The National Association of College Stores and the Internal Revenue Service have teamed up on a new Web site designed to help make students aware that they can now recoup some of what they spend on textbooks and other course materials thanks to an expanded tax credit enacted by Congress as part of economic recovery legislation in February. The site, textbookaid.org, provides information about how college students can take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which temporarily expands the Hope college tax credit in multiple ways, including by including textbooks and other course materials as reimbursable expenses for the first time.
Higher Education Quick Takes
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The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools announced Monday that an appeals panel had upheld the commission's decision in June to terminate the accreditation of Paul Quinn College. The appeals committee found that in revoking the ailing Dallas college's accreditation, the commission had neither made procedural errors nor made an "arbitrary nor unreasonable" decision -- the only grounds on which an institution can successfully appeal a decision by the commission, under the Southern association's policies. Under SACS rules, Paul Quinn's accreditation is now revoked, which means that students cannot receive federal financial aid. (Most Paul Quinn students now qualify for and receive such aid.) Paul Quinn officials could not be reached for comment on Monday, but a lawyer for the college previously had said that the historically black institution would file a lawsuit in federal court if its appeal was unsuccessful.
Lawsuits charging for-profit colleges with misleading students or abusing federal financial aid laws are not uncommon, and many such suits are dismissed without findings of wrongdoing. But it is rarer for such lawsuits to be brought by senior administrators at the colleges in question, as is the case with one now being brought against American InterContinental University, as reported Monday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Atlanta last year but unsealed only last month, was brought under the federal False Claims Act and revealed after the federal government declined to join the lawsuit. (The False Claims Act permits lawsuits by an individual who believes he or she has identified fraud committed against the federal government, and who sues hoping to be joined by the U.S. Justice Department. The plaintiff then shares in any financial penalties, which can include trebled damages.) The suit against American InterContinental accuses it of violating federal laws barring colleges from compensating admissions officers based on how many students they enroll and of admitting students who had not proven themselves qualified to benefit from a higher education. (AIU was on probation with its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, because of similar concerns from 2005 to 2007.) The lawsuit was filed by a former vice president for academic affairs/acting president, a former human resources director, a former academic adviser, and a current official in the registrar's office at one suburban Atlanta campus of American Intercontinental. A spokesman for Career Education Corp., a for-profit higher education company that owns AIU, told the Journal-Constitution that the lawsuit is "without merit."
The notion of stimulus funds for a sex study was too much for The New York Post and some Republicans to pass by, so now a Syracuse University professor is the latest social scientist to have his work get a little extra scrutiny. The National Republican Congressional Committee is urging scrutiny of a stimulus grant given to Michael Carey, a psychology professor, to study trends in hook-ups of freshmen women, The Syracuse Post-Standard reported. Carey told the newspaper that he applied for the grant -- focusing on the public health issues involved -- before stimulus funds even existed, and that the research was never sold as an economic development measure.
Nearly two-thirds of borrowers with private student loans in 2007-8 had not taken full advantage of the cheaper and safer federal student loans for which they would have qualified, the Project on Student Debt said in a report Monday. That finding is one of several in the latest study to examine the upturn in students' usage of alternative loans, based on data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey.
Stanley H. Kaplan, who founded his eponymous test-preparation business in 1938, died Sunday at the age of 90. Although Kaplan sold his then-nationwide business to The Washington Post Company in 1984, he served as president until he retired in 1994. A biography posted on the company's Web site notes that Kaplan's interest in testing dates to his rejection from medical schools in an era when Jewish, working class students had a hard time demonstrating their credentials. While Kaplan was a huge fan of the SAT, he fought for years with testing companies, which at the time denied the possibility that test prep improved scores.
The University of Northern Iowa has frustrated many of its donors with an insurance program that turned out to violate federal tax laws, The Des Moines Register reported. The program -- a group insurance offering -- was supposed to be a benefit available to donors to an athletic scholarship fund. But the university spent years fighting with the insurance company over specifics, and only this year determined that the effort violated federal law. The university may now owe up to $170,000 in back taxes, and nearly 1,700 donors may have lost more than $6 million in accumulated insurance, the Register reported.
Beware the powerful legislator who feels ignored by higher education. In Indiana, Sen. Luke Kenley, chair of the Budget Committee, criticized Indiana and Purdue Universities over tuition increases, asking them to scale them back in light of the recession. Nothing happened. Senator Kenley's response? He's now threatening to use his committee's role to delay $53 million in construction projects at the universities, The Indianapolis Star reported. "This is a new, interesting situation that we've never had to deal with before," said Larry MacIntyre, a spokesman for Indiana University, told the newspaper. "If Senator Kenley withholds approval of these projects, it could be quite problematic for us, because some of them are time-sensitive, and work on some of them already has been bid, and those bids could expire."
While more college athletes who are gay have come out in recent years, they have not included big-time football players. But a survey of 85 football players in ESPN magazine found that just under half know a gay teammate, and that the number increases to 70 percent in the Pacific-10 conference.