As 2015 comes to a close, it’s becoming clear that certain education stories will heat up over the next year. From a revamped SAT exam to a Supreme Court case that may change college admissions, these are the big education stories to watch.
1. The crumbling for-profit college industry
In April of this past year, Corinthian Colleges, the second largest for-profit college system in the US, abruptly announced it was shutting its doors for good. That decision followed a $30 million fine from the
Department of Education (ED), which claimed Corinthian misrepresented the kinds of jobs its graduates could get.
That was not an isolated event. The entire for-profit industry has come under fire for its alleged focus on signing up students and depositing their federal financial aid checks rather than providing a quality education.
The largest for-profit college system, University of Phoenix, was suspended from recruiting military students
by the Department of Defence (DoD) in October, which was notable as it pulls in more money than any other US college, public or private, from military students.
And another for-profit college powerhouse, Education Management Corporation (EDMC), payed $95.5 million in November to settle a case alleging it falsely obtained federal and state education funds.
The nearly $100 million settlement was the largest false claims settlement with a for-profit educational institute in history.
It’s not yet evident whether more for-profit colleges will be handed massive fines by the federal government or have to close as a result of financial difficulty, making it a story to watch out for in the coming year.
2. Affirmative action in the Supreme Court
In December, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case on affirmative action that could have a far-reaching impact on the ability of universities around the nation to consider race in admissions.
Fisher v. University of Texas (UT) will determine whether it’s constitutional for the University of Texas at Austin to consider race as one factor in its admission policy.
The plaintiff — a white woman named Abigail Fisher who was denied admission to the Texas’ flagship public university in 2008 — claims her race played a factor in her rejection, and that UT accepted less qualified nonwhite students.
As the case unfolds in 2016, the future of affirmative action hangs in the balance.
3. Malia Obama’s college choice
Malia Obama toured a number of colleges around the US in 2015, leading to rampant speculation over her eventual college choice.
She toured six of the eight Ivy League Schools — Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale — as well as Barnard, the University of California at Berkeley, New York University, Stanford, Tufts, and Wesleyan, according to The New York Times.
While she has yet to announce if she’s been accepted to any school early decision, or if she favours one school over others, the most popular theory is that she will end up at NYU, based on the fact that the president said she is interested in majoring in film studies. NYU
‘s Tisch School of the Arts is known to be one of the top film schools in the US.
And this summer, she had an internship in New York City on the set of HBO’s “Girls” and proved herself to fit right into the scene, according to the New York Post.
But perhaps she will decide to go to her mother’s alma mater, Princeton, or her father’s undergraduate choice, Columbia. We don’t yet know and will likely have to wait until the spring to find out.
4. The future of Common Core
The past year saw even bolder rhetoric against the Common Core State Standards, the controversial set of nationwide education standards that almost all 50 states signed into law.
Following near universal praise and adoption of the standards in 2010, there has since been equally swift backlash against the standards on both sides of the aisle. Former Republican proponents of the Common Core, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have flipped their stance and condemned the standards.
And in New York State, parents banded together in 2015 to boycott the standardised tests linked to the Common Core, and succeeded in a 20% opt-out rate. That has given pause to once staunch advocates of the Common Core, like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Vitriol for the Common Core has become so high that some states have even rebranded the standards.
2016 will be a significant year to see if the standards survive.
5. A brand-new SAT
The College Board, the company that owns and publishes the SAT, is changing the SAT in 2016. Starting in the spring, the new version of the SAT will revert back to scoring out of 1600, rather than 2400 as is the case for the current exam, and there will be four, rather than the current five, answer choices in the new version.
Some experts say the exam will be easier than before, as it will do away with obscure vocabulary and provide more time to answer the questions.
Over the next year, the new test will face additional scrutiny on the strength, or weakness, over whether it properly tests the aptitude of America’s high school students.
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