Get Schooled: Class Size, College Tuition and More Education News

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Each week, TIME’s Kayla Webley fills you in on the goings on in the education world, everything from K-12 to higher ed.

Obama Releases Student Loan Debt Relief Plan
The Obama Administration on Tuesday released details of its plan to help ease the burden of student loan debt, which is on track to top $1 trillion this year. One of the highlights of the new “Pay As You Can” plan will let an estimated 1.6 million students cap their monthly federal loan payments at 10% of their income beginning next year, moving up the 2014 start date for the income-based repayment program that Congress passed last year. Obama’s plan has some new debt consolidation options and will also forgive any remaining federal student loan debt after 20 years, five years sooner than under current law. Unfortunately, none of these provisions will help students struggling to pay back private loans. For more on the plan, read my post on TIME’s Moneyland.

(LIST: 20 Colleges With the Most (and Least) Student Debt)

Update: Teachers and Students in Missouri Can Be Facebook Friends Again
Missouri has repealed a controversial law that prohibited social networking between students and teachers. Since the law was enacted in August, teachers and students were barred from connecting on any site that allows for private communication, like Facebook. The law was originally designed to protect students from sexual misconduct by teachers, but was temporarily blocked by a judge who said it “would have a chilling effect” on free speech, according to the Associated Press.

College Tuition Increases—Again
According to a report from the College Board, in-state tuition and fees at public four-year colleges nationwide averaged $8,244 this year, up 8.3% from the previous year. As USA Today notes, the increase is more than double the inflation rate of 3.6% between July 2010 and July 2011. One reason for the higher costs: cash-strapped states are cutting way back on per-student funding.

Class Size in Early Childhood Affects College Success
A working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research reports that students enrolled in smaller classes in early childhood are more likely to attend college, earn a degree and enter high-earning fields.

More Spending Per Student Athletes, Higher Graduation Rates Too
Research from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics found that colleges with Division I football teams spent far more on athletes than the rest of their students. According to the report, over a recent five-year period, spending per athlete grew by 50%, while spending per student increased by only 22%. The report coincides with new data from the NCAA, which announced on Tuesday that after several years of stagnancy, the graduation rate among Division I athletes edged up a few points to 82%, a record high.

California Classrooms Lag in Science Education
According to a report commissioned by the education think tank WestEd, only 1 in 10 students in California experience science instruction that involves regular hands-on experimentation. Eighty-five percent of teachers in the state report not having received any professional development in science in the past three years and just one-third of teachers say they feel prepared to teach the subject.

The High Cost of Community College Dropouts
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a study released by the American Institutes for Research that found first-year, full-time community college students who dropped out before their second year cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion, a roughly 35% increase in public funding than was spent on this cohort five years ago. The report comes on the heels of another from the nonprofit Complete College America, which found that fewer than 20% of full-time community college students receive associate degrees within four years.

Elite Schools Compete for ‘Genius School’ Money
Applications are due Friday for Mayor Bloomberg’s “genius school,” a science and engineering graduate-level campus. The winner will receive prime real estate (on New York City’s Roosevelt Island) and $100M, which has the likes of Stanford and Cornell competing for the prize.

See last week’s Get Schooled column here.

Kayla Webley is a Writer-Reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kaylawebley or on Facebook at You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.