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News Brief for the week ending July 25, 2014

Montana University System News:

Colleges Seek to Recruit More Native American Students- “Elijah Watson knows he wants to go to college. He also knows that it will be difficult to leave home on the Navajo reservation if he does,” reports the Great Falls Tribune. “The 17-year-old was reminded of the tough decision he'll face next year when he participated in a weeklong celebration in March of his cousin's Kinaalda, a hallowed Navajo ceremony marking a girl's transition into womanhood.  "I'm afraid because it's really hard to leave my family," he said, noting that college would mean he'd be away from taking part in the same rite for his little sister and participating in other important tribal ceremonies. To reach students like Watson with higher education aspirations, a growing number of universities are offering programs to recruit and prepare Native American students for a transition to college life that can bring on a wrenching emotional conflict as they straddle two worlds.” Read More

MSU Abuzz over Family of Owls Perching on Campus Landmark- “Montana State University is home to more than just students and professors this summer: A trio of owls has taken up residence near the steepled Montana Hall at the center of campus,” reports the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “The owl family is causing quite a stir on campus,” MSU spokeswoman Carol Schmidt said. “We have had owls living around Centennial Mall, Leon Johnson, Linfield Halls for many years. But to my knowledge, they have never perched on Montana Hall the way they have this year.” Read More

Three UM Faculty Members Listed Among ‘The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds’- This is the first question in a recent publication by Thomson Reuters, titled “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds.” Its authors go on to answer their own question by analyzing data to determine which researches have produced work that is most frequently acknowledged by peers. Three University of Montana faculty members are lauded in the publication for publishing the greatest number of highly cited papers between 2002 and 2012. Highly cited papers rank in the top 1 percent by citations for their field and year of publication. The publication lists 3,200 people of influence in the sciences and social sciences. According to the report, “They are people who are on the cutting edge of their fields. They are performing and publishing work that their peers recognize as vital to the advancement of their science.” UM Regents Professor of Ecology Steven Running is listed in the Geosciences section and Associate Professor of Conservation Ecology Gordon Luikart and biology Professor Ragan Callaway are listed in the Environment/Ecology section. They are the only researchers from Montana on the list. Read More

MSUB Appoints New Vice Chancellor- “Montana State University Billings announced on Thursday that Joseph Oravecz, dean of student affairs at the University of Nebraska Kearny, will be its next vice chancellor for student affairs,” reports the Billings Gazette.  “I’m equally humbled, excited and thrilled to be able to join MSUB in this exciting time of transition,” he said. “The position has been vacant since January, when Stacy Klippenstein left to become president of Miles Community College in Miles City, and Thursday’s announcement marks one of the first official acts by recently hired Chancellor Mark Nook. “Joe brings over 25 years of higher education experience to MSU Billings,” Nook said. “His expertise and energy will make an immediate impact on our campus as we look to graduate more students from our institution over the next several years.”  Oravecz’s duties at MSUB will include overseeing the student affairs division, related matters and enrollment.”  Read More

National News:

U.S. House Votes to Change College Tax Breaks, Boost Student Loan Counseling- The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved an overhaul of higher education tax breaks and passed legislation changing how federal student loan counseling works. The tax measure, which is part of the House Republicans' overall effort to make changes to the tax code, contains some provisions that colleges and universities strongly support. For instance, the bill makes permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, something that higher education advocates have pushed for since it was created as part of the 2009 economic stimulus law. It would also change how the tax credit is calculated to more fully account for Pell Grant recipients. Currently, the value of a Pell Grant counts against a student as he or she calculates the tuition and expenses that count toward the tax break. The legislation would exempt a Pell Grant from that calculation, allowing more low-income students to benefit from the AOTC. Read More

How Community Colleges Can Manage Student-Loan Defaults- The report is based on a study of nine community colleges representing different geographic locations, student-body sizes, and academic offerings. It examines predictors of loan default and strategies colleges use to prevent it. The report also includes policy recommendations. Read More

At 50, Upward Bound Still Opens Pathway to College- Nervous but determined, the 15-year-old boy walked into a conference room in Columbus, Ohio, for a fateful interview. If it went well, perhaps he’d have a chance to be the first member of his impoverished family to attend college. That was 34 years ago, but Wil Haygood ― the renowned journalist and author whose writing inspired the film The Butler ― says he remembers it “like it was yesterday.” “I knew in my heart and soul that this was a monumental moment for little Wil Haygood,” he recalled. At stake was a place in Upward Bound, founded as an experimental program in 1964 as part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, with a goal of helping students from low-income families get a college education. Read More

Record Student-Loan Debt Prompts Treasury Push to Stem Defaults- The U.S. Treasury, which finances more than 90 percent of new student loans, is exploring ways to make repayment more affordable as defaults by almost 7 million Americans and other strapped borrowers restrain economic growth. Leading the effort is Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, who became the department’s No. 2 official in March after more than three years as a Federal Reserve governor. As higher-education debt swells to a record $1.2 trillion, Raskin, 53, is alert to parallels to the mortgage crisis. Back then, “we would see signs on telephones polls with 1-800 numbers urging homeowners to call to stop foreclosures. People generally got into more trouble when they used those services,” she said in an interview. Driving past the same telephone poles recently, she saw signs “urging people to call a 1-800 number for helping paying student loans.” Read More

Fafsa Fix Will Mean Less Aid for Many- The U.S. Education Department will automatically reprocess the student-aid applications of tens of thousands of applicants who inadvertently overreported their income this year, costing many of the applicants their Pell Grants, the department has announced. The fixes, which were scheduled to be made on Monday evening, focus on roughly 200,000 applicants who entered cents into the Income Earned From Work field in the online 2014-15 Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa, instead of rounding their income to the nearest whole dollar. In such cases, the new system ignored the decimal point, converting an earned income of $5,000.19, for example, into $500,019. Read More

Andrea Opitz/Outreach Coordinator

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