AJC On Campus: COVID-19 relief, int’l student plans under microscope

With the fall semester set to begin in just a few weeks, federal officials and lawmakers are making important decisions to deal with the coronavirus pandemic that will impact Georgia’s colleges and universities.

We take a look at some of what’s happening along those lines in the nation’s capital in the latest edition of AJC On Campus.

Congressional debate heats up on student loans

Congressional leaders and education advocates are debating dueling proposals to help the nation’s k-12 schools and colleges get through the upcoming school year. Part of the debate involves college student loans. Senate Republicans recently introduced the HEALS Act, which includes a 10% cap on student loan payments in some cases. The GOP plan would also suspend loan payments based on certain income levels. The Democrat-led HEROES Act, passed by the House in May, would extend a suspension of student loan repayment requirements for another 12 months. Stay tuned.

International students face challenges

The Trump administration last week announced a plan to bar international students from the U.S. this fall if they haven’t studied here before and plan to take all of their classes online. The policy is one of many issues facing these students as the fall semester nears. Here’s our report on the potential barriers.

Students push for changes to federal sexual misconduct investigation rules

A last-minute effort is underway in Georgia to change impending federal guidelines concerning sexual misconduct investigations. A Change.org petition to the University System of Georgia wants changes such as requiring its colleges and universities use a “preponderance of evidence” standard as opposed to the Trump administration plan that allows U.S. schools to apply a “clear and convincing” standard. The petition also calls for several other changes, such as a 60-day time limit to complete an investigation. Federal education department officials announced new guidelines in May they believe will make investigations fairer to accusers and the accused. Critics say the guidelines are too focused to the concerns of the accused. The guidelines are scheduled to take effect Aug. 14.

Agnes Scott College switches to online learning

The pandemic has had major implications for Agnes Scott College in recent days. Officials at the Decatur women’s college said Friday its president was hospitalized with COVID-19. On Monday, college officials said all of its courses for the fall semester will be taught online. The college’s tuition for the upcoming school year, which was approved before the decision to go virtual, is $43,920, up from $42,360. No decisions have been made yet about the spring semester.

The cost of the pandemic

Emory University said Tuesday many employees with annual salaries exceeding $75,000 will see a 5% pay cut, starting in September through the end of the year to deal with the expensive financial costs of the pandemic. We also got a glimpse last week of how much it could cost Georgia’s public university system if it went solely to an online learning plan this semester: at least $479 million.

Wesleyan College revokes student expulsion

Many Wesleyan College alumnae were dismayed Tuesday when officials announced they are revoking their decision in June to expel a white student accused of making racist remarks about Blacks on her social media channels. We’re still waiting to hear back from officials there about the decision. Here’s our report on the announcement.

Georgia State’s diversity effort

Georgia State University is one of several higher educational institutions that is taking a closer look at its commitment to diversity and inclusion in the wake of nationwide protests against systemic racism and police treatment of African Americans. Georgia State earlier this week announced some developments on that front. It’s starting a student scholarship of $50,000 in honor of the three Black women who helped integrate the university. It’s also creating an office of institutional diversity, equity and inclusion. Additionally, Georgia State is planning diversity dialogues throughout the 2020-21 school year. We’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Georgia State’s record research haul

Georgia State also announced this week that they received a record-high $150.2 million in research funding for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The previous high was $147 million, which was about three years ago. The largest sum of money, $56.5 million, came from the federal government’s National Institutes of Health.

Georgia Tech grads make the most cash

The folks at SmartAsset released some research this week that found Georgia Tech graduates make more money than any higher educational institution in the state. The average starting salary for a Georgia Tech grad is $72,700, they found. Emory University graduates were second on the list, at $62,000. Rounding out the top five in Georgia were Morehouse College, the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University.