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Quick Takes: Cuomo Starts Probe of Study Abroad Conflicts, Palm Beach CC Nixes Domestic Partner Benefits, Backlash Against Extra Time on Tests, Sallie Mae Shareholders Approve Sale, Mascot Housing Isn't Cheap

August 16, 2007
  • New York State's attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, has expanded his investigation of conflicts of interest in higher education by looking at study abroad companies that reward colleges for the numbers of students who enroll, The New York Times reported. The focus of the investigation is on whether such payments influence the way colleges decide which programs their students may use. On Wednesday, NAFSA: Association of International Educators announced that it will establish a task force to examine management issues in study abroad, including the financing of education abroad, portability of financial aid, enrollment and credit-transfer policies and financial relations with third-party providers. The announcement came on the heels of a Times article critical of conflicts of interest in study abroad that attracted attention throughout the international education world. In a release, NAFSA described the growth of study abroad as the genesis for “myriad institutional arrangements,” and said “it is time for the profession to review these arrangements and develop guidelines for the consideration of senior university management.”
  • The board of Palm Beach Community College had a tie vote this week on offering domestic partner benefits to employees, meaning that the benefits will not be offered. The Sun-Sentinel reported that the faculty union had been pushing to add the benefits and that they would not have cost the college anything because spouses already have to pay for their insurance, and partners would have been treated the same way.
  • At elite private high schools, such large percentages of students are receiving diagnoses of disorders that entitle them to extra time on the SAT and other tests that students without disorder diagnoses are complaining, The New York Sun reported.
  • Shareholders of Sallie Mae on Wednesday approved the sale of the massive student loan company to a group of private equity firms and banks. Sallie Mae's announcement said the sale would proceed at the $60 a share price that J.C. Flowers & Co. and the other investors had agreed to pay, although the investor group has sounded multiple alarms in recent weeks that it believes Congressional proposals to alter the student loan programs could damage the company's profitability enough to undermine the sale. That has put Sallie Mae in the odd position of saying that Congress's proposed reductions will not damage the company materially, while at the same time objecting in policy circles that the cuts are too deep.
  • A number of colleges are spending seven-figure sums for habitats for their animal mascots, hoping to express their love for the animals and also to avoid animal rights protests, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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