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Biden Rolls Out Consumer Protection for College Kids, + SAT Data as an Indicator of Opportunity Gaps

Biden Rolls Out Consumer Protection for College Students

Yesterday, the Biden administration announced a new plan to provide protections to college students using student loans. "We are raising the bar for accountability and making sure that when students invest in higher education, they get a solid return on that investment and a greater shot at the American dream,” says a press statement by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. CNBC's coverage explains that some of the administration's new rules will protect borrowers when their schools abruptly close—while others will beef up counseling to reduce the likelihood that student borrowers wind up with too much student debt relative to their likely earning potential.

As Inside Higher Ed reports, the Department's new regulations will also prevent colleges from withholding transcripts when students fall behind on their debts, if the student took courses that were federally funded.

It’s a topic that Connecticut’s Higher Education committee has already proactively tackled. In 2022, our affiliate, Education Reform Now CT, conducted research finding that 100% of institutions of higher education in this state explicitly used the withholding of student transcripts as a form of debt collection. The discriminatory practice disproportionately targets students from low-income families and perpetuates cycles of poverty. As covered in yesterday’s Trinity Tripod, Connecticut responded by passing legislation during the 2023 session—banning transcript holds for students seeking employment, and making Connecticut the ninth state in the nation to provide students with this kind of protection. Connecticut's progress was also covered by CT Public Radio earlier this month. “We as a state must make it easier for people to go back and finish their degrees,” the story quotes Amy Dowell as explaining. “Because if you have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a degree, and then you don't actually have a degree, you've really wasted a lot of resources.”

The Biden administration’s new regulations will go into effect in July 2024.

SAT Data as an Indicator of Opportunity Gaps

An interactive New York Times story this week explores the extent to which income disparities impact gaps in SAT performance. Across the country, "test takers whose families were in the top 20 percent of earners were seven times as likely as those in the bottom 20 to score at least 1300" on the test, the article says. The richest 1 percent were 13 times as likely as the poorest students to hit that score. The findings come from a study by Opportunity Insights at Harvard, which matched students' SAT and ACT scores with their parents' federal income tax records. The story posits that these gaps in testing outcomes result from vastly different educational opportunities afforded to children from rich and poor families. “In the last five decades,” the article explains, “as the country has become more unequal by income, the gap in children’s academic achievement, as measured by test scores throughout schooling, has widened.” Must read.

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