Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois reversed course on Wednesday, allowing two University of Illinois trustees to stay on its board even though he had vowed to fire any board members who did not resign in the wake of an admissions scandal at the university, the Chicago Tribune reported. All but two trustees had resigned since Quinn and others called for their resignations in the scandal involving political patronage in admissions, which stemmed from reporting by the Tribune, but two board members had threatened to sue the state if they were forced from their jobs. In a speech Wednesday, Quinn said he thought the two trustees should go but said he didn't want to open the state to legal vulnerability. The newspaper reported that other trustees who had quit in response to Quinn's vow, from which he has now backed down, were now wondering if they had made the right decision.
Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs exercised the nuclear option in its continuing dispute with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, opting out of its five-year, $75 million contract for Gulf War syndrome research after just two years. The V.A. cited "persistent noncompliance and numerous performance deficiencies" as reasons for canceling its agreement, several weeks after it issued a highly critical audit focused on one leading researcher at the U.T. center. Despite the audit's findings, the university issued a response expressing surprise at the agency's action and saying it "strongly" disagreed with its conclusions.
As threatened, Paul Quinn College sued the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools late Tuesday, the Dallas Morning News reported. The move came after the regional accrediting association's Commission on Colleges denied the Dallas college's appeal of its decision in June not to renew Paul Quinn's accreditation. Paul Quinn's lawsuit alleges that the accreditor violated its due process rights.
Brigham Young University at Hawaii has been penalized by the Division II Committee on Infractions for violating four sets of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. The committee report, released Wednesday, notes that the institution allowed eight transfer athletes to compete before they were academically eligible. Division II rules mandate that transfer athletes have completed at least six credit hours in the semester before entering a new institution. Secondly, on four separate occasions, the institution violated a NCAA rule that requires all athletes to have selected an academic concentration before their third year. Thirdly, the university allowed its head tennis coach to oversee the completion of amateurism and eligibility forms for international athletes -- a clear conflict of interest as the NCAA considers this a responsibility of the compliance officer. Finally, the university let three athletes practice, play and travel with their respective teams before they were cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center. The committee has placed the institution on three years of probation for "failing to monitor" its athletics program.
California must adopt a more standardized statewide system of student transfer if it is to produce enough college graduates to fill its work force, says a new report, which points to structures in other states as models. The report, which was published by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at California State University at Sacramento and reported on by the Los Angeles Times, contains a series of recommendations, based on an examination of policies in Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington, designed to ease the transfer of students from the state's decentralized community college system to public four-year institutions in California.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died late Tuesday night. In his role as Senate chairman of the committee with oversight of many key education and research programs, he was influential in the creation of many them and in the (largely successful) fights to block elimination of them when some sought to do so. Kennedy pushed to add funds for low-income students in a variety of measures. He was also active in efforts to defend affirmative action, to create Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, to encourage national service, and to add funds for biomedical research. A number of the senator's former aides on education issues hold key jobs in the Obama administration and higher education associations. A detailed list of the legislation he helped shape during his Senate career may be found here.
Louisiana has a committee that is studying the future of higher education in the state. But as that panel is just beginning its work, another state commission is weighing in, reviving the long-debated idea of having all public colleges in the state overseen by one governing board, The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported. The recommendation came Monday from a group advising the state's Commission on Streamlining Government, which is studying ways to make the state's operations more cost effective and efficient given a certain decline in state revenues through 2012. The panel was generally supposed to focus on areas other than higher education, given the work being done at the same time by the Postsecondary Education Review Committee established by Gov. Bobby Jindal. But that didn't stop members of the streamlining panel's advisory group on efficiency and benchmarking, including former Gov. Buddy Roemer, to propose that all colleges in the state report to the Louisiana Board of Regents, which now coordinates the work of public colleges but does not govern them. Louisiana's colleges are governed by Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors, the Southern University Board of Supervisors, the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, and the Louisiana Community and Technical College Board.
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.
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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."