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Education Department To Fix Troubled Grant Program; Students To Get Loan Forgiveness

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the White House in August.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the White House in August.

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

The Education Department hatches plan to fix troubled TEACH grant

The Education Department plans to erase debt for thousands of teachers whose TEACH grants were converted to loans, after an almost year-long NPR investigation into the troubled federal program.


For nearly 10 years, the TEACH grant has helped cover tuition for teachers-in-training — as long as they agree to teach a high-need subject, like science or math, at a school that serves low-income families. But a report by the Education Department published earlier this year showed that nearly 12,000 educators in the program never got that money. These grants were turned to loans, with interest, due to small mistakes on the paperwork teachers filled out each year to prove that they fulfilled their end of the bargain.

Now these teachers are given a second chance. As long as they meet the major requirements of the program and provide proof, the Department will likely convert the loans back to grants and refund any past payments.

Former for-profit college students to be paid back

The Education Department is forgiving around $150 million to students defrauded by for-profit colleges.

Students who attended schools that closed between November 2013 and December 2018, including Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, will have their loans forgiven or be reimbursed for payments under a set of federal rules known as "borrower defense." The rules were put into place in 2016, under the Obama administration, in an effort to regulate for-profit colleges.


Under Betsy DeVos, the Education Department has tried to delay these regulations from going into effect. In November, the Education Secretary was sued for those delays.

The news comes after the closing of yet another for-profit college chain. Education Corporation for America announced the shutdown of its 75 campuses earlier this month.

Federal report questions student banking practices

A report released last week by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau revealed that Wells Fargo bank charged students high fees for using debit cards, student accounts and other services.

The report was produced under the leadership of Seth Frotman, the CFPB's former student loan watchdog, who resigned earlier this year. Frotman's scathing resignation letter to then-CFPB head Mick Mulvaney accused the Bureau's leadership of suppressing a report that found that "the nation's largest banks were ripping off students on campuses across the country and saddling them with legally dubious account fees."

For months, the CFPB kept the report away from the public eye, until Politico obtained it through a Freedom of Information request.

Kentucky Supreme Court rules against pension bill that caused teacher protests

On Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down a pension bill that prompted thousands of teachers to protest in Frankfort earlier this year. The court upheld a decision from a circuit court judge, ruling that lawmakers rushed the bill and violated the correct legislative process. The final version of the bill was rushed through Kentucky's legislature in one evening in March.

The proposal changed how new workers, including teachers, could use sick days toward retirement, and how future teachers would have received pension benefits.

Nation's first charter school teacher strike comes to an end

Hundreds of striking charter school teachers returned back to work on Monday after reaching a tentative agreement with Acero schools in Chicago. The protest, causing the network of 15 charter schools to cancel four days of class, earned teachers better pay and smaller class sizes. The tentative agreement also spells out sanctuary protections for the schools, which serve a majority Latino student body.

The nation's first charter school teacher strike follows similar protests across the country earlier this year against low pay and high class sizes.

New Study: Later school start times improve academic performance

Later school start times can help students get more sleep and ultimately boost their grades, according to a new study from the University of Washington.

In the fall of 2016, Seattle middle and high schools pushed first period from 7:50 to 8:45 a.m. That change gave students an extra 34 minutes of sleep, on average.

At the end of the school year, students who got more shut eye earned higher marks, scoring 4.5 percent higher on final exams than students did the year before.

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