What You Should Know: Net Neutrality Edition

President Obama’s net neutrality announcement doesn’t change anything — yet.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Yesterday’s big news was President Barack Obama’s announcement urging the FCC to classify Internet service providers as public utilities.

That sounds boring, but it’s big news. It means Obama, after a long wait, has sided with Internet activists that want the FCC to keep ISPs like Comcast or AT&T from blocking or prioritizing traffic deliveries to certain websites.

“If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it,” Obama said in a statement. “Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others … based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.”

The FCC is considering a proposal that would allow ISPs to do just that. The agency, by the way, is by no means bound by the president’s statement. Unlike most federal agencies, Obama does not have a direct say as to how the FCC is run day-to-day. So, while Internet activists can cheer Obama putting pressure on the FCC, their fight is far from over.

Find out more about what Obama’s statement means at Vox.

Mt. Pleasant’s state rep will be the most powerful Republican in the Legislature.

Kevin Cotter
Kevin Cotter

State Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, had a fine time last week.

After being re-elected to a third term in office, Cotter was voted by his fellow House Republicans to become the Speaker of the House, replacing the outgoing Jase Bolger.

“This caucus is united in the agreement that this is not a time to coast based on previous accomplishments,” Cotter said. “This is a time to continue momentum, and to continue that momentum with a stronger majority then we currently have in the next term.”

Cotter will be overseeing a large Republican caucus. The GOP will hold 63 out of 110 seats in the Legislature next year following what was a big Election Day for Republicans last week.

Cotter currently serves as the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and as vice chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education. He has largely voted in lockstep with his party on several issues over the last four years, including Gov. Rick Snyder’s controversial, 15-percent cut to higher education funding in 2011 and the three incremental increases in funding since 2012.

According to MLive, Cotter has introduced 12 pieces of legislation that became law during the 2013-14 legislative session, including a bill to create a mental health court.

Click here to find out more.

The Republican takeover of the Senate is a mixed bag for higher education.

As Michael Stratford from Inside Higher Ed explains:

The change will likely be something of a double-edged sword for colleges and universities, higher education advocates said. On the one hand, colleges will find more help from Republicans in their longstanding efforts to roll back federal requirements they view as burdensome. At the same time, higher education may face tougher battles over federal funding for academic research and student aid programs, as GOP majorities embrace more austere budget caps.

Republican leadership of the Senate is also likely to complicate the Obama administration’s agenda for executive action, namely its regulations clamping down on the for-profit college industry as well as its desire to put into effect its full proposal for a college ratings system.

Policy priorities led by Senate Democrats that affect higher education are also expected to take a back seat under Republican leadership. Some of those proposals, such as allowing existing student loan borrowers to lower their interest rates, were featured prominently in Democratic campaign ads this year. Senate Democrats had also pushed new policies that sought to hold colleges more accountable for loan defaults and clamp down further on for-profit institutions.

The shift in power is likely to result in continued deadlock on higher education and other issues, especially since Republicans will not enjoy veto-proof margins in either chamber. As a result, they’ll be unlikely to enact into law policies that the administration would reject (such as blocking of gainful employment).

Click here for more.

Graduate school means more debt for you.

Graduate students account for roughly 40 percent of the United States’ estimated $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, despite making up just 14 percent of the entire higher education student population.

As Time explains:

Graduate students borrow an average of nearly three times more per year than undergraduates, according to the College Board. And while the average debt of undergraduates has more than doubled since 1989, according to the Brookings Institution, it has more than quadrupled during that time for graduate students.

This comes at a time when the Bureau of Labor Statistics projectsthat the fastest-growing careers through 2022 will require workers to have graduate degrees.

“We might have a philosophical discussion about, ‘Do you need a master’s degree for X, Y, and Z,’ but in a free and open marketplace employers are asking for them,” says Suzanne Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools.

Click here for more.


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