Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

New college scorecard shows earnings gap; Easing college aid; Planned Parenthood fight continues; and Death penalty disparities


New college scorecard shows earnings gap

Comparing data on college costs, graduation rates and alumni earnings just got a lot easier with a website rolled out over the weekend by the U.S. Department of Education: College Scorecard. The site is part of the Obama administration’s push to promote better value in American higher education. As Kevin Carey with the New York Times’ Upshot blog reports, the data is revealing:


On the surface, the trends aren’t surprising — students who enroll in wealthy, elite colleges earn more than those who do not. But the deeper that you delve into the data, the more clear it becomes how perilous the higher education market can be for students making expensive, important choices that don’t always pay off…Elite institutions prop up the overall average earnings of college graduates nationwide. Although earnings of college graduates continue to outpace those of non-collegians by a significant margin, at some institutions, the earnings of students 10 years after enrollment are bleak. The Department of Education calculated the percentage of students at each college who earned more than $25,000 per year, which is about what high school graduates earn. At hundreds of colleges, less than half of students met this threshold 10 years after enrolling.


Impressive as the website’s collection of data is, it falls short of President Obama’s initial plan to create a college quality ranking system that would eventually be tied to federal financial aid. Michael Shear with the New York Times reports:


Under the original idea, announced by Mr. Obama with fanfare in 2013, all of the nation’s 7,000 institutions of higher education would have been assigned a ranking by the government, with the aim of publicly shaming low-rated schools that saddle students with high debt and poor earning potential…When he announced the plan at the University at Buffalo in 2013, Mr. Obama put colleges on notice that schools performing poorly on his rating system would eventually lose access to billions of dollars in federal student aid money…But the plan quickly ran into fierce opposition. Critics, including many of the presidents at elite private colleges, lobbied furiously against the idea of a government rating system, saying it could force schools to prioritize money-making majors like accounting over those like English, history or philosophy.


Easing college aid
As the president’s ambitious plan for a national college ranking system faltered, the administration continued to tinker around the edges of higher ed policy. As the Associated Press reports, students will be able to apply for federal college aid earlier, giving their families a better sense of what they can afford as they are applying, not months after:


Under the current system, students planning to start school in the fall of 2017 must wait until January of that year to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The new system will let them complete the form as early as October 2016, the month that marks the traditional start to the college application season…Some 2 million college students are eligible for federal Pell Grants but miss out because they never apply, said James Kvaal, the deputy director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council.


Planned Parenthood fight continues
On Friday, the Jindal administration rescinded its initial effort to cancel Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid provider contract “without cause,” ending the group’s current lawsuit But the same day, the administration announced it was cancelling its contract “for cause.” Kevin Litten with has details:


The change comes as a federal judge was set to rule on a request to block Jindal from canceling the contracts without cause, a move the administration had defended since announcing the defunding on Aug. 3. The administration now says Planned Parenthood is “in violation for entering into a settlement agreement under the federal False Claims Act in 2013.”


Planned Parenthood entered into a settlement for allegedly overbilling Texas Medicaid for unnecessary services, but the group denied any wrongdoing, which could weaken the Jindal administration’s case, according to


As part of the settlement agreement, however, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast said it “expressly denies the allegations … (that it) engaged in any wrongful conduct or have any liability for the claims specified.” The agreement also stipulated that the payment was “neither an admission of liability by (Planned Parenthood) nor a concession by the government that its claims are not well founded.” The concept of liability is key when it comes to Louisiana’s administrative code…


The move is sure to set off another round of legal maneuvering, with access to services for more than 5,000 Louisianans hanging in the balance.


Death penalty disparities

A new study of death sentences found that the race of the victim matters–a lot. Maya Lau with The Advocate reports:


The killers of white people in Louisiana are roughly five times as likely to be sentenced to death as the murderers of black people, according to a study released last month.Meanwhile, black people account for 72 percent of all homicide victims in the state — a comparison the report’s authors say shows implicit bias in the way juries and the courts go about punishing killers based on the race and gender of a victim…Killings of white people are 10 times more likely to result in an execution in Louisiana than those involving black victims, the study concludes. And it asserts that there is no documented case in the history of Louisiana in which a white person was executed for murdering a black man.


Number of the Day
$45,900 – Average salary earned by LSU graduates 10 years after graduation, compared to a national average of $34,300 for college grads and $25,000 for high school grads (Source: College Scorecard)