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Charlotte School of Law missed deadline to remain open

The Charlotte School of Law missed two deadlines set by state regulators and has asked for an extension to stay open.

Indiana Backs Purdue-Kaplan Deal

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education on Thursday approved Purdue University's acquisition of Kaplan University, Purdue announced. The decision, which was widely expected, marks the first of three approvals Purdue needs for its boundary-testing deal, which would result in the creation of a new public online institution. The U.S. Department of Education and the Higher Learning Commission, which is the regional accreditor for both universities, also are reviewing the arrangement.

“The action taken by our commission today is the culmination of a thoughtful, deliberative process to meet the Legislature’s charge, and it reflects our strong support for new, innovative approaches that ensure Indiana is well positioned to meet the needs of more students,” Teresa Lubbers, Indiana commissioner for higher education, said in a written statement.

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Feds Agree to Loan Discharge for Some Students

A federal court judge Tuesday approved a settlement that could clear the federal student loan debt held by as many as 36,000 former students who attended a for-profit chain of cosmetology and secretarial programs in the 1980s and ’90s.

The New York Times reported that the last of the programs operated by Wilfred American Educational Corporation closed in 1994 following federal investigations into fraud, racketeering and embezzlement. Several leaders of the for-profit chain were convicted of fraud following those investigations, but students who took out federal loans to attend those programs between 1986 and 1994 have been paying down debt or have seen their wages garnished for decades.

The settlement comes as more than 65,000 borrower-defense claims -- filed mostly by former students of the now defunct Corinthian Colleges -- are pending review by the Department of Education.

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Harvard teams up with 2U for online certificate program

As reported in Inside Higher Ed, Harvard University announced Monday that three of its schools will create a new business analytics certificate program with 2U, the online program management company. The certificate program will teach students how to leverage data and analytics to drive business growth through a collaboration between 2U and professors at the Harvard Business School, the John A.

‘No Timetable’ for New Gainful-Employment Data

The Department of Education has yet to provide institutions this year with lists of graduates from gainful-employment programs -- a preliminary step for calculating debt-to-earnings ratios that measure whether career training programs saddle students with debt they can't repay.

The revelation, made by department officials last week in a written response to questions from Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, indicates that the department will be slow to release new gainful-employment data after delaying several provisions involving compliance by career education programs. The department released the first set of gainful-employment data in January of this year.

Durbin noted in questions to the department that career education programs received the lists of graduates, known as completers lists, by June 1, 2016. Programs have 45 days to submit corrections to those lists before debt-to-earnings rates are calculated.

"We don't have currently have any timetable to send completers lists to schools for 2017," officials said in a written response to Durbin last week.

The department is in the early stages of a negotiated rule-making process announced in June to overhaul the gainful-employment and borrower-defense regulations, which were crafted by the Obama administration but heavily opposed by the for-profit college sector and congressional Republicans. Last month, it also announced that it would delay certain disclosure requirements for gainful-employment programs and extend a deadline to file alternate earnings appeals.

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Senate Passes GI Bill Update

The Senate unanimously passed an ambitious update to the Post-9/11 GI Bill Wednesday, just over a week after the House of Representatives passed an identical version of the legislation. The bill will next head to President Trump's desk.

Among other provisions, the package would lift the current 15-year time limit for veterans to use GI Bill benefits for postsecondary education. It also would restore benefits used to earn credits at closed institutions such as those operated by Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, which enrolled a large number of veterans as students.

The legislation also would expand access to student aid for members of the National Guard and reservists and would grant full eligibility for student aid to Purple Heart recipients, regardless of their length of service.

House leaders moved the bill swiftly through that chamber, introducing it, holding hearings and scheduling a vote in just over a week. It took about as long for the bill to move through the Senate. The legislation received broad support from a wide range of veterans' groups and education advocates.

"This was a truly bipartisan effort led by some amazing organizations and leaders within Congress, all committed to ensuring veterans and their families have the opportunity for a college education post-military service," said Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America.

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For-Profit Law School May Have Aid Restored

The for-profit Charlotte School of Law was notified last month by the U.S. Department of Education that it is prepared to reinstate the institution's ability to award federal financial aid this fall, according to a news release from the for-profit.

"We are excited at the prospect of being able to help our students complete their legal education," said Paul Meggett, interim dean at the institution, in a statement. "In the meantime, CSL continues to work closely with the American Bar Association and the [University of North Carolina] Board of Governors to resolve all remaining compliance-related matters."

Charlotte has seemingly managed to survive being cut off from the Title IV student aid funds. Department officials made the decision in December to cut off the law school after the American Bar Association placed Charlotte on probation for failing to comply with standards. Charlotte worked to remain open by developing a teach-out arrangement with another institution operated by parent company InfiLaw and helping students find the money to remain enrolled at the law school.

Classes at Charlotte are expected to begin Aug. 28.

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Two For-Profits Issued Illegal Loans

Minnesota's Supreme Court ruled this week that Globe University and the Minnesota School of Business issued illegal loans to students, that carried interest rates of up to 18 percent and were not properly licensed, the Pioneer Press reported.

The U.S. Department of Education froze federal aid payments to the two related for-profit institutions last year, after a Minnesota District Court ruled that they had operated fraudulent criminal justice programs. Most of the two institutions' campus locations subsequently closed, although some have continued to operate in Wisconsin under a different ownership structure.

Minnesota's attorney general, Lori Swanson, said she would seek for loans of 6,000 former students to be discharged as well as refunds for previously repaid loans. A judge in the state also has ruled that the two for-profits must pay restitution to defrauded students.

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Trump Administration Has Approved No Borrower Defense Claims

The U.S. Department of Education has not approved any borrower defense applications since the beginning of the Trump administration, a department official told Democratic senators this month. 

Borrower defense to repayment, until recently an obscure provision of the Higher Education Act, allows borrowers to seek to have their student loan debt discharged if they were the victim of fraud or misrepresentation by their college or university. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced last month that she would suspend and overhaul an ambitious Obama administration borrower defense rule that established federal guidelines for discharge of loans. She said at the time that the department will continue to process claims submitted under existing rules.

But in response to an inquiry from Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin and four other Senate Democrats, acting Under Secretary James Manning said in a July 7 letter that no borrower defense claims had been approved since January 20, the beginning of the Trump administration. The department, meanwhile, received nearly 15,000 new borrower defense claims over the same period. 

Manning stated in the letter to lawmakers that more than 65,000 claims were still pending review. The bulk of those -- more than 45,000 -- were from former students of Corinthian Colleges, the now defunct chain of for-profit institutions. (Manning included enclosures listing claims by state and institution.

Liz Hill, a department spokeswoman, said the department inherited a large backlog of borrower defense applications and is working to make progress on reviewing those claims. 

"We are diligently looking to set up a process to start approving claims once again," she said. 

DeVos in May told lawmakers that the department would honor borrower defense claims already approved by the previous administration after multiple unanswered inquiries from Congressional Democrats and state officials. The Associated Press reported last month that about 7,000 -- less than half -- of those claims had been discharged. The department has been working to discharge the remainder of those approved claims before beginning the review of new claims. 

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Ashford University Notches Win in GI Bill Dispute

In the latest development in an eventful saga, Ashford University on Wednesday announced that it is closer to preserving access to Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. 

The online university enrolls roughly 5,000 student veterans. But last year Iowa's state approval agency attempted to strip the university's GI Bill eligibility, citing a previous decision by Ashford to close its physical location in the state.

Earlier this week an Iowa court dismissed a petition from Ashford. But on Wednesday the university's parent company, Bridgepoint Education, said it has received approval from Arizona for Ashford to remain eligible to receive GI Bill benefits. That move will require a type of administrative approval from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, however, according to the company. In the meantime, Bridgepoint will continue to pursue approval in Iowa for Ashford through its ongoing lawsuit.

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