Quick Takes: MacArthur Names 'Genius' Fellows, Columbia Ends Loans for Low-Income Students, CEO Alma Maters, Princeton Plans Expansion in African-American Studies, Student Loan Whistle Blower Emerges, Keg Ban Panned

September 19, 2006
  • The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today named 12 professors -- most of them in science fields -- among its 25 new fellows, who will receive $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years. The academic winners and their institutions are: Kenneth Catania of Vanderbilt University, Lisa Curran of Yale University, Kevin Eggan of Harvard University, Atul Gawande of Harvard, Linda Griffith of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, John Rich of Drexel University, Jennifer Richeson of Northwestern University, George Saunders of Syracuse University, Terrence Tao of the University of California at Los Angeles, Claire Tomlin of Stanford University, Luis von Ahn of Carnegie Mellon University, and Matias Zaldarriaga of Harvard. Biographies of the winners are available on the foundation's Web site.
  • Columbia University plans to replace loans with grants for all undergraduates with family incomes of up to $50,000, Bloomberg reported. Columbia's move follows similar announcements from other top universities.
  • State universities produce far more corporate CEOs than do Ivy League institutions, according to an analysis published in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Princeton University on Monday announced a major expansion of its program in African-American studies. The program will receive a new home and funds to be raised through a special campaign, and the size of its faculty will be doubled.
  • A former U.S. Education Department researcher climbed out of the shadows Monday and identified himself as the whistle blower behind revelations in 2004 that some providers of student loans were taking advantage of a loophole in federal law that allowed them to continue to make loans for which they were guaranteed an interest rate return of 9.5 percent. At a news event Monday at the New America Foundation, Jon H. Oberg, a former chief fiscal officer for the State of Nebraska, aide to the late Sen. J. James Exon (D-Neb.), and staff member at the Institute of Education Sciences, said he had done research on the practice before his superiors at the department reassigned him; he continued the work on his own time, providing information to Congress and to the department's inspector general. The event came as the inspector general prepares to release an audit that is expected to show that Nelnet, a Nebraska-based lender, received many millions of dollars in overpayments of federal funds, charges that Nelnet disputes.
  • Fairfield University is facing criticism over its new ban on all kegs or beer balls in dormitories, The Connecticut Post reported. The university's neighbors are upset because they fear students will move their keg parties off campus. Students, meanwhile complained to the newspaper that they will be forced to pay more for 30-pack cases, which also take longer to carry to dorm rooms.
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