Sam Petulla

Sam Petulla is a writer based in Washington, DC. His writing has appeared in Wired, Inside Higher Ed, and at the Nieman Journalism Lab's Web site.

Recent Articles

Rick Perry's Higher Education Woes

Texas Governor Rick Perry’s has had a tough go with higher education. Costs to attend the state's college have shot past the support the state provides to students. State community colleges, for example, are 90 percent more expensive since 2000 while, over the same period, government spending increased only 23 percent. The disparity is even more pronounced for the major flagship universities. On top of that, in the most recent budget, no appropriations were made for enrollment increases, and state financial aid was cut 15 percent. So what is Governor Perry’s tonic for this sour mixture? Forcing local governments to choose to raise taxes and making Texas’s nationally-renowned research universities more like for-profit colleges.

For Whom the Pell Tolls

The Hill reports that Pell Grants have become a sticking point between the freshman GOP and John Boehner for the passage of his debt-ceiling compromise plan. Representative Denny Rehberg described the right's grievances with the program on a talk show in April: "So you can go to college on Pell Grants — maybe I should not be telling anybody this because it’s turning out to be the welfare of the 21st century.” But if the GOP actually thinks Pell’s size is harming the economy, it’s certainly not making a strong argument.

The Future of Low-income Students

Yesterday, a number of groups, including Campus Progress and The Education Trust, came together for "Save Pell Day." The reason? Pell’s in trouble. The budget passed by the House earlier this year reduced the maximum grant by 45 percent, kicking about 1.5 million students out of the program. Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal for next year reduces the grant a comparable amount. And in the debt-reduction talks, Pell has repeatedly come up as an area prime for cuts.

None of the Above

With the budget fight consuming Washington, Obama's education reform stalls.

(Flickr/Medill DC)Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

It's hard to tell whether Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former basketball star, is faking a pass. But if Congress doesn't reauthorize No Child Left Behind (NCLB) -- the Bush-era education-reform law that used standardized tests to hold schools accountable for performance -- by the time kids go back to school this fall, Duncan is threatening to ignore it. The education secretary said he would use the authority NCLB grants him to issue regulation waivers to school districts in exchange for reforms consistent with the Obama administration's goals.

Did We Create a Monster?

Does the federal government need to regulate enrollment in Women's Studies programs based on how their graduates fare in the job market? What about Chinese Literature? Religious Studies? Last week's announcement of new rules to bear down on career colleges like the University of Phoenix, which offer degrees in programs like Health Administration and Criminal Justice Administration, weren't designed to force those questions. These programs come under a different section in the Higher Education Act, excluding them from regulations for how much money their graduates make.