Quick Takes: Charges Against Rider Officials to Be Dropped, College Board Paid to Be Preferred Lender, Abandoning Alma Mater, Scrutiny for Law Schools, Attack in Colorado, Aid in Canada, Study of Loan Auction, $50M for Med School

August 28, 2007
  • A New Jersey prosecutor filed a motion Monday to drop aggravated hazing charges against two Rider University administrators in the death of a student, The Times of Trenton reported. Details about the prosecutor's change of heart on the charges were not available late Monday. While criminal charges against students in hazing deaths are not rare, the charges against the Rider administrators were unprecedented and were widely criticized by higher education officials.
  • Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, on Monday announced that three colleges had agreed to settlements over possible conflicts of interest and consumer protection laws in receiving payments from a lender in return for being listed as a "preferred lender" to students and parents. While the colleges -- Fairfield and Sacred Heart Universities and Trinity College -- denied wrongdoing, they agreed to the settlements. The lender in question was the College Board. According to the attorney general, the College Board provided discounts on financial aid software in return for being listed as a preferred lender -- and these arrangements were not known to borrowers. Just last week, the College Board announced that it was leaving the student lending business. Edna Johnson, a spokeswoman for the College Board, called the arrangements with the Connecticut colleges "atypical and inconsistent" with the board's normal lending practices, and she said that the arrangements were ended more than 18 months ago -- prior to the national scrutiny of the issue of incentives provided to colleges for being named a direct lender. Johnson also said that it was important to note that the College Board contracts were not "revenue sharing" in that the incentives were only for listing the board as a preferred lender and not based on loan volume.
  • More alumni of some of the most prestigious universities in the United States (which are also among the wealthiest) are shifting their giving from alma mater to smaller, less wealthy institutions that the donors never attended, The Wall Street Journal reported. The donors are motivated by a sense that their alma maters don't really need the money and the greater impact that a gift may have at a less wealthy institution. That impact extends to the donor -- as a few million dollars doesn't get your name on a building at Harvard University, but might at a local college.
  • The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is expected to release a report that calls on law schools and state bar associations to release more data on the performance of students who are members of various ethnic and racial groups, and to examine the impact of affirmative action in legal education. The commission is dominated by critics of affirmative action, and has focused attention on law school admissions and diversity policies, but the commission doesn't actually have much power beyond drawing attention to issues.
  • The University of Colorado at Boulder plans to do criminal background checks on all new employees after a former temporary employee on Monday was accused of slashing the throat of a freshman, the Associated Press reported. The freshman was treated at a local hospital and the wounds were described as not being life-threatening.
  • Student aid in Canada -- both from the federal and provincial governments -- has been shifting away from need-based assistance and toward merit-based assistance, according to a new report from the Educational Policy Institute. The report found a correlation between wealth and receiving non-need-based aid, 32 percent of which goes to those in the top quartile of income.
  • Four associations that represent student loan providers are urging Congress to abandon plans to test a system for auctioning off the right to award student loans and, if need be, instead study the wisdom of an auction-based approach. In a letter released Monday that also reiterates the groups' warning that proposed cuts in subsidies and increases in fees for lenders will severely undermine the vitality of the guaranteed student loan program, the associations "respectfully" request that a "comprehensive review of how auctions might work today be substituted for the pilot auction provisions" in budget reconciliation bills that both houses of Congress have approved. The groups -- the Consumer Bankers Association, the Education Finance Council, the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs, and the Student Loan Servicing Alliance -- say they "do not make this recommendation lightly," since previous studies "revealed no compelling reason to shift to a FFELP auction; it found potentially serious problems with every type of auction considered." But the groups seem to recognize that it may be impossible to turn back the momentum pushing toward at least experimenting with an auction-based approach. The letter is directed to the leaders of a House-Senate panel charged with drafting a compromise version of the budget reconciliation legislation.
  • The El Paso School of Medicine, part of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, on Friday announced a $50 million gift from Paul L. Foster, CEO of Western Refining Inc. The gift is the largest ever to the Texas Tech University System.
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