New federal guidelines affect community colleges

By: Joshua Bowling

New policies which affect community colleges, as well as other institutions, were unveiled by the Obama administration earlier this year.

Mesa Community College announced on Sept. 23 that they changed and updated disclaimers and regulations required by the federal government on print and digital media, as well as social media sites.

These programs are being put in place by the federal government in order to address concerns regarding student loan debt.

The Department of Education proposed a three-pronged framework for this new policy. Certification requirements, public disclosures, and accountability metrics make up this new framework.

With this new policy, institutions are required to inform students of average debt levels, earnings, loan repayment and default rates, and completion and default rates.

Greg Pratt, an economics professor at MCC, said that these new policies will only indirectly impact the classroom.

This increase in transparency is a positive, Pratt said. Completion and withdrawal rates have always been available, but students are better equipped to make good decisions now that the location of this data is clearly given to students, Pratt said.

The impact of these new policies goes beyond the students, according to Pratt. Other stakeholders, such as community residents, taxpayers, local businesses, and policy makers, would also be interested in this information.

With respect to the loan default rates, Pratt said that this will prove interesting to those who want to know where Mesa Community College stacks up. Comparing rates from MCC against rates from four-year institutions, trade schools, and the work force could tell the student a great deal about their institution.

These policies are mostly affecting for-profit institutions, as well as certificate programs at public and non-private institutions, such as community colleges.

According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, for-profit institutions are owned and operated by businesses. These colleges are designed for non-traditional students, as they offer nearby campuses, and structured coursework that allows students to quickly start and stop classes. University of Phoenix is one such institution.

Certificates are offered at schools such as MCC. They typically require less credits than an associate degree does. The Certificate of Completion in Administrative Professional at MCC, for example, requires 18 credits, whereas a typical associate degree requires about 60 credits.

These programs are not designed to transfer to a university, rather, they are made for the student to go right into the workforce after completion.

These new policies will affect students pursuing their certificate because they are focused on preparing the student for the workforce. Armed with this knowledge, the Department of Education will seek to give students up-to-date statistics about the world outside the classroom.

Students are receiving these new policies well. Eishwe Aung, a student at MCC, said she thinks it is a good change for colleges. These changes will prove useful to most students after they graduate college, Aung said.

The productivity of these new policies will be demonstrated in the near future. Only time will tell if they have the effect which the Department of Education wants.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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