Responding to a request by lawmakers supportive of the guaranteed student loan program, the Congressional Budget Office has released a letter arguing that President Obama's plan to make all loans out of the government's direct loan program would save the Treasury less money than the administration suggests. The letter, requested by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), uses an alternative method of calculating the cost of the Obama plan that takes into account the "riskiness" of the loans that students would borrow (and on which some of them would default), especially if changes in the financial markets result in a longer-term downturn. Using this alternative method, the budget office asserts, the Obama proposal (which House Democrats have largely embraced) would save the government $47 billion over 10 years, far less than the $87 billion Education Department officials have said. Student loan groups and some Republican lawmakers seized on the CBO letter to restate their opposition to the administration's plan. "CBO’s conclusion that a downturn could cause a $33 billion swing in projected cost savings is reason enough for Congress not to rush consideration of the administration’s proposal and to consider alternative reform proposals that pose less risks and costs to students and schools," said Kevin Bruns of America's Student Loan Providers. But House Democrats accused the GOP of trying to "cook the books" and an Education Department spokesman said: "While the 'market cost' analysis provides a useful perspective -- and confirms that the administration’s approach saves tens of billions of dollars -- the cost estimate using the official methodology is a more accurate depiction of the policy’s impact on federal deficits and debt.”
Higher Education Quick Takes
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday sued a couple, John J. and Frances Stuart, charging that their business was engaged in illegal marketing techniques by telling parents that their children had expressed an interest in materials they were selling. The business -- SAT and ACT Prep Center Inc. -- sells test prep materials. State investigators found that the company called parents, claimed that their children wanted the materials, and sold them for $120. Many parents later reported that their children never requested the materials. Further, the state found that the materials could be found online for about $10. A lawyer for the Stuarts told the Associated Press that they deny any "intentional or systematic wrongdoing."
Hassan Diab is facing extradition hearings in Canada following the decision by French authorities to charge him with a role in a bombing attack on a Paris synagogue that killed four people and wounded many others in 1980. A court hearing Monday revealed that Diab is teaching an introductory sociology course every Tuesday and Thursday at Carleton University in Ottawa, The Canadian Press reported. Diab maintains that he is innocent of the charges. Under his bail agreement, he cannot leave his house without being accompanied by one of five individuals but that requirement does not cover his time at the university.
A foundation created and led by Henry Louis Gates Jr. is amending its federal tax form after questions were raised about $11,000 paid to foundation officers -- funds that the original tax form called research grants, but that should have been classified as compensation, ProPublica reported. When the payments are accounted for accurately, the foundation's administrative expenses will account for 40 percent of its spending in 2007, not 1 percent as originally reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Gates created the Inkwell Foundation with the goal of supporting work on African and African-American literature, history and culture, the article said. The report by ProPublica also noted that some of the actual grants went to people close to Gates. Gates told ProPublica that the foundation's second-largest grant, for $6,000, went to his fiancée, Angela DeLeon. DeLeon was formerly on the foundation board and Gates said he recused himself from a vote on the grant. A grant of $500 went to Evelyn Higginbotham, chair of the foundation's board and chair of Harvard University's Department of African and African-American studies. Gates said she didn't vote on the grant. ProPublica is an organization that conducts investigative journalism. The article noted that Gates -- the Harvard scholar who is a leading figure in African-American studies whose arrest at his home has set off a national debate about the way black men are treated by law enforcement -- also serves on ProPublica's board.
Three members of the board of the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University are suing the university to block any plans to sell its world-class art collection, valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, The Wall Street Journal reported. Plans by Brandeis to sell the collection set off widespread protests by artists and scholars, at Brandeis and elsewhere. The university says it is re-evaluating its plans, but many supporters of the museum are dubious. A lawyer for Brandeis told the Journal that the lawsuit was "frivolous and without merit" and that the university "has taken aggressive steps to protect its core educational mission."
The University of New Hampshire’s men’s ice hockey team has been placed on a two-year probation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for major recruiting violations. The Division I Committee on Infractions announced last week that one of the team’s two associate head coaches -- it would not clarify which one -- sent 923 impermissible e-mail messages to 30 prospects who were in their freshman and sophomore years in high school. The Concord Monitor reports that the associate head coach had been using Scoutware, an automated recruiting software program that allows coaches to send messages to many prospects at once. The associate head coach told the committee that he “misunderstood the relevant recruiting rule” and entered data into Scoutware “according to the prospective student-athletes’ expected enrollment at the university, rather than their high school graduation.” In addition to the probation, the team will reduce its number of off-campus recruiters by one and will not allow any of the 30 prospects in question to sign a National Letter of Intent with the university. Dick Umile, head men’s hockey coach, said the team had accepted the penalties, telling the Monitor, "We realized we made a mistake.”
Last week we reported on the creation of a new position -- "dean of engaged learning" -- at Robert Morris University, and noted that many experts had never heard of such a position previously. At least one other university has made a similar move, however. Fairfield University this month announced that Elizabeth Boquet, professor of English and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield, has been tapped to serve as the first dean of academic engagement.
Faced with no good options, a union representing California State University faculty members decided to accept a furlough plan that will reduce compensation by about 10 percent, union leaders announced Friday. The California Faculty Association also questioned Chancellor Charles B. Reed’s leadership, voting “no confidence” in him by a margin of 80 percent. The union represents tenure-track faculty as well as lecturers, who would be most likely to lose jobs if furloughs hadn’t been approved. While the vote indicates some tenured and tenure track faculty essentially voted to preserve other people’s jobs, the measure passed by a significant but not overwhelming margin of 54 percent. The union had criticized Reed for not guaranteeing the furloughs would save jobs, although Reed told Inside Higher Ed he estimated 6,000 positions would be saved if the 23,000 union-represented faculty and other employees took furloughs. The association is affiliated with the National Education Association and the American Association of University Professors, as well as Service Employees International Union.
A new study of undergraduates at Michigan State University offers some insights into the gender gap on how students use their time. The study, published in the journal Sex Roles, found that males played computer games significantly more than females: 225 more hours per year, on average, in college. Female students spent more time on everything else. The study found that found that female undergraduates spent about 16 hours per week on average on jobs, homework and other activities than did male undergraduates.
When Texas Tech University first announced that Alberto Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, has been hired to teach political science, faculty reaction was quiet, while some students and alumni objected, citing the role Gonzales played in authorizing what many see as torture and unconstitutional actions by U.S. authorities. Now the faculty is getting involved, or at least some of it is. More than 40 faculty members have signed a statement opposing the hire, The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported. But it looks like the faculty protest will not have an impact. Chancellor Kent Hance told the newspaper he had no intention of withdrawing the offer, saying of the faculty petition: "That’s their freedom of speech and I applaud that, but you don’t go around making decisions based on faculty positions."