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News Brief for the week ending April 4, 2014

Montana University System News:

Lt. Gov. McLean Revisits Arlee School Where Her Career Began-“The lieutenant governor of Montana ran, screaming, across a schoolyard Thursday morning ... and she didn’t fare too poorly for a 43-year-old wearing what were most certainly not running shoes, competing against a batch of rambunctious third-graders,” reports the Missoulian. “Angela McLean, appointed to her post less than two months ago by Gov. Steve Bullock, handed out high-fives to the seven Arlee students who beat her, the six she bested, and the one she tied. Run-and-scream, a traditional Native American children’s game, has simpler rules than the ones politicians normally play by – you run, screaming at the top of your lungs, until you run out of breath. That’s where you stop. It’s a noisy dash, and the person who makes it the farthest, naturally, wins. McLean, who initially was just going to observe run-and-scream, didn’t hesitate when she was invited to line up with the children. Of course, she’s used to schools and students, having spent 20 years as a classroom teacher before Bullock tabbed her to replace John Walsh, after the governor appointed Lt. Gov. Walsh to the United States Senate to replace Max Baucus.” Read More

Albrecht to Serve As Guide For 2 Newcomers on Board of Regents- “When Fran Albrecht attended her first Board of Regents meeting last year, the new regent spent much of the session listening and asking questions, turning to the board’s senior members for advice,” reports the Missoulian. “Six months later, Albrecht will play the role of adviser as Bill Johnstone and Martha Sheehy take their seats. With the new appointees in place, the May meeting will mark the first in months the board will convene at full strength, ending a changing-of-the-guard that began nearly a year ago.” “I’ve reached out to both of the new regents to welcome them, and offer them any assistance I can provide,” said Albrecht, who was appointed last September after the Legislature failed to confirm Pat Williams to the board. “It does take a lot of time to really understand the complexity of the entire university system.” Read More

FVCC Looking At Expanding Programs- Flathead Valley Community College is looking to expand degree opportunities for its students. There are now 4,000 students who attend FVCC each year, with most of those students coming from the Flathead Valley. Some 82% of those attending the college are degree seeking students. They'll soon have a chance to have some expanded degree options at the college. There is already an opportunity for Flathead Valley Community College students to obtain a four-year degree with partnerships with four-year colleges. But the school is looking at expanding and meeting the needs of their students by allowing them to complete four-year degrees. "We did a needs assessment survey of the community and of our students, and the top programs that came up were elementary and secondary education, business, accounting, and information technologies. So those are the programs we're going to begin with looking for partnerships to offer here," FVCC President Jane Karas explained. Read More

UM Works to Create Degree Plans for Vets, Revitalize Student Group- The University of Montana is working to bolster veteran support and services on campus, including launching an effort to help students create degree plans and revitalizing the UM chapter of Student Veterans of America. Several programs at UM have increased their advising services over the past few years with great success. Now, through the direction of the Undergraduate Advising Center, more than 40 advisers across campus will work with students receiving Veterans Affairs Education Benefits. This will help ensure that the veterans or children and spouses of vets have a declared major and a plan to keep on track with their degree. The VA now requires students to have a degree plan if they receive the Education Benefit, and with supportive advising, students who may come to the University with a variety of skills and transfer credits based on their military experience can plot the best way to get the most from their education. UM VETS Office Director Shawn Grove said this also will help demonstrate what many other programs on campus are discovering: Strong advising is a boon to students. “One of the good things about the initiatives with the VA plan is we can hopefully prove that advising does help students,” Grove said. And for those students who now must create a degree plan but maybe don’t know what they want to pursue, the VETS Office is working with the Office of Career Services to help students access career and interest evaluations to help them identify fields that may appeal to them and give them a good idea of career paths, salary expectations and work environments. Read More

National News:

Stopping Predatory Student Loans Requires a Law to Force Better Disclosure, Sen. Sherrod Brown Says- Getting into college or developing a career plan after high school can be hard.  But then comes the challenge of staying out of crippling student-loan debt. Your lender may not always have that same goal in mind, warned U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown today as he promoted an idea he says many students can use right about now. Late March and April are when many students learn whether they have been accepted to the colleges of their choice or decide they'd rather go to a technical or career school, and when they start making decisions about how to pay, including taking out loans.
What students know – and don't know – about their school loans could cost them dearly later, ruining their credit and even making it hard to find a job. Brown has signed on as a co-sponsor of a Democratic bill that would require much fuller disclosure of the loan terms and the options, some of them unknown to students when they first borrow. Read More

New Federal Oversight Proposed for For-Profit Colleges- Three Congressional lawmakers are pushing for a new federal committee that would coordinate the government’s oversight of for-profit colleges. Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Tom Harkin of Iowa, both Democrats, plan to introduce legislation Thursday that would create a committee comprising representatives from nine federal agencies that oversee for-profit colleges. Read More

More Financial Aid + Less Need to Work = More STEM Graduates?- Students who major in the sciences often spend more time in out-of-class work—in labs or field research—than other students do. That means less time to earn money while in college, and sometimes it’s the reason financially needy students switch out of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, the STEM fields. Would an extra $1,000 a year in financial aid help some of those STEM-inclined students stick with it? That’s the essence of a new study getting under way next fall at 11 Wisconsin colleges. With $4-million from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, which will make possible the extra $1,000 a year, and a $1.5-million grant from the National Science Foundation, Sara Goldrick-Rab will study the effects of the extra aid by comparing the academic paths of 1,000 students who will get the money with 1,000 others who won’t. Read More

Grants vs. Loans- Much of the debate about encouraging college completion has focused on academic requirements, advising or the curriculum. Many experts commonly say that completion rates are about much more than money. But a study released here Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association suggests that money, and different kinds of money, matter a lot in the graduation of low-income students. Specifically, the study found a direct positive relationship between government aid and the graduation rates of low-income students from four-year colleges. And the study found a negative relationship between obtaining unsubsidized student loans and graduation rates. Ray Franke, the author, is an assistant professor of education at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and he used two databases from the National Center for Education Statistics to track low-income students, and to control for various experiences. Read More

Andrea Opitz/Outreach Coordinator

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