Student lending landscape in flux

College administrators face a student lending landscape in upheaval at a time when students are borrowing more money than ever to pay for college. 

The Obama administration wants to end federal subsidies for private student loans, forcing colleges to shift to a direct-lending model from the government–and the House of Representatives passed legislation in September to make that happen. But the Senate has yet to take up the bill, and Capitol Hill staffers say that’s not likely to happen until after lawmakers resolve the health-care debate.

Now, the Education Department (ED) is trying to force the issue. Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged colleges and universities last month to prepare to use the government’s Direct Loan Program for the next school year. But college financial aid directors are split in their support for the switch, which could require the use of new software and training.…Read More

FCC proposes web-safety education rules

Child at home computerSchools and libraries receiving federal e-Rate funding would have to submit proof that they have implemented internet safety education programs along with their e-Rate applications, according to a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Nov. 5.

When the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act passed in Congress late last year, it included a provision requiring schools to educate their students about safe and appropriate online behavior (see “Schools soon required to teach web safety“), but lawmakers issued no immediate guidance to enforce that provision.

According to the FCC’s notice, the public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed e-Rate changes, with an additional period for submitting responses to follow.…Read More

Teachers tread with caution on Facebook

With technology evolving as fast as a teen’s thumbs can move over a cell phone, teachers are seeking to strike a balance on what’s considered appropriate contact in the online world, reports the Tennessean. Teacher Laura Joy Perales counts about 100 students among her friends on Facebook. An English instructor at the Nashville School of the Arts, she thinks hard before posting on the popular social-networking site and closely monitors comments from everyone else. "It’s beneficial," Perales said. "Students can access the day’s class if they miss it. They don’t have to fall behind. I’ll be able to post on Facebook: ‘You have a paper due tomorrow.’ … But you need to be very careful, and you should only be putting stuff online that you are comfortable with." Local school districts are adopting a mixture of written policies and verbal warnings to deal with teaching in the Information Age, when many of their students have their own online profiles and can find teachers’, too. And teachers themselves are adopting a broad stance, from refusing to "friend" students to establishing their own interactive web sites exclusively for student use. But some point to the potential dangers of mixing a personal site with student business…

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Open-source tool to boost STEM graduates

State education officials have a new tool to help them predict which investments will pay dividends as they try to boost the number of college graduates who major in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Defense company Raytheon introduced an open-source program July 8 that will be customizable for the country’s largest school districts, colleges, and state education systems. The program, called the U.S. STEM Educational Model and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will help officials analyze how they should allocate budgets that have stagnated or shrunk during the economic recession as they seek to increase the number of STEM-related graduates. The program is available for download free of charge, according to the download site.

The computer-based model will simulate how schools can draw students to STEM fields most effectively–a trend that would bolster the science and engineering workforce.…Read More

School employees clogging computers with personal eMail

The Tampa, Fla., school board is wrestling with how to set rules for employees’ personal use of eMail — a problem with no easy answers, reports the Tampa Tribune. School employees don’t know it, but their bosses say they’re responsible for the overwhelming majority of the eMail problems and slowdowns the district experiences with the outside world. When the school board on April 28 considered new policies that govern technology use at the district’s schools and offices, a few technology managers said it might be time to be explicit. District computers should be for district use, at least one manager said–no exceptions. About 80 percent of the district’s eMail problems happen when a school employee uses a school computer to send an eMail loaded with photos or videos to someone outside the district, said Cliff Granger, a district resource teacher. When contacted, however, workers usually don’t know they did anything wrong. With that, some asked, where do you draw the line? Can you eMail your spouse to say you’ll be late at work? Can a teacher not invite a colleague to dinner? The board adjourned without resolving those questions, leaving it to administrators to come up with answers. "It’s not quite as simple as we thought it’d be," board member Candy Olson said…

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