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New Data About Student Loan Borrowers; DeVos Changes Obama-era Guidance

Maria Fabrizio for NPR

Welcome to the latest installment of our education news roundup. This week: student loans, HBCUs, federal education policy and more:

The Department of Education scolds an online university

Western Governors University was ineligible for federal student aid and may have to return more than $700 million, according to an audit by the U.S. Education Department's oversight branch.

The university, whose curriculum emphasizes competency-based education, did not qualify for aid because there wasn't enough interaction between faculty and students, the audit says. In other words, the department says, Western Governors was operating more like a correspondence school than a university.

The audit raises questions about the future of the movement toward competency-based educationas a whole.

A student loan watchdog is shut out

Since 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has worked with the Education Department to enforce student loan regulations. But this week, the department announced that the partnership will end.

The news came the same week the CFPB reached a settlement with the National Collegiate Student Loan Trust, which the bureau had accused of collecting debts it didn't own.

Nationwide, roughly 44 million student borrowers owe more than $1 trillion dollars in educational loans.

New demographic data about student borrowers

Seven newly released reports offer a look at student aid recipients — by age, geographic location and school type:

  • Five percent of student borrowers carry more than $100,000 in federal student loans, while 57 percent of borrowers owe less than $20,000.
  • Student loan recipients living in Washington, D.C., have, on average, the highest student loan balance in the country, roughly $50,000.
  • More than a quarter of a million borrowers — 1.6 percent of all student loan recipients — defaulted on their loans in fiscal year 2017.
  • Forty-two percent of outstanding student loans are from public colleges and universities, 32 percent from private schools and the remainder from proprietary and foreign institutions.
  • HBCU leaders meet in Washington

    Many historically black colleges and universities have struggled in recent years because of cuts in federal funding. On Monday, some leaders from these schools met in Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress and the White House. But most HBCU presidents skipped the meeting altogether, as did President Trump.

    This came a day after Trump picked Johnathan Holifield to lead a White House advisory board that will work with HBCUs. Holifield, a tech entrepreneur and former NFL player, did not go to a historically black college or university.

    States submit new federal education plans

    The final deadline for states to submit their plans under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act was this week. The law requires states to outline how they'll assess public schools and educate students.

    DeVos withdraws Obama-era guidance on campus sexual assault

    And finally, the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has withdrawn the Obama-era guidance on how colleges investigate allegations of sexual assault.DeVos has previously said that the old guidance did not grant due process for people accused of sexual assault and that it put too much pressure on school administrators. The Education Department will seek public comment before implementing a new policy.

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    Carl Boisrond