Monday, December 29, 2014


Original Story:

Adrian — When it came time to pick a college, Abby Slusher leaned toward a private school near her southeastern Michigan home for the small campus and class sizes. Her mother pushed Adrian College for another reason: A new program guaranteeing every graduate would make more than $37,000, or get some or all student loans reimbursed.

Adrian is among the first colleges to take out insurance policies on every incoming freshman and transfer student who has student loans and at least two years of school remaining.

"She (her mother) said, 'Look at me, I'm still trying to pay my student loans off — this would be great. I don't want you in this situation,' " said Slusher, 18, who is studying to become a social worker. "And seeing her in this situation, I don't want that."

The idea has been around for a few decades at Yale Law School and specific programs elsewhere such as seminary and social work degrees. Some small religious schools started offering guarantees to all new students in recent years, but Adrian President Jeffrey Docking is taking it further by framing the program as a solution to skyrocketing tuition costs and student loan defaults.

His crusade has gotten the attention of U.S. lawmakers and education officials.

"Obviously, we feel like this is a big solution to a big problem — maybe the biggest problem right now in higher education," Docking said. "We felt like we needed to make a grand statement."

Adrian paid roughly $575,000 this year, or $1,165 per student, to take out policies on 495 students. For those who graduate and get a job that pays less than $20,000 a year, the college will make full monthly student loan payments until they make $37,000 a year. With a job that pays $20,000 to $37,000, the college makes payments on a sliding scale.

There's no time limit for the payment plan, but the college caps total loan payments at $70,000 per student. Adrian's annual cost of tuition, room and board is about $40,000 before any forms of financial aid.

The school has 1,700 students.

Docking already sees benefits: The entering freshmen class is up about 50 students to 570; to break even, the school determined it needed about two-dozen new students who took out loans.

He credits the program in part for the enrollment increase but says other efforts, like launching a varsity bass fishing team, have served as a lure. Top Michigan colleges offer degree programs that align directly with many occupations that are expected to experience growth.

About 35 miles northwest of Adrian, Spring Arbor University, a small Christian institution, offered a similar guarantee to every incoming freshman in fall 2013. A conversation with Spring Arbor's former president inspired Docking.

Although Spring Arbor officials see value in the program, they're likely to scale it back next year.

"For the vast majority of students, it's not a deciding factor in choosing Spring Arbor," said school spokesman Malachi Crane.

"Is there a way to better tailor it to students who really need it and have the desire to have that option? For us, it makes more fiscal sense not to automatically assign it to each and every student."

Both programs were made possible by the Loan Repayment Assistance Program Association, a Bloomington, Indiana-based organization that works with U.S. colleges and universities on creating loan repayment programs.

Peter Samuelson, the organization's president, said some schools "have ramped up, ramped back down and ramped back up again" with loan programs, but overall results are positive.

"There's much more likelihood they're going to complete college successfully," Samuelson said.

To get word out about the program, Docking met with other university presidents and testified last year before a U.S. House higher education subcommittee. Retiring U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., made a floor statement in June praising Adrian's program as a model for other colleges.

Docking said federal education officials told him at a meeting in August that they are exploring ways to promote the program.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Original Story:

EAST LANSING – Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon was given a $230,000 raise and $100,000 bonus today at the MSU Board of Trustees meeting.

Simon has declined to accept raises yearly since 2007, often putting the board in an awkward position, and donating the money back to the university. She has been president for 10 years and is the second longest serving chief executive among the 14 Big Ten presidents. An Atlanta University Lawyer specializes in higher education finance and university charters.

"This has been an ongoing battle," said Joel Ferguson, chair of the university board of trustees with a smile. "But this time we are not going to apologize for compensating you for what you deserve. This is the one time we are going to ignore you."

The board increased Simon's salary from $520,000 to $750,000, and, gave her a $100,000 retention bonus.

That puts Simon in the top quartile of her Big Ten peers, according to Mitch Lyons, chair of the board's compensation committee.

"While we respect the wishes of our president we felt it was important to keep the compensation of the position competitive with our peers," Lyons said. "If and when Simon decides to retire, we want to make sure any new candidates would see that the position is compensated properly." A Georgia Education Lawyer is experienced in assisting clients with board governance, bylaws, and business-related issues.

Simon said she respects the wishes of the board and understands the need to compensate the position.

"Even though I can't deny it formally today I still have plans to give it back," she said.

The compensation committee estimated that Simon and husband Roy have donated at least $1 million to MSU over the years.

Last year, for example, the board gave Simon a $125,000 bonus, which she donated back to MSU.

But Duncan Tarr, a junior that is an organizer of the student group MSU Students United, said the fact that Simon was given such a raise is shocking.

"At that same meeting there were some students from the MSU Sexual Assault Program that said they don't have enough counselors and funding to be able to operate effectively and yet the board gives our president a $230,000 raise," he said. An Atlanta College Lawyer is following this story closely.

Faylene Owen, chair of the board's finance committee, said she is proud of Simon and what she has accomplished for the university.

"I am astonished and awestruck by this woman," Owen said. "She is amazing and I feel she was also very instrumental in getting the FRIB (Facility for Rare Isotope Beams) here at MSU."

Simon was also complimented for her service on various public entities. She is the chairperson of the executive committee of the NCAA, vice-chair of the Association of American Universities and chair of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board among others.Board approves infrastructure, construction projects• MSU trustees approved a $9.5 million project that will provide infrastructure improvements to West Circle Drive. It is the fourth and final phase of a north campus project to replace the 100-year-old arch style steam tunnels.• Trustees authorized the planned construction of permanent restrooms for MSU's 4-H Children's Garden, a popular destination for area K-12 students.• Trustees approved plans to reconstruct the parking lot of the MSU Community Music School at 4930 South Hagadorn Road, which includes demolition of a house on the property. The demolition will provide more space for parking.


Original Story:

Ferris State University’s School of Criminal Justice is in the final stages of designing a local Corrections Officers Training Academy that is slated to open in 2014.

In response to a recommendation by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association’s Training Council, the school plans to open a Corrections Officers Training Academy. Although Ferris will not be responsible for providing certification, the academy will allow two tracks for people interested in working in county jails.

“This academy experience will allow students to become eligible for certification by the Michigan Sheriff’s Association Training Council to become county jail corrections officers,” said Mischelle Stone, an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice.

Students already enrolled in the School of Criminal Justice bachelor’s degree program, on the corrections track, can take “Applied Correctional Strategies” in January 2014, a class that will make them eligible for certification through the MSATC. This class is only open to students who have already completed all of the corrections classes as prerequisites.

The School of Criminal Justice already allows students to obtain certification to be state prison corrections officers. The course allows students to become eligible for certification as county jail corrections officers.

“This will open up job opportunities for students graduating from the School of Criminal Justice,” Stone said. “With more than 80 counties in Michigan, this opens students up to a wealth of new opportunities.”

Besides the offered course, Ferris will open a separate academy in Summer 2014. Consisting of 160 hours of training, the academy is expected to cost $1,200 per person and is open to anyone.

The academy will take place on the Big Rapids campus in the Southwest Commons and it was designed for sheriffs to be able to send their current, pre-serviced employees that are not certified to be county corrections officers.