Congress & Administration

President-elect Donald Trump has begun forming his education transition team. The list includes a number of officials from the Bush Administration, including James Manning, the former Chief of Staff to Deputy Secretary Bill Hansen, and Bill Evers, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and former senior advisor to Bush-era Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. Also serving on the transition are Townsend McNitt, the former deputy chief of staff with the Department of Education, and Gerard Robinson, a former state education chief in Virginia and Florida.  
On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced plans to continue to serve as the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate education committee. Murray, a former preschool teacher, took over the post in 2015, and worked closely with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to draft the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education announced $104 million in awards to support 104 minority serving institutions in 13 states. Funds can be used for a range of activities, including faculty professional development, purchasing or renting scientific or laboratory equipment, supporting summer programs, initiatives to increase student retention, and more.
The American Civil Liberties Union, along with privacy and parent groups, has declared its opposition to a federal database that tracks college students’ outcomes, including academic information and employment. The groups expressed their concern over the perceived potential for breaches and unauthorized access to data that could come with the development of such a system. This comes after the Gates Foundation’s announcement this fall that collecting data on student-level outcomes was one of its top higher education priorities for the coming year. The federal government is banned from creating such a system, but there has been increased momentum in Congress and in advocacy groups to reconsider the ban.
Last Friday, the Federal Student Aid Office within the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to share data around beneficiaries who use both the GI Bill and federal student loans to pay for their education. The data will be used to calculate cohort default rates, median loan debt, and repayment rates for students financially supported by both departments.

States, Districts, & Colleges

The University of California (UC) and California State University (Cal State) systems are considering raising tuition for the first time in six years – a result of record high enrollment and need for more faculty. The proposed hikes could amount to $270 yearly increase per student for Cal State and $280 increase at UC. The UC Board of Regents was scheduled to discuss the budget and any possible tuition hike at its full board meeting today, while CSU trustees will vote on the increases at their January 31 meeting.
After last year’s termination of an 11-year deal with Pearson to develop and manage its online programs, the University of Florida has released a revised plan for the growth of UF Online, its fully online undergraduate degree program. According to the new plan, UF Online intends to enroll about 6,500 students (mostly in-state) by the 2019-2020 school year, significantly below the 24,000 it was projected to enroll by 2023 under the original plan.

A new initiative at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) aims to double the number of K-12 computer science teachers in the state. By introducing new master’s degree and teaching endorsement programs, UNO hopes to add 80 certified teachers over the next three years. The university, which has been recognized by the White House for its efforts, hopes to address the dearth of computer science in the state; as of the 2013-14 school year, just one in six Nebraska high schools offered programming classes

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced last Thursday that the state will join 18 other states in the national #GoOpen movement by committing to offer free online educational resources to its school districts. Tennessee’s offering will include high-quality digital resources for both teaching and professional development. Initiated by the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, the #GoOpen movement encourages states and districts to transform learning through the use of openly licensed educational materials.
The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) has launched a pilot program of its TEXAS MicroMajor™ initiative with the Austin Independent School District to prepare local high school students for college-level courses, and ease the transition from high school to college. Students can choose to earn a MicroMajor – and college credits – in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Arts and Humanities, or Multidisciplinary Studies by taking dual-credit, dual-enrollment, or online courses. Participating high schools and UT Austin will provide advising and ongoing academic support to the students.