2016 ballot measures that have an impact on higher education

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A list of the referendum votes that matter to colleges and universities: bonds, taxes, governance and more.

Indiana Tech to Shutter Law School

Trustees at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne have voted to close the institution's law school at the end of June 2017.

The law school, which has 71 students, has struggled with finances, accreditation difficulties and troubles with graduates passing the bar. Indiana Tech said it lost $20 million on the law school, which opened its doors to its first class in 2013. The school also failed its first attempt at accreditation in 2015, and only one of its first class of 12 graduates taking the bar exam in July initially passed, according to The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne.

Students in their first and second years will be able to attend class at Indiana Tech in the spring, or they will be able to transfer to other law schools. Students in their final year will be able to graduate in May.

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Indian university buys Long Island campus, cancels other proposed purchases under regulatory scrutiny

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Under scrutiny from regulators in Massachusetts, where it hoped to acquire a campus, Amity University focuses its plans for U.S. expansion on just-purchased campus on Long Island.

Gates Gives $210 Million to U of Washington

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is today announcing a $210 million grant to the University of Washington’s Population Health Initiative, which conducts research on the health and well-being of people all around the world. The grant will pay for construction of a facility that will serve as a hub for university faculty members, students and partners to collaborate on global population health challenges. The university says the Gates grant is the largest single contribution in the university's history.

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University of Maine sets off firestorm with graduate center and mergers

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Many professors say programs are being combined without enough attention to academic issues and the faculty role.

President Quits; Board Cites 'Unmet Financial Obligations'

The College of New Rochelle’s president has resigned after its Board of Trustees recently learned of “significant unmet financial obligations” that have the institution preparing for major budget cuts and possible financial exigency, it announced Tuesday.

President Judith Huntington resigned Saturday, the college said. Her resignation came shortly after the board learned in September of financial obligations that had built up over time. The college did not share the size of the obligations but said that they emerged after its controller retired at the end of the last academic year.

The college said in an online posting that it is investigating why it did not learn of the unmet obligations until recently and why a “nationally known outside firm that routinely audited the college’s financial statements” did not discover them. It also said trustees are exploring bridge financing to stabilize short-term finances. Budget cuts that could hit staff and faculty are also likely.

Trustees put in place a chief restructuring officer, forensic accountant and outside law firm to perform an investigation. Board of Trustees Chair Gwen Adolph said in a statement that more details will be provided when the investigation is complete.

“We have made these changes because we are looking in new directions to protect and preserve the mission of the College of New Rochelle,” Adolph said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring that our students have the opportunity to complete their education and take advantage of life’s opportunities.”

Adolph told faculty and staff that the investigation has so far not shown evidence of “self-enrichment,” according to The Journal News. The newspaper reported that the college, which enrolls about 4,000 students and employs about 1,300 people, operated at a loss from 2011-14, drawing down its net assets from more than $30 million to $25 million.

Traditionally a women’s college, New Rochelle generated mixed feedback in December when it announced it would admit men in the fall of 2016. It operates five satellite campuses in New York City boroughs.

Princeton, Local Residents Settle Suit on Tax Status

Princeton University has agreed to pay millions of dollars to a fund to assist local home owners and to provide other funds to support low-income residents in the local area. In return, local taxpayers have agreed to drop a suit challenging the university's exemptions from property taxes. The trial on that suit was scheduled to start today. The university also agreed to extend by two years an agreement under which it makes voluntary contributions to the budget of the town of Princeton.

A statement from President Christopher L. Eisgruber said, "We had every confidence that the courts ultimately would have affirmed the university's continuing eligibility for property tax exemption on buildings and facilities that support its educational, research and service missions, but we concluded that the contributions we will make under the settlement agreement are a better expenditure of funds than continuing to incur the considerable costs of litigation."

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Syracuse U Reveals $6 Million Cost of Promenade

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud has revealed that the university is spending $6 million -- of which only $2 million is expected to be paid in gifts -- on a new promenade, reported. The beautification project (drawing at right) has been controversial with faculty members and others who have questioned why millions should be spent in this way at a time when programs many on campus consider vital are being cut. Syverud said that part of the project included necessary utility and sewer repairs that would have been made regardless. Up until now, while faculty critics have speculated that the spending on the promenade could reach $6 million, the university has questioned that figure.

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Anderson U to Close 16 Programs, Drop Sports

Anderson University will eliminate 16 academic programs and eliminate two sports teams to "strengthen the university," The Herald Bulletin reported. A spokesman for the private institution in Indiana confirmed that it will eliminate a doctoral program in Christian ministry, master's programs in music education and science in nursing, and a range of bachelor's degree programs. Men's and women's golf programs will also be dropped.

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Harvard Students Lose Suit to Force Divestment

The Massachusetts Appeals Court has unanimously rejected a lawsuit by Harvard University students seeking to force the university to sell its holdings in the fossil fuel industry, The Boston Globe reported. The students sought to assert "special standing" under state laws for nonprofit organizations as being among those who benefit from the university's endowment. Then they said they should be able to force divestment. The appeals court, however, found that the students failed “to show that they have been accorded a personal right in the management or administration of Harvard’s endowment that is individual to them or distinct from the student body or public at large.”

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