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Quick Takes: Welfare Rules Eased, Sallie Mae Settlement, Gandhi Quits Nonviolence Post, Study Abroad Probe, Study Abroad Refund, Wy. Governor Defends Academic Freedom, Leniency for Lender, Dorms for Graduates, Sex vs. Grades at Cambridge

Quick Takes: Welfare Rules Eased, Sallie Mae Settlement, Gandhi Quits Nonviolence Post, Study Abroad Probe, Study Abroad Refund, Wy. Governor Defends Academic Freedom, Leniency for Lender, Dorms for Graduates, Sex vs. Grades at Cambridge
January 28, 2008
  • New welfare rules, scheduled to be released this week, will give students more flexibility, the Associated Press reported. The AP, based on an advance copy of the rules, said that students would be permitted to use a year of classwork to meet work requirements, and that homework would not have to be supervised to count as work.
  • Sallie Mae and the financial entities that were once poised to buy the student loan giant have reached a settlement of their legal dispute, The New York Times reported. Under the agreement, Sallie Mae will be able to refinance about $30 billion in debt, which the company has been struggling to do amid the growing credit crunch.
  • Arun Gandhi has resigned from the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, which is named for his late grandfather, the leader of India's nonviolent independence movement, following an uproar over his comments on Jews and the Holocaust. Gandhi has been under fire since he wrote on The Washington Post's Web site that Jewish people “overplay” the Holocaust and that Jews and Israel are the “biggest players” in the worldwide “culture of violence.” In his resignation statement, Gandhi said: "My intention was to generate a healthy discussion on the proliferation of violence. Clearly I did not achieve my goal. Instead, unintentionally, my words have resulted in pain, anger, confusion and embarrassment. I deeply regret these consequences."
  • Connecticut's attorney general, following the lead of New York State's attorney general, is investigating the relationships between colleges and the study abroad programs they recommend to their students, The Hartford Courant reported.
  • The University of Washington is paying $2,500 to each of the 17 students who participated in a disastrous study abroad program in Ghana last year, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Students have been complaining for months that the program had minimal faculty involvement, that food was inadequate, and of lags in dealing with student health problems.
  • Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal on Friday offered a strong defense of academic freedom -- in response to a move by some legislators to punish the University of Wyoming for research that they don't like. The Casper Star-Tribune quoted the governor as saying that lawmakers should support the concept that universities are places for a wide range of ideas -- including controversial ones or criticism of business interests. "The university should be a place for all of these ideas to come out," Freudenthal said. "It doesn't mean I'm going to agree with them, but I think they're entitled to articulate them." Legislators have been balking at the governor's proposed budget increase for an environmental research center at the university because it issued a report that criticized the state's coal-bed methane industry.
  • The U.S. Education Department on Friday concluded that the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority should repay an estimated $15 million that it had inappropriately billed the federal government through a now-closed loophole in federal law. The department's inspector general had estimated the Pennsylvania's liability at more than twice that amount, but department officials disagreed with some of the auditor's findings. The issue involves an exemption in federal law that allowed lenders that financed student loans they issued using tax-exempt bonds issued before 1993 to earn a government subsidized interest rate of 9.5 percent. PHEAA officials said they were generally pleased by the department's ruling, and U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who has vocally criticized the department's oversight of student loan programs generally and its enforcement of the 9.5 percent loophole specifically, called the decision "a sign that the department is finally starting to take its role as the steward of our nation’s federal student aid programs seriously.” But critics took a tougher view: "The department’s going after less than half of a fraction of the larger amount of improper billing that the Pennsylvania lending agency engaged in," Michael Dannenberg, director of the education policy program at the New America Foundation, told The New York Times. “The Department of Education’s failure to aggressively police the student loan industry has hurt taxpayers and students, and this is the latest example.”
  • Dowling College, on Long Island, is planning new dormitories that will have some rooms set aside for recent graduates, The New York Times reported. The idea is to provide young alumni with an alternative to the expensive New York City area housing market or moving back in with their parents.
  • Many universities use alumni to recruit foreign students, but the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is getting help from current students from Arab nations, who recently took a trip to the Middle East to personally recruit, The Boston Globe reported.
  • British newspapers are providing extensive coverage of a survey published in The Varsity, the student newspaper at the University of Cambridge, which found that the institution's undergraduate colleges at which students report many sexual partners tend to have lower grades than those colleges at which students have fewer partners or where larger percentages of students are virgins.
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