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News Brief for the week ending July 18, 2014

Montana University System News:

Montana Universities Sell Research as Spark for Economy and Jobs-Montana's University System launched a major campaign Monday to persuade the public and politicians that the state should pump millions of dollars into scientific research to boost the economy and create good jobs,” reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “Gov. Steve Bullock told more than 100 business, political and university leaders that Montana can either sit passively and hope that some future Bill Gates might appear and decide to make Montana the center of a new high-tech industry, as the Microsoft founder did in his hometown of Seattle, or else the state can take action and invest in research that will grow new industries and jobs.” Read More

MSU College of Nursing Makes History Offering First Doctoral Degree- Montana State University’s College of Nursing is making history this year as the first and only institution in the state of Montana to offer a doctoral degree in nursing. The first class of 24 students in the College of Nursing’s new doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree program began coursework last fall and is slated to graduate in spring 2016. Classes are taken primarily online, with teleconference and videoconference used to supplement content. In addition to 83 credits that are needed for graduation, the degree requires students to complete 1,125 hours in clinical settings. Students in the program choose from one of two options: family and individual nurse practitioner or psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner. Mirroring a national trend, the doctoral program will replace several master’s-level nursing programs that have been offered at MSU since 1957. Read More

Gallatin College to Train Machine Operators for Good-Paying Jobs- “Inside the Autopilot machine shop on Bozeman's north side, the air was buzzing Wednesday with the whirr of machines milling aluminum and stainless steel to make precision parts for fly-fishing reels,” reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “It's not always easy to find workers who know how to operate these high-tech, “computer numerically controlled” or CNC machines, which make everything from aerospace parts to medical devices and consumer products. Autopilot founder Matt McCune said his shop has been so shorthanded, he's had to come out from behind a desk, roll up his sleeves and do more machine work himself. Lately McCune has hired people from as far away as Wisconsin and Louisiana.” Read More

Record Year for UM Fundraising Means More Scholarships for Students- The University of Montana received unprecedented private support in fiscal year 2014, with donations totaling $53.7 million. This is a $16.3 million increase over the previous record, set in 2008, the last year of the “Invest in Discovery” campaign. Giving reached $37.4 million that year. A total of 13,598 individuals, businesses and foundations made gifts in fiscal year 2014, a jump from 12,775 donors in fiscal year 2013. “We are an innovative university focused on providing outstanding education, and our donors are responding in record amounts and record numbers to the direction we are headed,” UM President Royce Engstrom said. “I am proud of the work of our Foundation, our faculty, our staff and our students, and I deeply appreciate the dedication of our donors.” In July 2013, the University of Montana Foundation and UM set out to raise an extra $45 million for students over a three-year period. After one year, the “Investing in Student Success” initiative has received $22 million in support. Most of the gifts have been directed by donors to endowed scholarships and fellowships. More than $1 million in additional money will be available for scholarships next year. The Foundation provided more than $4 million in scholarship support to UM in fiscal year 2014. This funded more than 2,700 scholarships to students. In the 2014-15 academic year, donations to the Foundation will provide more than $5.2 million to support scholarships at the University.  Read More

National News:

Improving College Accessibility with a Simple Reform- Currently, college applicants must wait to apply for federal financial aid until the second semester of their senior year in high school. That's because the application requires income data from the prior calendar year. The result is that millions of college applicants don't know how much they will have to pay until just before they have to make their decision about which school to attend. But what if students could apply for financial aid in the beginning of their senior year—using their family's tax information from one calendar year earlier? This would allow applicants—particularly those who plan to attend a public college or university—to learn much more about their financial-aid packages far sooner than they currently do. Read More

Illinois Sues 2 Student-Loan Debt-Relief Firms- The attorney general of Illinois filed lawsuits on Monday against two student-loan debt-relief companies, accusing them of charging borrowers large fees to enroll them in free government programs. According to the complaints, the companies—First American Tax Defense LLC and Broadsword Student Advantage LLC—duped struggling borrowers into paying as much as $1,200 for "bogus services" and for help in applying for free federal repayment plans, such as loan consolidation. The lawsuits are the first state action against the growing debt-relief industry for student borrowers and could serve as precedent for lawsuits by other states. Already this year, a watchdog group established by New York’s governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, has sent subpoenas to 13 such companies as part of an investigation into misleading advertising and improper fees. Attorneys general in Arkansas and Minnesota have issued warnings about such businesses. Read More

Report Faults Education Dept.'s Oversight of Debt-Collection Firms It Hires- An audit report released on Monday criticizes the U.S. Department of Education’s handling of borrower complaints lodged against private companies that help the department collect on defaulted federal student loans. The report, by the department’s Office of Inspector General, says the agency has not effectively monitored borrowers’ complaints and ensured that corrective actions are taken, that it has been lax in its oversight of the companies, and that it has failed to penalize companies for continued bad behavior. In its response to the audit, the Office of Federal Student Aid, the division of the department that oversees the companies, concurred with most of the report’s recommendations for reform, saying corrective policies had been and would continue to be instituted. Read More

House Starts In On HEA- The U.S. House education committee on Thursday advanced a package of legislation that would boost federal support of competency-based education, overhaul how cost information and other data is provided to prospective college students, and require more counseling for federal student loan borrowers. Lawmakers approved three bills that are part of House Republicans’ piecemeal approach to rewriting the Higher Education Act, which expires at the end of this year but isn't likely to be reauthorized by then .The measures all garnered bipartisan support Thursday, but many Democrats on the committee said they were concerned the bills did not go far enough in directly addressing the rising price of college and providing student loan borrowers with needed consumer protections. Read More


Andrea Opitz/Outreach Coordinator
406.444.0681

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