Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

August 5, 2009

In a move that will be welcomed by veterans throughout the state, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has upped the maximum tuition benefit available to California veterans under the new, Post-9/11 GI Bill. The cap had been set at zero due to a trick of semantics: Because the maximum benefit amounts are tied to public, undergraduate, resident tuition and fee rates in a state, and because California public colleges don't charge "tuition" but, rather, "fees" (tuition by another name), the maximum tuition benefit for California veterans had been set at zero (the maximum fee benefit was correspondingly generous, but of limited use to veterans hoping to apply their benefits toward tuition at a private university). The VA has adjusted the cap so that California veterans are now eligible for up to $287 per credit hour toward their tuition, and up to $2,165.25 per term toward their fees.

August 5, 2009

Court documents show that 26 scientific articles in journals, all about hormone replacement therapy for women, were at least partly ghostwritten by a medical communications company paid by the pharmaceutical company Wyeth, The New York Times reported. The articles suggested a consensus on the value of the therapy, but that apparent consensus has since fallen apart. Eighteen journals published the articles -- without revealing Wyeth's role.

August 4, 2009

The Education Department's inspector general said Monday that Sallie Mae had overbilled the U.S. Treasury by $22.3 million in payments made to its Nellie Mae subsidiary from 2003 to 2006. The company inappropriately sought reimbursement from the government for loans financed with tax-exempt bonds, even though the bonds had matured, the inspector general found; Sallie Mae disputed the finding. The lender is the latest in a string of loan providers that the inspector general has found to have abused the tax-exempt bond program, although the Bush administration's Education Department required only one of the lenders, Nelnet, to return the disputed funds.

August 4, 2009

A federal judge ordered the University of Louisville Monday to reinstate a nursing student who was expelled in February after she wrote on a blog about her dealings with patients, the Courier-Journal reported. The judge said that Nina Yoder's postings were "crass" but did not violate the institution's confidentiality rules or honor code, according to the newspaper.

August 4, 2009

The University of Florida may, like many major universities, be grappling with serious cuts to its academic and other budgets. But the university has in all likelihood just set off another round of eye-popping pay increases for the country's biggest-time college football coaches with its decision Monday to give Coach Urban Meyer a six-year contract worth $4 million a year (up from his current $3.25 million). Meyer's Gators have won the (mythical) national championship in two of the last three years, and Florida's president, Bernie Machen, said this spring that Meyer should and would be compensated like one of the best coaches in the country. The raise makes him the best paid coach in the Southeastern Conference, but he may not have that status for long, Sports Illustrated surmises: Auburn and Louisiana State Universities are reportedly negotiating contracts for their coaches, both of which could easily surpass Meyer. So much for the recession.

August 4, 2009

Corinthian Colleges, Inc., one of the country's largest providers of for-profit higher education, announced Monday that it had settled a lawsuit in which stockholders accused the company of having backdated the price of options. The company agreed to a set of changes in its governance and other practices and to pay $2.5 million in legal fees to the plaintiffs in the case, but did not acknowledge any wrongdoing.

August 4, 2009

A national journalism organization has given its top First Amendment award to two Columbus Dispatch reporters for their investigative work on apparent misuse of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Foundation gave its $10,000 Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award to Jill Riepenhoff and Todd Jones for articles in which they requested documents about college athletics programs as a way to show how unevenly -- and in some cases inappropriately -- institutions applied the federal law designed to protect students' academic records. “[T]hey have taken an arcane, little-understood federal secrecy law and made its harm real and salient to the average citizen,” Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, wrote in a nomination letter to Society of Professional Journalists.

August 4, 2009

The chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees resigned Monday, the Chicago Tribune reported. Niranjan Shah was the latest person to be done in by the admissions controversy that has embroiled the university; Shah was among the university officials who had been accused of pushing to admit applicants based more on their political connections than their academic credentials. A state panel investigating the admissions controversy called last week for all politically chosen trustees to resign, and Shah is the second to do so.

August 3, 2009

Arizona State University hopes to create a set of lower-priced, undergraduate colleges around the state aimed at commuters and offering the option of three-year degrees, The Arizona Republic reported. University officials detailed their plans -- which they will present to the Arizona Board of Regents Thursday, along with proposals from other universities in the state -- for from 5 to 15 campuses that would offer degrees in a small number of high-demand fields such as education, criminology, and communications. Tuition would be set at the amount of the maximum Pell Grant, Arizona State officials told the Republic, with startup costs for the first campus, envisioned for suburban Phoenix, estimated at $4.5 million to $6 million. Arizona is considering numerous options for cutting what students pay for higher education, including letting more students go to community colleges for three years and enrolling at costlier universities only for the fourth year.

August 3, 2009

A federal jury on Friday ordered Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University graduate student, to pay $675,000 to four music labels for downloading and sharing music online, The Boston Globe reported. Tenenbaum never denied sharing the music online and the judge ruled that his admission of doing so required a verdict in favor of the music companies, leaving the main question to be the size of damages (which could have been much greater). While record companies have threatened legal action many times over the downloading issue, many times focusing on colleges and their students, this is only the second case against an individual to have gone to trial.

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