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Duncan Urges Students to ‘Shop Around’ for Higher Learning; Judge Tosses For-profit ‘GE’ Regulation

Duncan Tells Students to Shop Around for Schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan  discussed the need for today’s college applicants to “shop around” to find the best financial aid before committing to a school yesterday. Duncan cited that 75 percent of students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the general application for federal financial aid, only send the results to one school – a trend Duncan called a major problem. Duncan urged students to apply to more to one school, to see which one gives out the best aid so as to limit the amount of private aid that students have to shell out. Duncan addressed the issue a few weeks back, when he said of student loans and college costs: “Students need to know up front how much college will actually cost them, instead of waiting to find out when the first student loan bill arrives.” Duncan has also recently joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in pushing the college financial aid “shopping sheet,” which encourages them to “shop around” when deciding on a school to attend. [Inside Higher Ed]

US Justice Department Says ‘No’ to South Carolina Voter Suppression – Again. The state of South Carolina has been turned away by the Department of Justice yet again, after failing to make proper changes to the state’s controversial Voter ID law, which the Department warned would discriminate against the state’s elderly and minority populations. This is the second time that the DOJ has shot down the state’s plan, prompting South Carolina to file a lawsuit against in rebuttal. The bill was blocked, because it did not meet the standards put in place by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which granted the Department full disclosure over any legislation that deals with voting rights; in December, after the DOJ ruled the legislation would bar African-Americans in the state from voting. [The Aiken Standard]

Ball in DOE's Court After Judge Tosses For-Profit Regulations. A federal judge yesterday rejected key provisions of the administration’s Gainful Employment Act, which held for-profit colleges accountable for the welfare of their graduates. The Department of Education, who authored the bill, could still come out of this fight not too banged up as the judge did not invalidate the department’s ability to hold for-profits accountable for their students. “The key victory for the department is that they do have the authority to set these standards,” says former DOE policy advisor Amy Laitinen. “In my mind the question is going to be one of political will. How much is the department going to want to take on this fight again?” The Act was aimed at halting the alarming amount of money that for-profit schools were absorbing from the Department, in the form of grants and financial aid while a disproportionate number of their graduates later defaulted on their student loans. The act aimed at providing benchmarks for the schools, and hoped to gauge how they were setting students up with careers that could pay off their educational debt. The trade group associated with the sector filed a lawsuit after the legislation passed in 2011, seeking to strike down the regulations. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras, who presided over the case, defended his decision, saying, “[The department] failed to provide a reasoned explanation for creating a rule mandating that at least 35 percent of students are repaying loans.” [Huffington Post]

Christopher Boan is a journalism intern with Campus Progress.

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