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Quick Takes: Student Loan Interest Rate Cut Questioned, Appeals Court Rejects Xavier's Insurance Suit, Court Upholds Limits on Travel to Cuba, Ohio Governor's Higher Ed Agenda, Virginia Tech Families Criticize Invitation to Rapper

August 3, 2007
  • A plan in U.S. House-passed legislation to cut the interest rate in half on certain federal student loans over five years would reduce monthly student loan payments for borrowers by an average of only $18, the Congressional Research Service said in a memorandum last month. The research service said that the provision would apply to all borrowers of subsidized Stafford loans even though "the majority of student borrowers require no relief," and that other methods of relieving student debt found in the legislation, such as loan forgiveness proposals and a plan to tie repayment levels to a borrower's income, "would arguably provide more efficient and better-targeted relief" and "at nearly half the cost. The agency's memo also asserts that "most education borrowers ... are not burdened by their education debt," a thesis that some advocates for students dispute. The House's plan to cut interest rates is reportedly dividing House and Senate lawmakers trying to craft a compromise version of budget reconciliation legislation.
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled that Xavier University of Louisiana and dozens of New Orleans businesses and home owners are not entitled to sue insurance companies for not providing millions in aid after Hurricane Katrina. Some insurance policies excluded floods from coverage and the plaintiffs in the case charged that negligence was the cause of their damages. The appeals court ruled that even if they plaintiffs could demonstrate negligence, flooding was involved so the policies did not apply.
  • A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit by professors that challenged government rules instituted in 2004 to restrict travel by academic and other groups to Cuba. The regulations led many colleges to eliminate their programs to take students to Cuba, and the professors charged that academic freedom and their First Amendment rights were being violated. But Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle said that the professors had overstated their claims. "The regulations place no restrictions on what universities and their professors may teach their students about Cuba -- they merely restrict them in limited circumstances from teaching students in Cuba," the judge wrote. "Thus, there can be no question that the 2004 [limits] are content neutral, and only incidentally, if at all, burden plaintiffs' First Amendment rights."
  • Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has issued a directive creating the University System of Ohio, which will consist of all of the state's public colleges and universities. The directive does not change the governance structure for the institutions, but calls on Eric Fingerhut, the chancellor of the Board of Regents, to develop plans to unify the various institutions to work together and make the most efficient use of state resources. "The best systems of public higher education across the nation are more than just a collection of institutions," said Strickland. "They work together in a rational, coherent way that creates sums worth well more than the individual institutions themselves."
  • Virginia Tech on Thursday announced a special free concert for students in September, featuring musicians who have waived their fees to create a special event for students at the start of the academic year. But some of the families of those killed at Virginia Tech in April immediately criticized the inclusion of a rapper, Nas, whose lyrics discuss violent acts such as shootings. A spokesman for some of the families told The Washington Post that it was "unconscionable beyond belief" to include Nas, who in a 1999 recording chants "Shoot 'em up, just shoot 'em up, what?" followed by whispers that say "kill, kill, kill, murder, murder, murder." The concert was organized by the Dave Matthews Band, which will also appear, along with several other performers. Virginia Tech officials told the Post that reaction to the concert had been positive. The newspaper also noted that Nas has been praised for "his unflinching, sometimes poetic descriptions of life in New York's grittiest corners."
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