Reporter’s notebook

Photo: Matthew Dembicki
  • Fewer FAFSA verification reviews
  • New data on ED’s College Scorecard
  • ED seeks suggestions on expanding work-based learning for youths
  • Senate OKs bill to curb student debt relief scams
  • Addressing a teacher shortage in Arizona

Fewer FAFSA verification reviews

The U.S. Education Department (ED) has reviewed through its verification process fewer federal student aid applications over the past two years, according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).

ED typically reviews about 30% of Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) filers to verify that certain information on the forms is correct, the process is rather burdensome for students, their families and colleges. However, since October 2018, the department selected only 22%, which is about 900,000 fewer applications, NASFAA said.

And this year, after a cost-benefit analysis of data from 2018-19 and 2019-20, ED decided to review fewer. As of October 1, it has selected 18% of FAFSA filers for verification.

“In other words, machine learning=fewer verification selections and a lower overall burden on students and schools,” NASFAA President Justin Draeger posted on Twitter.

New data on ED’s College Scorecard

The U.S. Education Department on Wednesday announced it is adding new information into its online College Scorecard tool, including average earnings two years after graduation based on field of study and how much federal student loan debt students can expect to incur.

The updates make it easier to search for different fields of study and to compare those fields, whether they are within one institution or across several institutions, according to ED. For instance, a student interested in health professions can now more easily compare health-related fields of study at several institutions or different health-related fields of study within the same institution, the department said.

ED seeks suggestions on expanding work-based learning for youths

The U.S. Education Department (ED) is seeking input and ideas on how to expand work-based learning opportunities for youths.

ED is accepting information on successful practices and strategies, public and private partnerships, student and employer barriers, and feedback on outcomes, data and evaluation design. The department will use the request for information to assist in its implementation of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). The law, passed in 2018, amends the definition of career and technical education to include work-based learning.

The greater prominence of work-based learning in Perkins V and interest in expanding its availability comes at a time when participation in the labor market by youths is at a low point, according to ED’s announcement in the Federal Register. The labor force participation rate of 16- to 19-year-old youths declined from 62.9 percent in 1999 to 40.0 percent in 2020, according to the department.

The deadline for comments is January 13.

Senate OKs bill to curb student debt relief scams

The U.S. Senate this week unanimously passed a bipartisan bill to enhance efforts to identify and shut down student debt relief scams.

“The additional repayment relief provided to many borrowers during the Covid-19 pandemic has unfortunately also created additional opportunities for fraudsters to do more harm,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), who introduced S. 1153 last year with Sens. Mike Braun (R-Indiana), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska).

The legislation now awaits approval from the House before heading to the president for his signature.

The Stop Student Debt Relief Scams Act would:

  • Clarify that it is a federal crime to access U.S. Education Department information technology systems for fraud, commercial advantage or private financial gain, and impose fines on scammers for violations of the law.
  • Direct the department to create a new form of third-party access, akin to the current “preparer” function on the Free Application for Student Aid for those applying on behalf of a student and their family, in order to protect legitimate organizations.
  • Require the department to maintain common-sense reporting, detection and prevention activities to stop potential or known debt relief scams.
  • Require student loan exit counseling to warn federal loan borrowers about debt relief scams.

Addressing a teacher shortage in Arizona

Scottsdale Community College is launching an online one-year teacher education certificate to help fill the nearly 2,000 teacher jobs available in Arizona.

The Scottsdale Teacher Education Partnership (STEP) Post-Baccalaureate Teacher in Residence certification program is designed for students with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in any discipline and would like to become a certified teacher in grades K-8.

SCC says the program provides two solutions to Arizona’s teacher shortage. It helps:

  • The state fill vacancies with trained, prepared, qualified teachers.
  • Graduates with non-education degrees retool their career into something new – a career with immediate vacancies.

“As the state of Arizona constantly looks for ways to attract and train more teachers, community colleges can play a major role in narrowing the teacher shortage gap,” says Kathy Hoffman, the state’s superintendent of public instruction. “Delivering instruction in a live online format will help produce more and better trained professionals who will be successful in Arizona classrooms.”

For 12 months, students in the program meet two days a week. They are taught by experienced classroom teachers and college professors who integrate college coursework alongside actual classroom experience, according to SCC, which has been offering teacher education classes since 2002. The curriculum also requires three separate internships.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.