Sallie Mae spent nearly $2 million in the first half of 2009 on federal lobbying at a time when Congress and the Obama administration are contemplating a radical restructuring of the student loan programs, the Huffington Post reported. The article, a product of the Web site's fledgling investigative fund, said that Sallie Mae hired a who's who of Washington lobbyists to fight the Obama administration's plan to end lending through the guaranteed loan program that Sallie Mae has dominated, and to push an alternative proposal that faces an uphill climb in Congress.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Citing the state’s severe budget problems, the University of California at Irvine announced that it will cut its men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s rowing, and sailing teams. The institution expects to save nearly $1 million as a result of the cuts. Mike Izzi, Irvine athletics director, said, “I was hoping to avoid discontinuing any of our sports programs, but the athletics department is not immune to the cuts that are occurring in the state and on our campus.”
The largest donor in the history of Florida Atlantic University has told the institution that he cannot fulfill a $16 million pledge he made in 2007, and that he will pay $1 million more (on top of $4 million he has already provided) to bring his total gift to $5 million, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The donor, Barry Kaye, who made his fortune in insurance, cited the economic downturn as the reason for reneging on the gift, and asked that his name be taken off the university's business school.
The city council in Santa Fe, N.M., voted Wednesday night to raise $30 million to buy the campus of the defunct College of Santa Fe and lease it to Laureate Education for an arts school set to open this fall, The Sante Fe New Mexican reported. State and local officials in New Mexico had contemplated using public money to keep the private College of Santa Fe alive, but under the plan approved Wednesday, Laureate, a for-profit company that operates campuses domestically and internationally, would use the name but create an independent arts school on the campus, with discounts for local students.
The federal program that funds career and technical education gives states significant flexibility in evaluating how effectively they spend that money -- to the point that it is difficult for the U.S. Education Department to compare states and judge the nation's overall performance, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Wednesday. The GAO's review was designed to assess how states have implemented performance measures mandated by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 and how the federal government monitors what the states are doing. The report by Congress's investigative arm concludes that "differences in how states collect data for some performance measures may challenge Education’s ability to aggregate student outcomes at a national level and compare student outcomes on a state-by-state basis," and that the department has trouble comparing states because the law requires only that states discuss how they are evaluating their programs, rather than "report on the outcomes of their evaluations." "If policy makers are interested in obtaining information on state evaluations, they will need to weigh the benefits of Education obtaining this information with the burden of additional reporting requirements," the report says.
The closure Monday of an insolvent private vocational college in Australia that caters to foreign students has renewed concerns about the regulation of private educational providers there, The Australian reported. Sterling College, which operates campuses in Sydney and Brisbane, went into "administration" (a bankruptcy equivalent) Monday, leaving hundreds of students from India at risk of losing not only their tuition payments but also their visas, the newspaper reported. A federal agency in Australia is investigating "providers of concern," and authorities are auditing 17 "high risk" private colleges in Victoria, The Australian said.
With controversy swirling around swimmers' use of high-tech swimsuits and the stumbling approach of the sport's international governing body in reviewing the swimwear, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Wednesday that it would ban athletes from competing in the polyurethane bodysuits. At the FINA World Swimming Championship, swimmers wearing bodysuits known as the Arena X-Glide shattered world records right and left, drawing accusations of unfairness and pleas for FINA to ban them, which it has been slow to do. The NCAA Divisions I, II and III Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Committees showed no such hesitation, endorsing rules for collegiate competition that say that swimsuits must be made from textiles or a woven material. The panel also recommended that suit coverage be limited to between the waist and kneecap for men and the shoulder and kneecap for women.
Can a piece of narrative history inspired by a Hollywood screenplay be real history? That's the question raised by a dispute involving dueling accounts of the Civil War secession of a Mississippi county, The New York Times reports. As the Times tells it, the producer and director Gary Ross bought the rights in 2007 to The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2001), by Victoria Bynum, a history professor at Texas State University San Marcos. Ross then reportedly encouraged a Harvard historian, John Stauffer, and The Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins to write their own, sexier version of the story based on the screenplay for his movie, which Stauffer had helped write. When Doubleday published that book, The State of Jones: The Small Southern County That Seceded From the Confederacy, this summer, Bynum bashed the book as romanticized in a three-part review on the blog Renegade South and, in an e-mail to colleagues, said she was "appalled at the manner in which these authors have written what is touted as a scholarly work. I am also deeply hurt by the manner in which they have appropriated, then denigrated, my work,” the Times reports. Stauffer and Jenkins responded on the blog Civil War Memory, writing: “Bynum sees scholarship as a form of turf warfare, with only one valid interpretation of the past, which effectively renders history useless.”
A key advisory panel for the Centers and Disease Control and Prevention recommended Wednesday that all people aged 24 and under be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as the swine flu. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises center officials on priorities for allocating vaccines when they become available, included young people among five key populations (along with pregnant women, health care employees, caretakers of infants, and adults with chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems). This recommendation, assuming it is upheld by the CDC, is likely to increase the pressure on colleges to vaccinate their students, which is sure to present major procedural and other problems for institutions (especially those inclined to try to vaccinate students against seasonal flu, too).
Lawrence Eppley, a University of Illinois trustee who is among those found to have urged the admission of politically connected applicants, is resigning from the board and urging others to do the same, the Chicago Tribune reported. "The public's confidence in the university must be restored, and one way to begin to restore that confidence is to make a clean start," he wrote in his resignation letter. The letter also strongly suggested that administrators -- many of whom have blamed the scandal on trustees -- need to share in the responsibility. "While the trustees are, in the end, responsible for the overall governance of the university, it is also important that the public has confidence and trust in the campus administrators who bear responsibility for the day-to-day decisions that have impacted the U of I in these circumstances. It is my hope that these administrators will also put the university first and assume responsibility for their roles in this matter," the letter said.