The revamped federal tax credit for higher education expenses has nearly doubled the amount of money flowing to American taxpayers, the Obama administration said in a report released today. The report was issued as President Obama plans a speech today urging Congress to make permanent the expanded tax credit, known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which was enacted last year as part of the economic recovery legislation. According to the report, which was prepared by the Treasury Department, 12.5 million students and their families benefited from the tax credit in 2009, about 50 percent more than took advantage of the two tax benefits that the expanded tax credit replaced. The average recipients earned a credit of more than $1,700, up about 75 percent over the average Hope Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit recipient in 2008. About 4.5 million recipients earned the new credit because it is refundable, which neither the Hope Tax Credit nor the Lifelong Learning tax deduction were.
Higher Education Quick Takes
A longtime sports agent tells Sports Illustrated this week that he made payments to several dozen football players while they were in college, in violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. The "as told to" tale from Josh Luchs recounts his payments to numerous well-known and not-so-famous athletes (many of which Sports Illustrated was able to confirm), and it comes at a time when the issue of sports agents is quickly rising on the college sports agenda, amid recent controversies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Southern California, and other highly visible sports programs.
A new study by University of Washington researchers has found that undergraduates in study abroad programs double their alcohol consumption -- from an average of four drinks per week to about eight. The researchers note that, beyond issues associated with increased alcohol intake anywhere, excessive drinking abroad can place students in greater danger since they don't know local laws or customs, and can perpetuate negative stereotypes of Americans. The research is being published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
Several universities -- in the wake of the suicide of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student -- are announcing new efforts to combat and prevent anti-gay bullying. The University of Wisconsin at Madison has started a campaign called "Stop the Silence" to support gay students, and the dean of students is convening a series of discussions on harassment and bullying. Chancellor Biddy Martin issued a statement in which she said: "The suicide rates for gay and lesbian youth are appallingly high. Hatred, harassment and bullying have serious consequences. Let us re-commit to a safe, respectful and welcoming community for everyone."
At Grand Valley State University, President Thomas Haas sent an e-mail to all students and faculty members Friday in which he said that "any time you or anyone in the Grand Valley State University community feels belittled, disrespected, threatened, or unsafe because of who you are, the entire university community is diminished," The Grand Rapids Press reported.
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The spreading controversy surrounding agents in big-time college sports claimed several more athletes Monday, as the National Collegiate Athletic Association permanently barred two University of North Carolina football players and the university itself dismissed a third from the team. The three players had all been found by a joint NCAA-UNC investigation not only to have taken improper benefits from sports agents (including jewelry and trips to the Bahamas and elsewhere) but also to have lied to investigators.
A long-awaited report from the British government calls for removing most federal support for university degrees and providing large government-backed loans to students to replace those funds, The Telegraph reported. The report also calls for expanding university enrollments and increasing the quality of the institutions.
Olympic College, a community college in Washington State, has instituted new limits on protests by non-students, and some of the rules are being questioned by civil liberties groups, The Kitsap Sun reported. Those who are not students and who want to protest will need to give the college advance notice, submit information about their plans, provide copies of materials to be distributed, and distribute materials only in the protest area. The rules follow a rally last year in which an anti-abortion group carried large photographs of aborted fetuses around campus.
Fisk University, whose efforts to sell a major stake in its multimillion-dollar art collection have repeatedly been quashed by a state judge, has submitted a new plan that seeks to avoid the major objections that previously have been raised, The Tennessean reported. According to the newspaper's account, the Nashville university's latest proposal would have it sell $30 million of paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe and others but ensure that the buyer -- the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art -- cannot purchase the rest of the $73 million collection if Fisk's finances continue to deteriorate.
Iran top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is moving against Islamic Azad University, the country's largest private university and a center of moderate thought, the Associated Press reported. The ayatollah issued a decree Monday declaring that the university's endowment was created illegally and thus has not validity. The endowment has been key to the university's independence from the government.