DAYBREAK DAILY: Colleges funneling financial aid to rich

ABC7 WEATHER: Snow to end around lunch time with 5-9 inches of accumulation and highs in the low 30s.

‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Comprehensive coverage of yet another winter storm; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

FINANCIAL AID FOR THE RICH: No, really, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “Only a few hundred dollars separate the costs of the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, but the price paid by their poorest students sets the two schools worlds apart. U.Va.’s average total in-state cost — all expenses including tuition and fees, room and board, and books — was $23,986 for the 2011-12 academic year. Yet first-year students whose family incomes were below $30,000 paid a net average price of only $4,405.

“VCU freshmen in the same income bracket paid more than three times that amount. Their net price of $13,672 was more than half of VCU’s average cost of attendance of $23,774 for that year. The comparisons are from an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data for a four-year period by The Dallas Morning News, The Hechinger Report and the Education Writers Association.

“The project on college affordability found a troubling shift nationally in how financial aid is awarded: Schools are devoting increasing levels of aid to lure more affluent students at the expense of their lower-income classmates. But the data also underscore the disparity of resources for financial aid among Virginia schools, both public and private.”

MEANWHILE: Snooping into college records, per the Baltimore Sun, “In the two weeks between recent revelations that hackers stole data on students, alumni and faculty from the University of Maryland, College Park and the Johns Hopkins University, nearly 360,000 records were swiped in similar attacks at schools in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Dakota.

“Online thieves have increasingly sought sensitive or otherwise valuable data from educational institutions, experts say. Last year alone, breaches included possible exposure of 2.5 million Social Security and bank account numbers associated with an Arizona community college system, 74,000 Social Security numbers of University of Delaware students and staff, and 145,000 applications to Virginia Tech, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

“Colleges and universities often are attractive targets for hackers because there are many access points into their networks, which contain not just financial and personal data but also valuable intellectual property. That threat is forcing academics to reassess the way they keep and protect vast collections of information, often held in decentralized computer networks accessible to thousands of students, professors and researchers.”

ALEXANDRIA MURDER SUSPECT?: Stay tuned, per the Washington Post, “Charles Severance — the eccentric former politico who Alexandria’s mayor has described as a “person of interest” in three high-profile slayings in the city — is scheduled to appear in a West Virginia courtroom Monday morning as authorities decide whether to send him back to the D.C. area to answer a gun charge unrelated to the killings.

“The 53-year-old’s extradition hearing will be closely watched by reporters and others desperate for details of Severance’s connection — if there is any — to the February slaying of music teacher Ruthanne Lodato, the 2003 killing of real estate agent Nancy Dunning and the November slaying of regional transportation planner Ronald Kirby.”

UKRAINE: Of a vote, per the New York Times, “With thousands of heavily armed Russian troops occupying this perennially embattled peninsula, an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted on Sunday to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, resolutely carrying out a public referendum that Western leaders had declared illegal and vowed to punish with economic sanctions.

“The outcome, in a region that shares a language and centuries of history with Russia, was a foregone conclusion even before exit polls showed more than 93 percent of voters favoring secession. Still, the result deepened the conflict over Ukraine, forcing the United States and its European allies to decide how swiftly and forcefully to levy threatened sanctions against Russian officials including top aides to President Vladimir V. Putin.”

SUNDAY HUNTING: Fire away, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Before this year's legislative session, supporters of allowing hunting on Sundays had given a sign that they were loaded for bear. It came in the form of a simple phone call. The "push poll," a recorded message to hundreds of Virginia homes late last year, sampled opinions about lifting a ban on sportsmen targeting game on the Christian Sabbath - before touting the idea's virtues.

“A few months after the call, legislation to permit Sunday hunting of wild game, birds or waterfowl on private land cleared the General Assembly, which had long stymied it, and garnered Gov. Terry McAuliffe's signature. The historic turnaround was partly the result of a muscular lobbying effort by the National Rifle Association and a Richmond lawyer representing the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which sponsored the telephone campaign. They helped accomplish what scores of pro-hunting forces had previously failed to do by delivering this message to Republican lawmakers: You could face political consequences if you block Sunday-hunting legislation again.”

MEDICAID EXPANSION: Virginia’s push continues, per the Associated Press, “Several hundred supporters of Medicaid expansion gathered at the state Capitol on Saturday to rally for Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's top legislative priority. Protesters carried signs reading "We need Medicaid expansion now" and "Medicaid expansion: Saving lives, saving money." Before hearing from a slate of speakers, the crowd got pumped up with chants of "Get sick, go broke, unacceptable!"

“A legislative deadlock over Medicaid expansion caused the General Assembly to adjourn a week ago without passing the two-year, $96 billion state budget. McAuliffe and Democratic lawmakers want a budget that includes accepting federal money to expand coverage to an estimated 250,000 residents. Republicans who control the House of Delegates oppose expansion, saying the federal government can't be trusted to keep its promise to fully fund it for the first three years and pay at least 90 percent after that. McAuliffe has been barnstorming the state to rev up support for expansion, saying it's foolish for Virginia to allow its share of federal dollars to go to other states that are expanding Medicaid as part of the Obama administration's health care overhaul. He's counting on Republican lawmakers to have a different view after hearing from their constituents when they return March 24 to resume the debate.”

MEANWHILE: Per the Washington Post editorial board, “VIRGINIA REPUBLICANS who are blocking expanded health coverage for the poor and disabled aren’t just at war with Obamacare. They’re also engaged in a crusade against hospitals, hospital executives and the ability of the state’s medical establishment to provide sustainable health care.

“The immediate cause of their ire is the effort by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to make good on his bedrock promise in last year’s campaign to expand Medicaid so that several hundred thousand needy Virginians would have health insurance. In the face of Republican intransigence, Mr. McAuliffe has hit the road to make his appeal at hospitals from Northern Virginia to the Kentucky border. This has driven GOP lawmakers in the House of Delegates, who insist that Virginia refuse billions of dollars in revenue from Washington to expand Medicaid, to a state of dyspepsia.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Ten of the consulting firms that formed the core of the push to elect Mitt Romney — reaping a combined $1 billion in the process — have survived a tea party assault and are again among the highest-grossing and best-positioned players in Republican politics.

“The firms and their consultants have been paid more than $19.6 million for 2014 campaign work through January, according to a POLITICO analysis. They’ve also cemented relationships with some of the GOP’s rising stars, setting up the firms for even bigger paydays headed into the fall, when costly advertising and mail campaigns begin, and for a 2016 presidential campaign expected to be the most expensive in history.”

FANNIE: And Freddie, per The Hill, “A Senate plan to overhaul the housing finance market aims to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in five years, eventually eliminating the government-controlled mortgage giants. Leaders of the Senate Banking Committee provided details of the bipartisan agreement announced last week in its 442-page legislative text released on Sunday afternoon.

“The bill, crafted by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and panel ranking member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), would eventually dissolve Fannie and Freddie and replace it with the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation (FMIC). “This proposal includes an explicit government guarantee in order to add stability to the economy, keep costs reasonable for borrowers and renters and ensure fair access to the secondary market for all lenders," Johnson said.”

SILVER MILE: Trendy and trending, per the Frederick News-Post, “New businesses and restaurants are adding luster to the “Silver Mile.” The area next to and around the Francis Scott Key Mall is experiencing a spurt of growth. The Md. 355-Md. 85 section of Frederick County, just outside the city limits, has been dubbed the Silver Mile in deference to the Golden Mile in the western part of Frederick.

“Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young calls the Urbana Pike-Buckeystown Pike area the “breadbasket of the county.” “We saw a lot of opportunity there,” Young said in an interview. “Its proximity to I-270 and I-70, it’s closer to Montgomery County, and that adds to the pressure for that area to grow. There are a lot of exciting opportunities happening along that corridor — retail, commercial, industrial and more.”

MORE MONTGOMERY MONEY: To a point, anyway, per Gazette.Net, “Montgomery County’s next operating budget will have more program money than in recent years, but don’t look for spending to return to pre-recession levels, said County Executive Isiah Leggett. Leggett (D) told The Gazette that there’s a “pent-up demand” for bringing back funding that was eliminated through drastic cuts during the recession. But the increases likely won’t be as much as some people would like to see, he said.”

WHEN RESEARCH ISN’T RESEARCH: Or something like that, per the Roanoke Times, “An $11 million employment lawsuit brought against Virginia Tech officials by a former director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute has highlighted how the web of private businesses, university scientists and government research grants can raise complicated questions about conflicts of interest. Former VBI Executive Director Harold “Skip” Garner is suing Tech President Charles Steger, Provost Mark McNamee, Vice President for Research Robert Walters and current VBI Director Dennis Dean for damage to his reputation and career and wrongful demotion. He is also asking to be reinstated to his former position.

“The case hinges on an internal university audit completed in 2012 that alleges Garner used university resources for personal gain, failed to fully disclose real and perceived conflicts of interest and caused Tech to enter into three federal research contracts that, as executed, were prohibited by Virginia’s Conflict of Interest Act. Garner has argued in court filings and in documents provided to The Roanoke Times by plaintiff’s attorney Steven Hoffman that the audit was unfair and made allegations based on nonexistent or weak university policies. He further argues that where the audit found Garner made mistakes, they were minor, made in good faith and quickly corrected.”

LIGHTS, CAMERA: And action, per City Paper, “Another D.C. politician is trying to push legislation that would entice television shows and movies set in D.C. to actually film more here. District Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced a House bill late last week that would allow commercial filming on all of the U.S. Capitol's grounds. Currently, such filming is only allowed in Union Square, the area below the west side of the Capitol, or the space west of the Capitol that contains Grant Statue and the Reflecting Pool.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps beat Toronto 4-2.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Congratulations to the Virginia Cavaliers. No. 6 UVA claimed its first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title since 1976 -- and second in school history -- by beating No. 7 Duke 72-63 on Sunday.”

NEWSTALK: 10 a.m., NewsChannel 8.

--Skip Wood