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Friday, December 20, 2013

School Construction and Renovation: A Review of Federal Programs - R41142

Cassandria Dortch
Analyst in Education Policy

By some measures, the United States spent over $55.4 billion on new construction, additions, and alterations in public elementary and secondary schools and public and private postsecondary institutions in 2011. Although state and local governments are traditionally responsible for the majority of facilities in public K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions, the federal government also provides some direct and indirect support for school infrastructure. Facilities at private institutions are funded primarily by donations, tuition, private foundations, endowments, and governments. The largest federal contributions are indirect—the forgone revenue attributable to the exemption of interest on state and local governmental bonds used for school construction, modernization, renovation, and repair; and other tax credits.

Federal direct support for school infrastructure is provided through loans and grants to K-12 schools serving certain populations or K-12 schools with specific needs. There are grant programs for schools with a high population of students who are Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Indians, children of military parents, individuals with disabilities, or deaf. Funding is also available to schools affected by natural disasters or located in rural areas. And there are programs to encourage the development of charter schools. Although the Department of Education administers several of the grant programs funding facilities at elementary and secondary schools, other agencies, such as the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense, also administer programs.

At the postsecondary level, there are several programs to support institutions of higher education that serve large low-income or minority populations and to support research facilities. The allowable uses of funds in the programs authorized primarily by Titles III and V of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, variously include construction, maintenance, renovation, and improvement of instructional facilities and acquisition of land on which to construct instructional facilities. There are programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Department of Commerce, that support postsecondary research facilities, facility renovations at minority-serving postsecondary institutions, telecommunications, disaster relief at postsecondary institutions, and other uses.

This report provides a short description of federal allowances and programs that provide support for the construction or renovation of educational facilities. The allowances and programs are organized by the agency that administers or regulates the program. Appropriations and budget authorities are included for FY2012 and FY2013. These programs exist in various forms and responsibility for their administration is spread across many agencies; thus, the list of programs presented should not be considered a fully exhaustive list of all federally funded programs that support school facilities and infrastructure at least in part.

Date of Report: December 6, 2013
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: R41142
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act: (FERPA) A Legal Overview - RS22341

Jody Feder
Legislative Attorney

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 guarantees parental access to student education records, while limiting the disclosure of those records to third parties. The act, sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment, was designed to address parents’ growing concerns over privacy and the belief that parents should have the right to learn about the information schools were using to make decisions concerning their children.

No substantial legislative changes have been made to FERPA since 2001, but in 2011, the Department of Education (ED) issued controversial new regulations that, among other things, permit educational agencies and institutions to disclose personally identifiable information to third parties for purposes of conducting audits or evaluations of federal- or state-supported education programs. These regulations are discussed below, as is a recently dismissed lawsuit challenging ED’s new rules.

Date of Report: November 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RS22341
Price: $19.95

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Postsecondary Education Issues in the 113th Congress

David P. Smole
Coordinator, Specialist in Education Policy

The 113
th Congress may face an array of policy issues affecting postsecondary education. Many of these postsecondary education issues may be considered as part of efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). However, postsecondary education issues also may emerge as part of other legislative efforts such as comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), reform of the federal tax code, or the annual appropriations process.

This report identifies and briefly examines several postsecondary education policy issue areas that may be of general interest. For each of these broader issue areas, the report provides a brief background summary and an introduction to and discussion of various aspects of the issue. Varied policy options are also identified for further consideration. The following postsecondary education issue areas are examined in this report. 

College costs and prices.
What policy approaches are available that may help address concerns about ongoing increases in postsecondary education costs and the escalating prices colleges charge for tuition and fees? 

The Federal Pell Grant program.
What options might be considered to help ensure sustained funding for the Pell Grant program at current or other levels deemed to be adequate? Should changes be made to Pell Grant eligibility or award criteria to contain costs or otherwise adjust the targeting of aid? 

Federal student loans.
Are student loan terms and conditions and loan subsidy rates well aligned with program aims? Should policy options be considered that would affect the availability of loans, borrowing limits, interest rates, repayment relief, or the role of institutions of higher education in student borrowing? 

Student loans and personal bankruptcy.
Should all student loans continue to be excepted from discharge in bankruptcy, except in cases of undue hardship? What should constitute “undue hardship”? 

Noncitizens and federal student aid
. Should beneficiaries of comprehensive immigration reform legislation be granted eligibility to participate in HEA federal student aid programs? 

Postsecondary education tax benefits.
Are federal postsecondary education tax benefits appropriately targeted and effective in achieving their intended purposes? How do these benefits interact with traditional federal student aid? 

Institutional quality.
Should new institutional or programmatic eligibility requirements be considered to help ensure that recipients of federal student aid are obtaining a quality education from the institutions they attend? What would be appropriate standards for measuring or assessing institutional accountability for educational or student outcomes? 

College completion.
Are students completing college at desirable rates? Should new approaches be considered to further the aim of increasing college completion? 

Campus safety.
How might efforts to promote safety on college campuses be best supported while balancing the reporting and disclosure of campus safety information with the protection of student privacy?

Date of Report: November 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R43302
Price: $29.95

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