Nelnet has subpoenaed records from the U.S. Education Department that it believes will show that the Bush administration cleared the lender's use of a loophole in federal law that allowed it to reap billions of dollars in profits to which the department later determined it was not entitled, according to the New America Foundation's Higher Ed Watch blog. Nelnet, which is based in Nebraska, was sued in federal court last fall by Jon Oberg, a former Education Department official who brought suit under the federal False Claims Act, claiming that Nelnet had defrauded the government by recycling loans for which they were guaranteed an interest rate return of 9.5 percent. As part of its defense, Higher Ed Watch reported, Nelnet subpoenaed Education Department records to try to show its officials gave it the green light to its practices.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has rejected an appeal of a lower court's ruling rejecting a challenge by advocates for some religious high schools to the admissions standards used by the University of California. The challenge came from schools that claim they are suffering discrimination based on their religious views (many of which do not involve belief in evolution). But the university has maintained -- and the appeals court agreed -- that it was using academic judgment in appropriate ways to decide which high school courses meet entry requirements.
State and local officials are talking about creating a new public campus -- perhaps a full-fledged college -- in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The city has a community college, Temple University and many private institutions, but the goal is to have a campus of the state system of higher education. The proponents of the plan say that the private institutions and Temple are too expensive for many low-income students who want a four-year degree.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard an apparel company's challenge to the National Football League's business practices -- a case that could have implications for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which filed a friend of the court brief supporting the NFL in the case. The lawsuit in question, which was brought by a company called American Needle, revolves around whether the NFL can operate as a single business entity or whether it is made of of 32 individual companies (its teams). The outcome in the case could have implications for organizations like the NCAA, which have sometimes sought exemption from federal antitrust laws both to protect themselves from antitrust lawsuits and to give them expanded power to adopt rules that limit the authority of coaches and others (see related article).
Several American colleges are tracking down students and faculty members on programs or conducting research in Haiti, and the news was encouraging but incomplete Wednesday evening -- amid the devastation of the earthquake there:
- The University of Wisconsin at Madison reported that two separate groups of students in the country are accounted for and unharmed.
- Lynn University has not yet accounted for its students there, but has secondhand information -- via a tweet from a student -- that the students are fine.
- Blue Ridge Community College also has secondhand information that its two employees and two students currently in Haiti are unharmed.
- Taylor University has received word that a student and a faculty member are safe.
- A dean at Maryville University is safe and keeping a blog.
Delaware State University has announced that it is eliminating its men's tennis and women's equestrian teams, The News Journal reported. The university said that its overall athletic budget of $12 million is the largest among members of its conference, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and that the cuts would save about $700,000.
A panel of librarians, library scientists, publishers and university leaders on Tuesday issued a report calling on federal agencies that fund research to create policies that provide free public access to the results of the research they fund "as soon as possible after those results have been published in a peer-reviewed journal." The Scholarly Publishing Roundtable was convened by the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology, in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The report urged parties to move beyond "the too-often acrimonious" debate over access issues toward a framework in which federal agencies build "an interdependent system of scholarly publishing that expands public access and enhances the broad, intelligent use of the results of federally funded research."
The University of Hudderfield is investigating two students who are alleged to have created "Hitler - the Drinking Game" on Facebook, The Yorkshire Evening Post reported. The Facebook group explaining the rules (removed once the university investigation started) attracted 12,000 members. The student founders were known as "Fuhrers," and the game involved cards set in the shape of swastikas.
In a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, three universities agreed not to buy or promote the use of Amazon's Kindle DX or other electronic readers until the devices are fully accessible to the blind. Case Western Reserve University, Pace University and Reed College, all of which were part of a splashy entree into higher education for the Kindle last spring, struck the deals after an investigation prompted by a lawsuit by the National Federation for the Blind and the American Council for the Blind against Arizona State University, another institution that planned an e-reader experiment (that lawsuit was settled last week). Under the agreements with the Justice Department, which take effect when the colleges' current Kindle pilot projects end, "the universities agree that if they use dedicated electronic book readers, they will ensure that students with vision disabilities are able to access and acquire the same materials and information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students with substantially equivalent ease of use."
This is the time of year when most elite colleges announce yet another increase in applications, but the hike at the University of Chicago -- 42 percent -- is unusually large. The Chicago Tribune reported that officials cited a range of possible reasons, from increased outreach efforts to the publicity associated with President Obama having been a faculty member.