The National Collegiate Athletic Association has cited Kean University for rules violations including impermissible financial aid and extra benefits to athletes. According to the public infractions report, the former women’s basketball head coach is responsible for “a significant number” of the violations that took place from 2007-11, including cash payments and a grade change that allowed an otherwise ineligible student to compete. But because of more widespread violations of financial aid rules, the university’s self-imposed penalties included 2011-12 postseason bans for the men’s and women’s soccer teams and the women’s volleyball team, as well as a 2012-13 postseason ban for the women’s basketball team. The former basketball coach, Michele Sharp, has been placed under a four-year “show-cause penalty,” meaning that any institution that wants to hire her must demonstrate to the NCAA why the penalties against her should not be carried over. The team vacated all records from last season, including its NCAA tournament appearance. Kean itself was cited for a lack of institutional control and a failure to monitor the sports program, and is on four years’ probation.
In its report, the NCAA Committee on Infractions also issued a warning to other colleges in Division III, whose member institutions may not award financial aid based on athletic ability. Kean allowed prospective students to list extracurricular activities including athletics on their scholarship applications, the report says, “resulting in athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance being considered as a criterion for the awarding of financial aid,” and it awarded financial aid to athletes at disproportionate rates. “All member institutions are put on notice that, from this point forward, the committee will consider imposing significantly harsher sanctions when these cases are brought to us in the future,” the report says.
President Obama has taken his call for Congress to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized student loans to Iowa, North Carolina and Colorado -- all battleground states in this fall's election. But the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney said during a press event Monday that he agrees with Obama, saying he supports an extension of the low interest rate, which would otherwise double for subsidized loans made after July 1.
"Particularly with the number of college graduates that can't find work and can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans," Romney said, according to the Huffington Post, which reported that Romney volunteered his position on the interest rate after no reporters asked about it during the news conference, his first since his path to the nomination became all but certain. "There was some concern that that would expire halfway through the year and I support extending the temporary relief on interest rates on students as a result of student loans obviously, in part because of the extraordinarily poor conditions in the job market."
Romney has said little about federal financial aid and other higher education issues so far, although he told college students in March to "shop around" on tuition prices and not expect the government to forgive their debt. He also endorsed Representative Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would have let the interest rate rise.
Occupy Student Debt, an offshoot of the Occupy movement focusing on student debt and urging students to pledge not to repay their loans if other borrowers join them, is planning several events Wednesday to commemorate the total amount of student debt passing $1 trillion. "Demonstrations and creative actions" are planned for Union Square, in New York; the headquarters and regional offices of the student lender Sallie Mae; and at colleges across the country, including the University of Chicago, Brooklyn College, Cooper Union, Hampshire College, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the University of California at Santa Cruz.
With state funds in short supply, public and private higher education leaders in Iowa are sparring. The Des Moines Register reported that private college leaders were upset when Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Board of Regents, drew attention to the funds going to private college students in the state through a program not open to those at public institutions. He said that the money didn't go to "our public universities, which the people of Iowa own.” Gary Steinke, president of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, responded by saying: "If that was a shot across the bow, and it certainly seemed to be to me, I think that's selfish."
The California State University System has decided to preserve grants for graduate students, easing the fears of about 20,000 grad students whose funds were in danger, The Los Angeles Times reported. The system is facing deep budget cuts from the state, and considered asking the low-income graduate students to use federal loans -- rather than the grants -- to cover their expenses. The plan was abandoned amid a lobbying campaign by students to preserve the funds.
Albert Lord, the CEO of Sallie Mae, told industry analysts Thursday that he does not believe reports suggesting a bubble ahead for student loans, Bloomberg reported. "We don’t see anything of any evidence close to a bubble," Lord said. "This country underwent a significant financial crisis in our very recent past. It’s not really a surprise that many see bubbles around every corner." Sallie Mae expects to originate $3.2 billion in education loans this year.
A report by Education Sector shows how rapidly the federal government has increased its spending on tax credits and deductions for college tuition -- tax breaks that disproportionately help upper-income taxpayers. Financial aid experts have noted that amid many complaints about the exploding costs of the Pell Grant Program, which mostly assists low-income students, relatively little attention has been paid to tuition tax breaks. In addition to documenting the growth of the tax breaks, the Education Sector report urges their elimination.
"At a time when Congress is struggling to fund the Pell Grant program and financially needy students who pursue a higher education are facing mountains and mountains of debt, policymakers need to refocus the government’s resources on its core mission of eliminating the financial barriers that prevent low-income and working-class students from enrolling in and completing college," the report states.
Democratic senators take aim at career colleges' marketing budgets, but bill would affect nonprofit colleges, too. While the legislation faces long odds, it could shape the ongoing debate over for-profits.
State leaders in Texas have set admirably ambitious goals for its public colleges and universities, but some of those goals are not compatible, and huge inequities persist across the system, according to a new report by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Higher Education Research. Texas has also failed to understand the "policy tradeoffs" required to make needed improvements, the report said. For example, the state's push to expand the research capacity of its "emerging" universities is an expensive venture at a time when state financial aid has not kept pace with tuition increases. The report is the fourth of a five-state study from the institute.