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Quick Takes: McCain Releases Higher Ed Agenda, Protest at Psychology Meeting, More Scrutiny of Drug Research, Trustees Boycott Meeting, More Student Loan Ups and Downs, ETS Loses Huge UK Contract

August 18, 2008
  • Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, has released his higher education agenda, but there aren't many details. McCain calls higher education a key part of the "increased competition from overseas" that the United States faces, and says that the government should "support innovative approaches to education, removing regulatory barriers that prevent us from moving forward." Parents need better information on college choices, the plan says, and tax credits for college and aid forms need to be simplified. Further, he reiterates his previous calls to eliminate earmarks, which he says are "destroying the integrity of federally funded research." (The higher education plans of Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, may be found here.)
  • Protests aren't the norm at scholarly meetings, but about 100 people held a rally Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, protesting what they view as an inadequately tough stance against members helping the United States engage in torture, The Boston Globe reported. While the APA says it absolutely condemns torture, many psychologists believe that loopholes in the policy are unethical and the association's members are voting on a proposal, pushed by critics of the current policy, to toughen it. The debates may have been intensified by reports that psychologists' research has been used in possibly unethical interrogations.
  • Texas officials have shelved a plan naming the preferred psychiatric drugs for children in part because of concerns that four of the key players in developing the plan, all University of Texas researchers, received funds from drug companies for consulting or speaking engagements, potentially raising conflict of interest issues, The Dallas Morning News reported.
  • Three trustees boycotted a meeting of the board of Southwestern College, in California, to prevent a vote on a last-minute proposal to extend the employment of Greg Sandoval, who resigned as a vice president after an employee filed a sexual harassment charge against him, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The trustees who boycotted said that the proposed extension of Sandoval's employment was inappropriately added to the agenda at the last minute. With the extension, he would have been an employee until he turned 55, qualifying for lifetime medical benefits.
  • Movement in and out of the federal and private student loan markets continues. Late last week, one more provider of alternative loans said it was getting out of the business, while another is curtailing its lending to students. Education Finance Partners, which gained infamy as the first formal target of New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo's inquiry into the relationships between lenders and colleges, announced that as of Thursday, it had "ceased its private student loan operations." CampusDoor said it had "implemented a newly revised and more stringent set of credit requirements" that means it will substantially narrow "the number of applicants whose credit we will approve." A list compiled by Student Lending Analytics finds (with several important caveats) that Education Finance Partners was the fourth largest provider of alternative student loans in the 2007 fiscal year, and that Campus Door was sixth. The Herald-Leader of Lexington, Ky., meanwhile, reported Friday that state officials, led by Gov. Steve Beshear, had approved the issuance of a $50 million bond to ensure that the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corp. could continue to issue federal student loans. Other states are exploring similar approaches.
  • The Educational Testing Service, one of the major players in standardized testing in the United States, has been trying to expand its presence outside the U.S., and on Friday suffered a setback when it lost a huge contract for testing British schoolchildren in an exam known as the SAT (which is not the American SAT). The announcement followed months of reports about delays in scoring, which led to calls for ETS to lose the contract. This weekend the British press has been full of reports about the scoring "fiasco" and ETS being "sacked," but the official announcement describes a mutual decision to end the contract. Under that agreement, ETS will pay a British educational agency more than $36 million and will waive another $8.5 million in fees billed to the agency.
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