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Puerto Rican Students, New Student Debt Numbers, College Application Tips And Tools

Karlian Mercado, 7, rests on the rubble that remains of her family's home after Hurricane Maria passed through the area of Hayales de Coamo, Puerto Rico.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
Karlian Mercado, 7, rests on the rubble that remains of her family's home after Hurricane Maria passed through the area of Hayales de Coamo, Puerto Rico.

There's lots of new info this week for those thinking about college, plus many other education topics in our weekly roundup.

Schools on the mainland brace for Puerto Rican students

There is no date to reopen schools in the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. Education Week reports that relief efforts are currently focused on meeting the basic needs of children and families.

Schools in New York City, Miami, Orlando and other places with sizable Puerto Rican populations are preparing to receivean influx of students. We reported that in Orange County, Fla., the district plans to waive documents necessary for enrollment to ensure students have an easier transition. And to make it easier for families to receive such additional services as counseling and food, students will be registered and coded into the district's system automatically.

But commercial flights off the island are still few and far between.

College Scorecard update

This week the Department of Education let fly a lot of new data.

On Thursday, the College Scorecard, an online tool meant to help families choose a college based on indicators like cost, repayment and graduation rates, got a big update. New features include a side-by-side comparison tool. And, there is a personalized cost tool: If you put in your family income, the site can estimate how much the college will cost. The data is downloadable for scholars as well as other sites that use the information. For example, when you search the name of a college on Google, College Scorecard data appears in the official "information box" on the right-hand side.

Oct. 1 is the date to begin applying for college student aid

The is available starting Oct. 1 for those who need help paying for college in the 2018-2019 school year. This is the second year that the form has been available in October, rather than four months later in January, giving students more time to complete it.

The IRS data retrieval tool will be back, too. This allows students to more easily import their family income information to fill out the FAFSA. The tool had been taken down amid privacy concerns.

New data on student loan repayment

Also this week, the department reported three-year default rates for student loans.
The newest data show that, of students who entered repayment in 2014, 11.5 percent have defaulted. That's up a tick from the 2013 data.

Colleges with extremely high default rates are supposed to face sanctions from the federal government. But, just six colleges run afoul of the current rules. One potential reason noted by Robert Kelchen, a higher education scholar at Seton Hall University, is that because of income-based repayment plans, more students may be able to keep out of default even if they can't afford to pay back their loans.

Students who use tax-credit scholarships in Florida are more likely to attend college

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Trump have highlighted the wide range of school choice options available in Florida (and our reporting hashighlighted their highlighting). A new study by the Urban Institute looked at long-term outcomes for students who used Florida's tax-credit scholarship to attend a private school at some point during their K-12 career. The students were matched with other students of similar demographics who didn't use the program.

The report found that "Participation in the FTC program increased college enrollment rates by 6 percentage points, or about 15 percent." The program did not increase college completion, however.

Poor parents are working harder, but students still start school behind

A newanalysis from the Economic Policy Institute looks at academic achievement for the top and bottom 20 percent of Americans in terms of income and education. On the upside, lower-income parents in 2010 reported having more books at home, reading to their children more and having higher expectations for their education. On the negative side, there has been no change in the class-based achievement gap for kindergartners between 1998 and 2010.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anya Kamenetz is an education correspondent at NPR. She joined NPR in 2014, working as part of a new initiative to coordinate on-air and online coverage of learning. Since then the NPR Ed team has won a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Innovation, and a 2015 National Award for Education Reporting for the multimedia national collaboration, the Grad Rates project.