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Quick Takes: Religion and Politics, Aid for Students at Calif. For-Profits, Clearance for Career Education, Sallie Mae Slams Kennedy, Stem Cell Cooperation, Princeton Paper's Joke Issue Angers, Tuition Hikes in UK, Phoenix Seeks High Court's Help

January 23, 2007
  • The Spirituality in Higher Education research project on Monday released new data showing that many students whose religious beliefs lead them to take views that are seen as conservative on social issues don't necessarily identify themselves as conservative. The analysis comes from the annual "freshman survey" conducted nationally by a research center at the University of California at Los Angeles.
  • The U.S. Education Department confirmed Friday that students at proprietary institutions in California will remain eligible for Title IV funds in the absence of the state’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education. The bureau is set to be shuttered June 30 after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill extending the regulatory agency’s life, citing fundamental flaws. Since state authorization is a required component for Title IV eligibility, officials had been unsure as to whether the federal funding stream – including financial aid dollars -- would continue once the bureau shuts down (another regulatory structure to replace the one expiring this year has not yet been set by legislators). Jane Glickman, a spokeswoman for the department, said via e-mail that as long as institutions comply with their respective state laws, they will remain eligible, and indicated that the department will offer a formal response to California soon.
  • Career Education Corporation announced Monday that the U.S. Education Department has lifted a 2005 restriction barring the for-profit higher education company from opening or acquiring new campuses. The freeze had been instituted as part of a federal review of the company's compliance with federal student aid regulations.
  • In a surprisingly blunt critique during a call with investors this month, the chief executive officer of Sallie Mae accused Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) of engaging in "baseless and insulting attacks" on the company and of trying to "smear the integrity" of the lender, the student loan industry, and financial aid professionals." Tim Fitzpatrick, the loan giant's CEO, made the comments about the man who will be chiefly responsible for crafting Senate higher education policy in the 110th Congress during Sallie Mae's fourth quarter earnings call last week. He said Kennedy, who has called for greater scrutiny of the student loan industry and for greater transparency about financial arrangements between colleges and lenders, might be angry because of difficulties encountered by the direct loan program that Kennedy championed in the 1990s as an alternative to the federal guaranteed loan program. Kennedy's office did not respond to requests for comment.
  • The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has backed away from claims that could have required many researchers using stem cell lines to pay a licensing fee to the foundation, the technology transfer arm of the University of Wisconsin. Researchers in other states have complained about the previous stance.
  • Princeton University's student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, is facing criticism for a joke issue that didn't strike many as funny with its treatment of Asian students. An Asian student at Yale University, who was rejected by Princeton, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department charging that Princeton discriminates against Asian applicants -- and the paper ran a parody of a column by this applicant, with mock Asian dialect, suggesting that the student was less than literate. Amid widespread criticism of the parody, the newspaper first ran an editor's note (which didn't stop the criticism) and then ran a joint statement with an Asian student group, announcing that the newspaper and the group would sponsor a joint forum to discuss the issues. The latter statement also apologized for a "lapse in judgment" that "caused some readers pain."
  • A survey of the leaders of British universities by The Guardian found most of them expecting significant tuition increases, and skepticism about government support, in coming years.
  • The Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court's decision requiring Phoenix to defend itself against charges that it violated federal law by paying its recruiters based on how many students they enrolled. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's decision last September was closely watched by higher education groups because it was seen as the latest in a string of decisions in which federal courts have gradually expanded the grounds under which colleges can be sued under the federal False Claims Act. Apollo argues that the Ninth Circuit decision has overexpanded the law's reach.
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