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UC President to Pay Half of Security Costs for Shapiro, Yiannopoulos

The University of California Office of the President will pay half of the cost of security for conservative speakers at UC, Berkeley, this month.

That includes $300,000 of the $600,000 bill for security for conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s appearance on Sept. 14, during which Berkeley regulated access to much of campus. It also includes an as-yet-undetermined, but likely greater, amount for security when provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and other conservatives hold a planned Free Speech Week at Berkeley.

Normally, an individual campus would be responsible for paying security costs associated with hosting a speaker. But the extraordinary cost associated with the controversial appearances at the free speech focal point of Berkeley led UC President Janet Napolitano to help foot the bill, she said Wednesday in an interview with reporters in Washington.

The speakers are not appearing in order to have an academic debate but instead want to put forth “controversial and noxious ideas,” Napolitano said. She went on to call colleges and universities places where noxious ideas are exposed but also admitted institutions are in a difficult position, stuck between protecting free speech rights while also protecting the safety and security of students and staff.

“This will be a test for Berkeley, no doubt,” said Napolitano, a former Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration. She has communicated with Berkeley’s chancellor and chief of police to run through security plans, she said.

Napolitano also discussed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and federal guidance on campus sexual assault cases during a wide-ranging interview.

The UC system estimates it enrolls about 4,000 undocumented students, most of whom have protections under DACA. Napolitano helped to put the DACA in place when she was Homeland Security secretary, and the UC system filed a lawsuit trying to stop President Trump from repealing the program, which allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to apply for temporary protection from deportation and authorization to work. The UC system is urging students who are eligible to apply for renewal of their DACA protection before a deadline early in October, and it is raising money to pay for their renewal fees, Napolitano said.

Napolitano met with DeVos for about 30 minutes earlier this year shortly after Trump’s “skinny budget” was unveiled.

“I got the impression that her learning curve where higher ed is concerned is quite vertical,” Napolitano said, adding that she was being descriptive, not critical, and also recalling a conversation in which the new education secretary required an explanation of Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, called SEOG.

Napolitano does not anticipate any change away from the UC system using a “preponderance of evidence” standard for resolving cases of sexual assault. She has previously criticized Trump administration plans to replace Obama administration guidance on campus adjudication of rape cases, noting that California enacted a law requiring that evidentiary standard for higher education institutions receiving state money.

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John Wesley Merging Into Piedmont International

Two Christian colleges in North Carolina, Piedmont International University and John Wesley University, plan to merge next year -- three years after Piedmont completed another merger.

Piedmont, located in Winston-Salem, enrolls 750 students, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. John Wesley, located in High Point, enrolls 150. Administrators consider the two institutions the largest evangelical universities in the Piedmont Triad in the north-central part of North Carolina.

The merged university would keep Piedmont’s name and have its chapel and school of leadership named after John Wesley, who helped to found Methodism in the 1700s. University leaders said both institutions are stable financially but will have more influence together. John Wesley University brings a business management school and nursing partnership to the merger, while Piedmont has been increasing enrollment and has strong online programs, administrators told the Winston-Salem Journal.

Trustees at the two institutions have approved the merger. It’s expected to take effect June 1, provided the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools gives approval.

The merger would come about three years after Piedmont absorbed a financially struggling Christian college, Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, in May of 2015. Some Tennessee Temple students enrolled at Piedmont, and it hired some of Tennessee Temple’s faculty members and administrators.

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Lynn University Will Buy Digital Media Arts College

Lynn University said Wednesday it has reached a deal to buy Digital Media Arts College, a for-profit college located about a mile away from its main campus in Boca Raton, Fla.

The asset sale will have Lynn, a 3,000-student nonprofit university, acquiring the for-profit Digital Media Arts College, which has about 300 students. After the deal closes, Lynn plans to offer Digital Media Arts College programs and combine them with its own, turning its College of International Communication into the Eugene M. and Christine E. Lynn College of Communication and Design. The university will also take on roughly 34,000 square feet of space about a mile from its main campus, which will be used for studios and offices for faculty and staff.

A teach-out provision will be offered for Digital Media Arts College students, and they will be able to continue in their programs without interruption or added cost. They will also be able to transfer to Lynn. Digital Media Arts College administrators will stop managing operations as of Oct. 19, however.

Lynn touted additional student services it can offer Digital Media Arts College students, including student housing and a career center.

Like many other for-profit institutions, Digital Media Arts College lost its accreditor and was at risk of its students losing access to federal financial aid after the Obama administration revoked its recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools in December 2016. Digital Media Arts College had until June 2018 to find a new accreditor. It had applied to the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

Lynn’s purchase must still receive approval from regulators. The university is not disclosing financial details other than that payments will be made over several years. University officials expect additional revenue from the acquisition to offset costs.

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Session takes an early look at results from FAFSA filing changes

Students filed earlier and universities mailed awards earlier, but some ran into snags with setting tuition.

Anonymous $75 Million Gift for Kenyon

Kenyon College announced Friday an anonymous $75 million gift, the largest in the history of the college. The funds will be used for a new library and academic quadrangle.

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New Site on Higher Education Finance

Nate Johnson, a consultant and expert on higher education finance, has created a new website that seeks to spark a broader discussion about the sources of funding for higher education and their implications for low-income students.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the project, which is dubbed Understanding Higher Education Finance and features a briefing report. Johnson said the project covers the full range of financial sources that the nation's postsecondary system depends upon, including state appropriations, institutions themselves, students' parents and state and federal tax expenditures. "I'd like to have people think about it as more of an ecosystem," he said, rather than as discrete funding sources.

Competing priorities help shape much of higher education's revenue, according to the site.

"The result is a set of incentives and a competitive economic environment that makes it difficult for low-income students and the institutions that serve them to thrive," the report said.

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Birmingham-Southern Cuts Tuition in Half

Birmingham-Southern College is the latest college to roll out a tuition reset in recent weeks, announcing Tuesday that it will cut tuition and mandatory fees by more than half starting in the fall of 2018.

Starting next year, tuition will be $17,650, according to AL.com. That’s down from $35,840 this academic year.

The college anticipates being able to grow beyond its current enrollment of 1,300 students after slashing tuition. It currently has capacity to grow to 1,600 students.

President Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith said that the college has heard from students and families that high published prices are a barrier. The college will still award need-based and non-need-based financial aid, although its financial aid amounts will be reduced by the tuition cut. Students are expected to pay a net cost similar to what they pay today. More than 90 percent of students do not pay the college’s published price.

Birmingham-Southern joins colleges like Sweet Briar College in Virginia and Drew University in New Jersey in announcing tuition resets for next year. But even compared to those institutions, its expected cut is steep. Sweet Briar will cut its sticker price by about a third, and Drew will cut its by 20 percent.

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Iowa State Business School Gets $50 Million Gift

Iowa State University on Monday announced a gift of $50 million to its business school, which will be renamed the Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business. Jerry Ivy, who earned a bachelor's degree from Iowa State in 1953, is currently president and CEO of Auto-Chlor System.

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Senate Bill Includes Restoration of Pell for Defrauded Borrowers

A Senate appropriations package approved last week would restore Pell Grant eligibility for defrauded borrowers, among other boosts to financial aid and college readiness programs.

The appropriations committee voted last week to approve the bill, which most notably boosted the maximum value of the Pell Grant to $6,020. It also restores Pell eligibility to student borrowers who were defrauded or misled by their institution and were approved to have their student loan cleared through a borrower defense claim. 

"While I believe we need to do more to strengthen our investments in Pell Grants and financial aid, I’m pleased this budget builds on the reinstatement of year-round Pell Grants earlier this year by increasing the maximum Pell Grant and restoring eligibility for students defrauded by predatory colleges," said Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate education committee. "Too many defrauded students were left with a mountain of debt and no degree to show for it, so I’m proud we are taking this step in the right direction to give these students a second chance.”

The appropriations package also included language asking for updated guidance from the Department of Education on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program; restores funding for a program supporting child care on college campuses; and maintains or slightly boosts funding for several financial aid and college readiness programs targeted for cuts in the White House budget.

Less popular among some higher ed observers was language directing the secretary of education to provide flexibility to colleges with poor cohort default rates on student loans. And the bill doubles the amount of time for institutions formerly accredited through the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools to find a new accreditor. 

The spending package, which differs from a spending bill approved by the House, awaits a vote by the full Senate. 

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Buffalo Administrators Plead Guilty to Larceny

Two former administrators pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing large sums of money from the University at Buffalo, with a longtime vice president pleading guilty to taking $320,000 from a university-related account and spending on personal expenses like concert tickets.

Dennis R. Black, a prominent University at Buffalo vice president who resigned last year, pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to felony charges, The Buffalo News reported. He faces a maximum of five to 15 years in prison for a second-degree grand larceny charge and between 16 months and four years on a charge of first-degree filing of a false instrument.

He reportedly spent stolen funds on expenses like tickets to see James Taylor and Liza Minnelli, to New York Yankees games and Broadway shows, and travel with his wife and his son’s wedding. He also allegedly spent on a private club membership and university staff parties at a minor-league baseball team’s games.

Black will repay the $320,000 to the university in restitution and $22,238 in state taxes. He admitted to filing a false personal tax return for 2014, according to The Buffalo News.

Black earned a salary of $287,385 in 2015 from the University at Buffalo, a public research university in the State University of New York System. He had previously denied deliberate misuse of university money. The Buffalo News reported last year that he was under investigation by state and local officials for questionable expenditures at the university, including using university funds to make charitable gifts in his name and to pay for his wife’s travel expenses. The investigation reportedly focused on expenditures connected to a $40 million university-affiliated nonprofit organization.

Another former university administrator, its onetime director of campus living, Andrea Costantino, pleaded guilty Thursday to fourth-degree grand larceny. She admitted to stealing $14,664 from the university and will pay the sum back as restitution. Costantino resigned from the university in August after two decades there. Her annual salary was $123,542.

Black is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10. Costantino is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 6.

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