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The federal Pell Grant Program serves students from very poor families, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). However, the ability of the Pell Grant to cover the cost of higher education has declined over time and will continue to in the years ahead. This student aid program was created in 1972 to help improve the access of low-income students to postsecondary education and is the largest federal student aid grant program. For 2012-13, nearly 9 million students across the United States received Pell grants at a cost of $32.4 billion dollars.

The report presents Congress with a range of options for potentially making changes to the federal Pell Grant Program. Eligibility and Pell grant award amounts are determined using various formulas and thresholds. Simply put, the program determines how much a family is expected to contribute towards the cost of a student’s postsecondary education – the estimated family contribution (EFC) – and based on this (EFC), a student may qualify for a Pell grant. The maximum Pell grant award is $5,645 for the 2013-2014 academic year.

The CBO report includes an abundance of data and information regarding the Pell Grant Program; however, the big takeaways highlight the type of students the program serves and the ability of the program to promote college affordability. Read More

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Some members of Gov. McCrory’s education cabinet met today to consider ways to boost student success in STEM educational programs in high school and beyond.

Community College System President Dr. Scott Ralls led the discussion, which was attended by members of the education cabinet’s working group that focuses on talent and workforce development.

North Carolina’s STEM Education Strategy explains that the state is moving rapidly from a low-skill, low-wage economy to a high-skill, knowledge-based, technology, and innovation economy, and these changes demand an adaptable workforce.

STEM-related jobs are growing faster than any other kind of job, according to the STEM Education Strategy, and STEM jobs pay 64 percent more than other kinds of jobs in North Carolina. Read More

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Education cutsIt’s actually pretty remarkable that we even need a study to confirm something so obvious (What’s next? “Study confirms that days get longer in the summer and shorter in the winter”??) but a new study by the Economic Policy Institute does confirm once again what anyone with any common sense has long understood — namely, that investing in public education pays big dividends for states.

Here are the key findings — to which we can only wish Gov. McCrory, Art Pope and the General Assembly would pay attention: Read More

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Today’s Lunch Links are mostly devoted to news in the higher education world, with a finishing touch that will bring you back to believing in humanity , in case you have fallen off that cliff in recent months.

A story that caught my attention yesterday is Garance Frank-Ruta’s proposition in The Atlantic that the federal government offer financial incentives to student loan debt holders for moving to blighted cities such as Detroit.

I chewed on this idea for about 15 seconds until I realized that commenter andrelot said what I was thinking better than I could:

I’m against these types of social engineering measures that aim to steer people towards some choice that is politically appealing instead of solving the underlying problems.

The underlying problem, in this case, are runaway college education costs for many students (which happens for a variety of reasons, from dwindling state financing to public universities to the proliferation of for-profit, dubious quality colleges and the financially disastrous arms-race of facilities related to anything but education like sports, gyms etc).

That is the real issue that needs to be addressed.

Speaking of college costs, today in Buffalo President Obama kicks off a tour of colleges to push his new idea for a financial aid system that provides bigger grants and cheaper federal loans to students at colleges that offer “good value.”

In addition to looking at attributes such access and the average debt load of a school’s students, another factor in a college’s “value” will be its graduation rate and graduates’ earnings.

Such metrics could prompt some unintended consequences, such as placing a higher value on schools that produce students entering into business or engineering careers, and eschewing schools that primarily have a liberal arts focus.

By the way, do you think that the majority of college professors have sweet tenure-track gigs that pay well and offer health care benefits? Think again. Check out this infographic about the growing adjunct crisis in higher education. Did you know that the number of master’s and PhD holders who are on food stamps tripled in the past three years?

This story is going viral for sure, but if you haven’t seen it, you must take a few minutes to listen to this school clerk in Decatur, Georgia describe what she did when a gunman entered her school this week with the intent to repeat the horrific Sandy Hook massacre that took place last year.

The word ‘hero’ is not strong enough to describe this woman, I realized as I listened to her explain how she connected with the gunman by telling him all of the details of a very difficult life she has had—and how her life is now turning toward something more positive.

How this educator did this while facing down a gun is simply unimaginable, and I am so thankful she was there to undoubtedly save the lives of countless children and educators by convincing this young man that he could put down his gun.

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(This post has been updated to include a link to another story documenting local education cuts).
That muffled roar you’re beginning to hear is the sound of education leaders across the state confronting and reacting to the reality of the cuts in education that the new state budget imposes — you know, the new budget that Gov. McCrory and right-wing think tankers have been bragging about.

Yesterday, the High Point Enterprise reported on the comments of Randolph County Community College President Robert Shackleford, Jr.: Read More