Quick Takes: New Front in Loan Inquiry, Congress Endorses Stem Cell Studies, NEH Funds, Vassar Restores Need-Blind Admissions, Charges Against Evangelists Dropped, Deaths Prompt Review of Alchohol Policies, Duke Settles With Former Lacrosse Coach

June 8, 2007
  • One day after the issue was raised at a U.S. Senate hearing on private student loans, two leading lawmakers and New York's attorney general sent letters to lenders asking for information about whether they offer less favorable rates and terms to borrowers at institutions with large numbers of low-income and minority students than to others. The letters -- one sent by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and one by Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs -- followed up on Cuomo's testimony at a hearing Wednesday in which he said his office was looking into accusations that some lenders engage in "red-lining" -- the practice of denying or increasing the cost of services to certain groups of people or certain areas, often based on race or other legally inappropriate factor. In the letter that Cuomo and Dodd sent to 20 lenders, they asked for information on the criteria the loan providers use to underwrite their loans ("including but not limited to whether your company considers the following factors: college, college location, graduation rate, historic default rate, race, gender, age, parental income, credit history") and the weights they use to consider the various factors.
  • Thirty-seven Republicans joined 210 Democrats in the House of Representatives Thursday in voting for legislation that would ease federal restrictions on research involving embryonic stem cells -- falling well short of the majority needed to override a promised veto from President Bush. The bill, passed by a margin of 247 to 176 in the House after earlier passage in the Senate, would allow scientists to use federal funds to work on cells from donated, frozen embryos at fertility clinics that are to be destroyed. President Bush has vetoed similar legislation several times previously, saying it would result in the unethical destruction of human life. Most scientists argue that the president's restrictions, announced in 2001, have impeded important scientific progress that could save thousands of lives. Thursday's debate on the House floor came in the shadow of Wednesday's news that Japanese and American scientists working with mice had used skin cells to create cells that behaved similarly to the easily adaptable embryonic stem cells.
  • The House Appropriations Committee approved legislation Thursday that would increase spending on the National Endowment for the Humanities to $160 million in the 2008 fiscal year, up sharply from the $141.4 million that the agency is receiving this year. The bill, which finances the Interior Department and numerous other agencies, would also provide $160 million to the National Endowment for the Arts, which would represent a $35 million increase over its 2007 allocation. In the 2008 spending plan he released in February, President Bush proposed keeping funds for both agencies at their 2007 levels. The Senate has not acted on its spending bill for the two agencies yet.
  • Vassar College has announced that it will resume the use of need-blind admissions, in which applicants' financial needs are not considered when making admissions decisions, The Times Herald-Record reported. For the past decade, Vassar has used that approach for the vast majority of applicants, but has considered financial issues for a small share of them.
  • A Pennsylvania judge has dismissed charges of disorderly conduct against two evangelists who held an unauthorized protest against gay rights activities at Kutztown University, The Morning Call reported. While the judge said that the protesting group should have asked permission to protest, she said that the members of Repent America had a constitutional right to demonstrate at a public university. Members of the group criticized the university's requirement that applications for protests be submitted a week in advance -- a requirement that was changed last year to require only notice of 24 hours.
  • Paul Smith's College, in New York State, is considering tougher policies against alcohol abuse in the wake of the alcohol-related deaths of five students over the last three years, the Associated Press reported.
  • Duke University has reached a financial settlement with Mike Pressler, who was fired as lacrosse coach last year at the height of the scandal involvement members of of his team and allegations -- since discredited -- that team members raped a woman hired to dance at a party, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. Details of the settlement were not releeased. Pressler has written a book that is highly critical of how Duke handled the case.
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