie Cochrane told the Chronicle that “tuition at UC and CSU campuses rose 128 percent, but the average debt for public-college graduates rose only 43 percent” over the past 10 years.

But some Golden State politicos have sought to frame state education as a crisis in need of broad new government support. Along with UC Regent Eloy Ortiz, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his support for an initiative called California College Promise, “a bold effort to offer two tuition-free years of community college for responsible students,” as they argued in the San Jose Mercury News. “This promise is true to California’s tradition of advancing our educational system at critical junctures to present future generations with better opportunities to succeed,” they wrote.

Disrupting debt

At the same time, student debt has attracted the attention of California’s startup scene. One new highly selective startup school, Make School, offers a two-year curriculum in tech — “billed as ‘debt-free education,’” as the Mercury News reported. “Ashu Desai, the 23-year-old cofounder of Make School, said widespread concerns about student debt and abuses in the for-profit college sector influenced his decision not to charge tuition up front. Instead, the school charges a percentage of graduates’ wages — or, alternatively, an investment in their startup — instead of a flat fee.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Cal State faculty begins strike vote

As reported by the Press-Enterprise:

California State University faculty members began voting Monday, Oct. 19, on whether to authorize their union to call a strike.

The faculty association, which represents about 25,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches, and the CSU — the nation’s largest university system with 460,000 students — have been negotiating since May.

If the strike action is authorized, a walkout could take place as soon as January, union officials said.

CSU officials and the faculty organization have already declared …

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Shocker: American College Students Don’t Know Squat About The Constitution

ConstitutionThe American public continues to show a staggering level of ignorance about the basic principles of America’s Constitution and government, according to a new survey put out by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

ACTA, which promotes high standards and a core curriculum for college students, commissioned a survey of 383 college graduates nationwide and quizzed them on basic American civics via a series of multiple-choice. The result were, for the most part, appalling.

When asked to choose among a list of four people which was on the U.S. Supreme Court, only 62 percent correctly chose Elena Kagan, while 10 percent chose Judith Sheindlin, better known to most of America as Judge Judy. One third of respondents couldn’t correctly identify the Bill of Rights as a series of amendments to the Constitution, only 54 percent could correctly state the term lengths for U.S. senators and representatives, and 32 percent thought John Boehner was president of the Senate rather than speaker of the House.

On some questions, an incorrect answer even drew more support than the correct one. Fifty-nine percent of respondents labeled Thomas Jefferson the “Father of the Constitution” (he in fact played no role is its creation), while only 28 percent correctly assigned that title to James Madison. Forty-three percent believed that a constitutional amendment requires presidential approval, slightly above the 42 percent who correctly said an amendment requires approval from three-fourths of the states.

There were a handful of bright spots, though. Eighty-four percent correctly said the right to an education is not a part of the First Amendment, and a solid 66 percent knew that habeas corpus protects against unlawful imprisonment.

The survey was released to coincide with Constitution Day, set to be commemorated Sept. 17. ACTA president Anne Neal argued in a statement that low constitutional literacy isn’t just embarrassing, but a threat to genuine democracy.

“The findings are deeply troubling and underscore how our educational institutions are utterly failing to prepare our next leaders for citizenship,” Neal said. “In a republic which depends on an educated citizenry, it’s crucial that all Americans — especially college graduates — are fully familiar with the rights and responsibilities set out in the Constitution.”

ACTA’s goal in releasing the survey is to encourage a strengthening of U.S. civics education at the college level. The organization claims in its press release that only 18 percent of U.S. colleges require students to take a class in U.S. history or government in order to graduate.

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California Trains Professors To Avoid ‘Microaggressions’

University of CaliforniaUniversity of California president Janet Napolitano’s office has been training faculty members at the University of California to avoid describing America as a “land of opportunity,” along with other phrases the school claims are offensive “microaggressions.”

According to activists, “microaggressions” are subtle actions, usually unintentional, that perpetuate discrimination against disadvantaged groups even in environments where overt discrimination has been abolished. Now, the UC system has fully committed itself to formally training faculty to avoid and root out these perceived microaggressions for the good of all.

The attack on microaggressions is the centerpiece of a series of faculty leadership seminars carried out by Napolitano’s office at several campuses across the UC system. One document used in the seminars is titled Tool: Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send, and lists dozens of menacing microaggressions for faculty to avoid.

One of the largest categories of microaggressions are those that that promote the “myth of meritocracy.” According to the document, this “myth” is spread by statements such as “America is the land of opportunity,” “I believe the most qualified person should get the job,” and “Affirmative action is racist.”

Other examples of sinister microaggressions, according to the guide, include:

  • Describing America as a “melting pot” (it orders people to assimilate)
  • Stating that “there is only one race, the human race” (denying the significance of a person’s ethnic or racial history)
  • Asking Asians, Hispanics, or Native Americans to speak up more (“pathologizing” foreign norms and treating white norms as “normal”)
  • Using “he” as a generic pronoun for all people (it makes the male experience universal and the female experience “invisible”)
  • Using forms where individuals must identify as male or female (it excludes the full LGBT experience)

The guide was used in faculty training sessions for UC faculty members throughout the 2014-15 school year, but its contents only recently drew more widespread attention when one professor notified The College Fix about the materials.

A PowerPoint used for seminar in April shows the dramatic tollvUC believes even a single microaggression take on students. Even a simple compliment, such as calling a student “articulate,” can set off a cascade of self-doubt and anxiety for the recipient

A second document instructs faculty on the proper ways to intervene against microaggressions. For example, if a person commits the offense of starting a sentence with “You people”, a suggested reaction is to say “I was so upset by that remark that I shut down and couldn’t hear anything else.”

Microaggressions aren’t the only threat faculty have been taught to mind. Another document, the Tool for Identifying Implicit Bias, instructs faculty how to avoid being biased in evaluations or hiring decisions. The document singles out phrases such as “hard worker” as being “euphemisms” for bias that must be rooted out.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Teachers Union Determined to Purge Koch Brothers from College Campuses

Koch BrothersThe National Education Association’s mission to drive Charles and David Koch, the two wealthy philanthropist brothers from Kansas, into the sea is showing no signs of slowing down. According to its latest Labor Department filing, the nation’s biggest union gifted $150,000 (up from a mere $100,000 the year before) to the American Bridge, a leftist hit-PAC whose mission is to annihilate every politico whose politics run to the right of the late Joe Stalin. (Nothing new here: Over the years, NEA has lavished gifts on such leftist stalwarts as MALDEF, People for the American Way, Media Matters, ACORN, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and Occupy Wall Street.)

The American Bridge’s latest gambit is to remove the Koch brothers’ influence from 250 campuses where they support educational initiatives in economics, philosophy, entrepreneurship, criminal justice and other disciplines. A recent case in point: Mississippi State will soon launch the Institute for Market Studies, which was made possible in part by a $365,000 grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. But before its launch, American Bridge filed an open-records request seeking emails between professors, and between the school’s faculty and the Koch foundation. This is nothing more than an intimidation tactic to discourage the faculty from participating in the venture.

Sadly the above is hardly an isolated incident. “UnKoch My Campus,” another group of NEA fellow travelers, is busy all over the country trying rid our schools of the dreaded brothers. From the NEA website,

Between 2005 and 2013, the billionaire Koch brothers spent at least $68 million on college and university campuses — to fund faculty, research and publications, and to spread their anti-worker gospel to generations of students.

Last week, NEA Higher Ed faculty and staff leaders sat down in a windowless room in Orlando, Fla., and pledged to shine a light on those Koch campus investments — as well as the pernicious effects of the broad ‘corporatization’ of public higher education.

This is about corporate interests trying to control higher education. The Koch brothers are just one of those interests,’ said Theresa Montano, president of NEA’s National Council for Higher Education, who called for greater transparency of where that money goes and what exactly it buys.

After reading the above, one would think that the Kochs want to exploit and corporatize the schools they donate to, and run them as right wing monoliths. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Kochs are libertarians which pretty much rules out the dictator angle. But in another post on the NEA website, we learn the real reason for the NEA’s enmity toward the brothers – the Kochs want to “… limit the rights of teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers through ‘right to work’ legislation and the elimination of fair share.”

There it is! The union dreads the Kochs, not because they want to rule the world but because they have the audacity to want to free workers from being forced to join a union if they don’t choose to. And freedom to the unions is like a crucifix to Dracula. Lindsey Berger, the co-founder of UnKoch My Campus, pretty much admits this. Quoted on the NEA website, she says, “Every dollar spent by Koch in academics is there for a reason.” And then, quoting Charles Koch, “There are basically four ways in which we can fight for free enterprise. Through education, through the media, by legal challenge, and by political action…I do maintain however that the educational route is the most vital and most neglected.”

So in addition to worker freedom, we can add “fighting for free enterprise” as a reason why the union loathes the brothers.

Are the NEA and friends’ attempts at capitalism-bashing effective? It has worked on college campuses where many students are taught that capitalism is the root of all evil (while they enjoy their  many toys and comfy lifestyle that were created by it.) They are also not taught that a competitive market and freedom of speech are inexorably tied, or that the most successful countries in the world employ free markets, or that global poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years primarily due to capitalism.

As the battles rage on our college campuses, the anti-Koch strategy may not be working so well in the political realm, however. In fact, several Democratic officials have blamed their party’spoor showing in the 2014 election on its obsession with the brothers. “[Attacking the Koch brothers] raises money for sure. But is it good to motivate a voter? No,” said one anonymous state party executive director. Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman Ken Martin said, “Americans are focused on bread and butter issues and could care less about who is funding the campaigns.”

No matter. The NEA won’t stop its assault on the Kochs. The union’s leaders are obsessed to the point of derangement, as worker freedom and free markets are anathema to their existence. The Kochs scare them to death. As well they should.

Originally published by UnionWatch.org

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

UC Board Votes to Support Divestment Movement

The University of California Student Association board voted to support a resolution to divest from companies that do business in certain countries including the United States. While college students often make statements and take action on political matters, the timing of this advocacy could see the action become tangled up with the ongoing debate over tuition increases and funding for the University of California system.

The vote was in conjunction with the on-going Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement designed to divest from companies doing business in Israel. Student governments at UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, UCLA and UC Davis have already passed nonbinding resolutions supporting divestment.

While the resolutions have no power, students intend to make an issue of divestment with the Board of Regents.

The Committee of Two looking into UC’s funding, Governor Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano, are unlikely to consider this issue. However, others may inject the divestment votes into discussions over UC funds.

Already, some donors have told UC branches that the divestment vote will discourage them from making additional gifts to the university. But could it play a wider role in the taxpayer funding of the university system?

American businesses are the targets of the resolution. Whether the particular businesses sponsor university events, the business community will take note of the action and perhaps hesitate in sponsoring university events.

But to a larger extent, expect concerned anti-divestment Californians to lobby their legislators to make a statement by perhaps threatening to affect university funding.

While a big effort is on-going to increase university funding, as demonstrated in an article published last week on this site, university funding could become a proverbial political football that was just kicked-off by the student association vote. Expect some critics to tie a divestment movement against some countries including the USA into a divestment effort against the university.

Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

TAX REBELLION: Obama Abandons Plan To Tax Americans’ College Savings

President Barack Obama is abandoning his proposal to eliminate Section 529 – the popular tax break used by millions of Americans to save for college — following a big backlash, not only from Republicans and parents, but also from his own Democratic allies.

“Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision so that they can instead focus on delivering a larger package of education tax relief that has bipartisan support, as well as the president’s broader package of tax relief for child care and working families,” a White House official said Tuesday.

According to The New York Times, Obama and his advisers were lobbied directly by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi while she flew with the president on a flight from India to Saudi Arabia. Other Democrats, including House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen, were also big critics of the proposal.

So-called 529 plans (named for a part of the tax code) are a popular way for many Americans to save for higher education, as any withdrawals made from the plans are not subject to taxation as long as they are used to pay for college. The plans were a part of the 2001 Bush tax cuts, and Obama himself voted to make them permanent in 2006, using them to save $240,000 for his daughter’s educations. According to the College Savings Plans Network, about 12 million children are estimated to be the beneficiaries of such accounts, spread across 7 million households. (RELATED: Obama Pushing Taxes He Fought Against In The Senate And In His Book)

Obama had argued that 529 plans primarily benefit high earners, but critics argued that it was also a popular option for millions of middle-class households as well. Just hours before the White House caved on Tuesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner slammed the proposal, saying that the plans ”help middle-class families save for college, but now the president wants to tax those plans.”

Some state treasurers spoke out as well, since their states have tried to encourage college savings by offering to match contributions to the plans up to a certain dollar amount.

While the White House countered that any loss for the middle class from 529 reform would be offset by other college affordability proposals the president was making, the backlash ultimately proved too great and forced the president into a hasty retreat.

“This was a textbook case of the broad middle class of the country rising up in a true brushfire rebellion,” Ryan Ellis, tax policy director at Americans for Tax Reform, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. ”Oh, and if this was a dress rehearsal for increasing taxes on IRAs and 401(k)s, consider the experiment a failure.”

While the 529 tax hike is gone, Obama is still pushing for an increase in the capital gains tax rate, and for the closure of a loophole that reduces the amount of capital gains tax paid on inherited assets. These increases, it is hoped, will in turn provide the money to fund several proposals Obama has made to try reducing the cost of college, such as expanding tuition tax credits and providing two free years of community college.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Obama’s attempt to regulate private colleges rejected

The Obama administration has suffered a rebuke in its effort to regulate private-sector colleges, after a federal judge ruled that a proposed rule restricting bonuses for college recruiters was enacted without any proper evidence or justification for its existence.

The ruling is the second setback of its type for Obama’s Department of Education in three years.

Federal law has for decades banned educational recruiters from receiving compensation based on the number of students they enroll, in order to discourage aggressive sales tactics, fraud and other harmful behaviors. However, during the Obama administration a major push has been made to tighten this rule in order to prevent what the administration says are evasive practices.

In 2011, the Department of Education eliminated 12 “safe harbors” that allowed bonus compensation for recruiters in certain circumstances, including one that allowed for recruiters to receive bonuses based on how many students they recruited who graduated, rather than merely enrolled. The Association of Private Sector Colleges (APSCU) and Universities promptly sued, arguing the restrictions were illegal and offered without justification. In 2012 a federal court ruled on their behalf concerning the graduation bonus and ordered the Department of Education to provide better reasoning for its rules.

In its second attempt, the Obama administration argued that the graduation bonus was an effort to evade the ban on enrollment bonuses, since all students must enroll to graduate.

That reasoning doesn’t fly, wrote Judge Rosemary Collyer of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“If accepted, this rationale would allow the Department to ban all incentive-based compensation in higher education, as enrollment is always a necessary predicate to any assessment of program,” wrote Collyer in her ruling.

The Department of Education also attempted to justify the rule by claiming that recruiters were driving students towards shorter, less rigorous programs that they were more likely to graduate from, but which would help the students less than other programs. That might be true, Collyer said, but if it is, the federal government has provided no evidence that is the case.

“The Department does not identify factual grounds in the record for its concerns,” Collyer says. Even though it would have been “a simple matter” for the Department of Education to back up its claims more substantively, Collyer said, it failed entirely to do so, dooming its case.

Collyer also pointed out that federal laws concerning higher education are written with the explicitly stated goal of boosting graduation from postsecondary institutions. Incentivizing graduation would appear to help that goal, not hinder it, said Collyer, and the government had totally failed to explain how that was not the case. Nor had the government responded to an argument made by for-profit colleges that its rules would hinder the college graduation rates of minority students by prohibiting certain incentives to recruit them.

APSCU released a statement after the ruling saying it was “pleased” and requesting that the Department of Education to start its proposed for-profit college regulations from scratch.  The Department of Education has not said what is planned response is.

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation