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For-Profits' Suit Challenges Borrower-Defense Rules

A group of California for-profit colleges filed a lawsuit in federal court this week seeking to block the implementation of borrower-defense rules finalized last fall.

The regulations, which would go into effect July 1, expand on and clarify existing federal statute to spell out how borrowers who were the victims of fraud or misrepresentation by their institution can have their student loans discharged.

Many expected that GOP lawmakers would kill the Obama era rules using the Congressional Review Act. But Congress took no action and the Trump administration has yet to indicate what approach it will take toward implementation. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told a House appropriations subcommittee Wednesday that the department would have "something further to say" on borrower defense in the next few weeks.

The for-profits' lawsuit, which names DeVos and the department as defendants, argues that the borrower-defense provision in federal statute was never intended to be used to make an affirmative case for debt relief by student borrowers.

The regulations, the suit argues, "turn a defense into a novel affirmative cause of action that will expose schools to massive liability."

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German universities oppose plan to compete on teaching quality

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But plan could still go forward.

Chinese Student Criticized for Commencement Talk

A Chinese student at the University of Maryland at College Park came under harsh criticism from some of her Chinese classmates and social media users back home after she gave a commencement speech in which she praised freedom and fresh air in the U.S., The New York Times reported.

Chinese social media users accused Yang Shuping, a graduating senior, of betraying her homeland in her speech, in which she spoke of freedoms she experienced in the U.S. -- including freedom of speech -- and of her relief in not needing to wear a face mask to protect against pollution, unlike at home in China. “Democracy and freedom are the fresh air that is worth fighting for,” said Yang, a theater and psychology major.

After coming under criticism, Yang posted an apology on the social media platform Weibo. “The speech was just sharing a part of my experience studying in the United States,” she said. “There was no intention to belittle my country and my hometown.”

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Compilation on Uncertainty Over International Enrollments

Inside Higher Ed is pleased to release today our latest print-on-demand compilation, "Coping With Uncertainty: American Colleges and International Students." You may download the booklet, free, here. And you may sign up here for a free webinar on the themes of the booklet on Tuesday, June 13, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

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Monash U Suspends Lecturer Over Test Question

Monash University, in Australia, has suspended a lecturer amid a furor in China and among Chinese students in Australia over a test question, The Australian reported. The question, in a human resources management course, asked students to fill in the blanks to the question “There is a common saying in China that Chinese officials only speak the truth when …." The correct answer was: “They are drunk or careless.” A Chinese student shared the question on social media and it quickly attracted considerable attention. The test has also been withdrawn. The Australian reported that a Chinese consulate in Australia contacted the university to object to the question.

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Canadian universities report surge in U.S. students committing to enroll

American students -- at record numbers -- are accepting offers of admissions from Canadian universities. So are students from other parts of the world.

Proposed Visa Vetting Changes Raise Concerns

More than 50 academic organizations signed a letter registering concerns about proposed changes to the visa vetting process that would subject a certain subset of applicants to enhanced questioning. The U.S. Department of State has proposed requesting from some visa applicants additional information “to more rigorously evaluate applicants for terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities,” including information relating to applicants’ travel history, address history and employment history -- all for a 15-year period – names and birth dates of relatives, and social media handles and phone numbers used over a five-year period.

The joint letter from 55 higher education and scholarly groups, dated Thursday, argues that the proposed changes to the visa vetting process are “likely to have a chilling effect not only on those required to submit additional information, but indirectly on all international travelers to the United States. The uncertainties and confusion regarding supplemental questions will have a negative impact, particularly on U.S. higher education and scientific collaborations. The notice also provides insufficient information regarding the criteria for identifying those required to complete the supplemental form, the impact of unintentional incomplete disclosure of information, such as social media presence, or remedies for correcting information initially provided. These additional questions could lead to unacceptably long delays in processing, which are particularly harmful to applicants with strict activity time frames or enrollment deadlines. Additionally, there is no information regarding the longer-term use, retention or privacy protections for the information provided.”

The notice from the State Department estimates that about 0.5 percent of all visa applicants -- about 65,000 people each year -- would be subject to the enhanced information requests.

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Data show international graduates of U.S. colleges are winning right to stay in country and work

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Study shows approvals have gone up for "optional practical training" of up to three years. Students from China and India account for more than half of those winning the prized approvals.

Two Study Abroad Students Killed in Copenhagen

Two American college students participating in a study abroad program were killed in a boating accident in Copenhagen’s harbor on Saturday, The Los Angeles Times and Massachusetts Live reported. Leah Bell, of Pomona College, and Linsey Malia, of Stonehill College, were killed after a motorized water scooter hit the boat in which they and five other students were traveling.

Pomona said in a statement that Bell was a psychology major with interests in neuroscience who wanted to be a neonatal nurse. The statement quoted psychology professor Patricia Smiley, who said that Bell had interned in a neonatal unit.

"Leah was a lovely young woman and very kind. She was a pre-health student who was delighted by working with children," Smiley said. "She found that she loved the experience of caring for premature babies, of helping families learn to bond with them and have hope for their future as a family."

Malia, a psychology major and sociology minor, had been one of four Stonehill students who dressed as the college’s mascot, Ace the Skyhawk, at athletic events. “We are a close community at Stonehill, and Linsey contributed to many areas of campus life -- as a peer mentor, a teaching assistant, a member of the Moreau Honors Program and a volunteer with multiple campus partners. Her death represents a deep loss for all of us and, of course, for her family,” said Stonehill’s president, the Reverend John Denning.

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French Scientists Pleased by Election Results

French scientists are pleased and relieved with the election of former economic minister Emmanuel Macron (at right) to the country’s presidency, Nature reported. While Macron has pledged to make cuts to public spending, Nature reports that he has said he will “ring-fence the budgets for research and higher education, areas that he wants to make the central plank of a program to boost innovation and cut unemployment. He has also pledged to invest in environmental and clean-energy measures.”

Many scientists and academic leaders in France had spoken out against the far-right party of Macron’s opponent, Marine Le Pen. Nature quoted Gilles Roussel, the head of France’s Conference of University Presidents, which in April had opposed Le Pen. "Unlike the Front National, Emmanuel Macron bears the republican and humanist values that we defend, and which constitute the DNA of universities," Roussel said.

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