Reporter’s notebook

  • ED shields defaulted student loans during pandemic
  • New Mexico colleges partner to increase efficiencies
  • QCC helps students in closure of four-year college
  • Dual enrollment on the rise in Illinois
  • Aspen Prize winner to be announced in May

ED shields defaulted student loans during pandemic

The U.S. Education Department on Tuesday extended its pause on federal student loan interest and collections to all defaulted loans in the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program.

ED announced it is expanding the 0% interest rate and pause of collections to 1.14 million borrowers who defaulted on a privately held FFEL Program loan. This action will protect more than 800,000 borrowers who were at risk of having their federal tax refunds seized to repay a defaulted loan, according to the department. The relief will be made retroactive to March 13, 2020, which is when the pandemic started.

ED said it will work to automatically return any tax refunds seized or wages garnished over the past year. In addition, any of these loans that went into default since March 13, 2020, will be returned to good standing.

The new action extends steps already taken by the Biden administration to help federal student loan borrowers. Those steps include pausing student loan interest, repayment and collections activity for tens of millions of borrowers with loans held by the department through Sept. 30, 2021.

New Mexico colleges partner to increase efficiencies

Five public New Mexico community colleges have established a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to share decision-making and technology across institutions.

The Collaborative for Higher Education Shared Services (CHESS) will provide an organizational structure that allows the colleges to tap the efficiencies of a true college system while retaining their independence and unique connection to their local communities and local culture.

The participating colleges, which announced their partnership earlier this year, are Clovis Community College, San Juan College (SJC), Santa Fe Community College, Central New Mexico Community College and Northern New Mexico College

“This integrated approach will have numerous benefits, including increasing efficiencies in the application and financial aid processes and providing students with increased flexibility to take courses at multiple colleges. We are excited to be a part of an effort that will have such a positive impact on our students’ futures,” said SJC President Toni Hopper Pendergrass, who also serves on the board of directors of the American Association of Community Colleges.

QCC helps students in closure of four-year college

Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) will open its doors to students of a nearby private four-year college that will close after the spring semester.

Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts, announced Monday that it will permanently close at the end of this academic year, noting that the effects of the pandemic added to financial challenges it already faced.

“It is with a heavy heart that we learned of the impending closing of Becker College, one of the oldest institutions of higher education in our region. Becker has made a profound and lasting impression on our community and many QCC transfer students,” said QCC President Luis Pedraja.

QCC has established transfer articulation agreements for Becker students into the following programs: business administration; criminal justice; early childhood education; early childhood education (birth through eight years old); and nurse education.

In addition to the programs listed in the MOU, many of Becker’s programs can easily transfer to QCC, such as its well-known video-game design program. QCC already has a robust gaming program, as well as an esports team, formed during the start of the pandemic.

Dual enrollment on the rise in Illinois

A new report from the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) found that high school students who took dual credit completed college at a rate 20% higher than students who did not take dual credit. The finding was especially true for those who are traditionally underserved in higher education.

Over the last decade, Illinois’ Dual Credit Program has seen a steady enrollment increase of more than 5.9% annually with more than 500,000 students earning over 3.1 million college credits while still in high school. In fiscal year 2020, the Illinois community college system recorded a total of 69,299 high school students enrolled in dual-credit courses. Currently, all Illinois community colleges offer dual-credit courses, according to ICCB.

Aspen Prize winner to be announced in May

The Aspen Institute will announce on May 18 the winner and runners-up of its $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

The virtual event will showcase how the best community colleges achieve equitable student success outcomes, the difference they make to our nation’s communities and how they change lives, according to Aspen. U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is the featured speaker. Registration is free.

Last summer, Aspen announced the 10 finalists for its 2021 Aspen Prize, which include four two-year colleges from Texas and a Kentucky college that has been a finalist in five of the six award cycles.

About the Author

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