higher education

  • Sawyer probe continues

State and federal law enforcement agencies are checking the books at the Sawyer School for criminal activity following its abrupt closure just after Christmas. State education officials have recovered student records from the school and are planning to hold an event at CCRI next week to provide transcripts and counseling for students wondering how to proceed with their degrees.

The Sawyer School was apparently bleeding federal aid prior to its abrupt closure on New Year's Day. The Federal Department of Education says the for-profit school had gone from nearly $7.5 million in federal tuition dollars for the 2011-2012 academic year down to $2 million this year.

What happened? Well, one answer is declining enrollment. Sawyer reported 796 students in Rhode Island in the fall of 2011, but only 302 students when it shut down earlier this month.

Governor Lincoln Chafee has announced his picks for the new 11-member board of education, which replaces two former boards overseeing K-12 schools and colleges and universities.

The selections are mostly alums of the two boards that lawmakers dissolved in a June vote. As of December, Chafee had named only his choice to chair the board, leaving Rhode Island with no board in charge of education on January 1st.

Here are bios for the education board picks from a statehouse communiqué:

The FBI has joined the investigation of the now-defunct Sawyer School, a for-profit technical college that closed its doors on the first of the year.

State police say they're seeking to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing, or whether this is simply a case of a business going under.

Either way, Sawyer's closure left roughly 300 Rhode Island students and 1,200 students in Connecticut with partially completed certificates to become medical office assistants and other office administrators.

Rhode Island Public Radio's Political Analyst Scott MacKay answers my questions about the political machinations that left Rhode Island with no board for either K-12 public schools or colleges and universities at the start of 2013.

  • Who’s overseeing the state’s public schools, colleges and universities? The answer… it’s not clear, and it’s complicated.

The State Senate voted unanimously on Thursday to delay creation of a State Board of Education to replace the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Schools and the Board of Governors for Higher Education. The vote comes after those two boards dissolved on January 1st, leaving a question mark about who is in charge of the state’s K-12 public schools and three institutions of higher education.

The House and Senate are poised to approve a compromise today that would keep student loan rates from rising. Members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation tell RIPR they expect the measure to pass both the House and Senate.

The deal stops interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans from doubling. The current rate of 3.4 percent will increase to 6.8 percent on Sunday if the measure does not go through.

An estimated 40,000 Rhode Island students will face rising loan bills without action this week from Congress. Senate Democrats and Republicans are looking for a way to avoid the increase, but if they fail to reach a compromise, interest rates on subsidized federal Stafford loans will double on July 1st, rising from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

With a vote expected Thursday on the state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, here’s a look at some highlights for public schools and state colleges and universities.

Elementary and Secondary Education

Ruth Simmons comes to the end of her tenure at Brown. Photo from Brown University.

Outgoing Brown President Ruth Simmons is preparing her final address to the campus community. She’s slated to speak tomorrow at a baccalaureate ceremony as part of Brown’s graduation weekend.

Economics has surpassed the biological sciences as the most popular field at Brown University. Roughly 220 members of the undergraduate class of 2012 will receive economics degrees during commencement exercises this weekend.

Biological sciences are the second most popular degree with 200 concentrators, while international relations comes in a distant third.

Thousands of college and university students received degrees across the state this weekend, but across the state, nearly half of Rhode Island residents do not have a bachelor’s degree. Business analysts often cite this statistic as one of the factors behind Rhode Island’s slow economic recovery.

To find out what’s behind the number, I met four Rhode Islanders who started college but never finished their degrees. They explained what got in the way of college, and what their lives have been like since leaving school.