Quick Takes: Scrutiny for Student Aid System, Conflicts of Interest, Grad Student Killed in Iraq, Security at Mass. Colleges, Help for Mentally Ill, Strengthening 'Public' Scholarship, New Campaign for Antioch, U.S. Warning on Private Loans, Math Teachers

June 26, 2008
  • U.S. Education Department officials have spent weeks intensely reviewing the federal student loan program as part of their efforts to ensure continued access to loans for college students. Department officials formally unveiled more of the immediate fruits of those efforts Wednesday, laying out the terms under which the government will buy loans made by lenders who are unable to sell them to other investors. The terms described Wednesday are consistent with those the department unveiled in May, in a plan that was generally well-received by lenders. But perhaps the real news out of Wednesday's announcement was that the agency's review of the loan program -- and the insights it has gained from discussions with Treasury Department officials and finance experts -- have inspired its leaders to contemplate anew a broader reassessment of the entire federal student aid system, Under Secretary of Education Sara Martinez Tucker said in a telephone news conference Wednesday. Tucker said that the review would be consistent with the recommendations of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, which called for a streamlining of the myriad programs and types of aid through which the government now finances students' higher educations. There is an "opportunity to look at the entire federal student-aid system," Tucker said.
  • Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has been investigating conflicts of interest by academic researchers, is seeking help from powerful colleagues. He released a letter Wednesday to lawmakers on the appropriations subcommittee with oversight of the National Institutes of Health, urging them to use the budget as a tool to draw more attention to conflict issues.
  • A graduate student in political science, who had been working for the Pentagon in a controversial program designed to help better inform the military about Iraq, was killed there Tuesday, The Daily Herald reported. Nicole Suveges was 38.
  • Many public colleges in Massachusetts have been slow to upgrade their security practices since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, and in many cases lack basic measures that are widely accepted elsewhere, according to a critical report presented Wednesday to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education ) and described in The Boston Globe. The report, by an outside group of experts, found that many state colleges lack security cameras and fail to train faculty and staff members to identify potentially troubled students. Among the recommendations, the consultants urged colleges to ask graduate school applicants about unusual academic histories or past disciplinary troubles. The report did note, though, that violence like that at Virginia Tech is rare and that institutions must be careful to balance security with privacy and other individual rights.
  • Tenure and promotion policies at colleges and universities fail to encourage and in many ways impede faculty members from doing "publicly engaged" scholarly and creative work in the arts and humanities, says a new report by a consortium of colleges. The report, "Scholarship in Public:
    Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University," comes from Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, and is both an attempt to define and champion such research and to urge institutions to change policies that are seen as deterring it.
  • Young adults with serious mental illnesses are significantly less likely to finish high school and to get a college education than are their peers, according to a Government Accountability Office study released Wednesday. The study examines the characteristics of 18- to 26-year-olds with serious mental illnesses and explores programs in states that have been found to be effective, including one in Connecticut that provides funding for a supported education counselor at one of the state universities to help such students.
  • A new campaign to preserve Antioch College -- which is being shuttered by the Antioch University board -- has started, and this time the effort is designed to reach academics nationwide, with a petition drive.
  • The Federal Trade Commission, which has felt pressure from members of Congress and others to step up its enforcement of abuses by providers of alternative student loans, issued a guide Wednesday aimed at helping consumers spot and avoid deceptive practices.
  • College teacher education programs do a poor job of preparing elementary school mathematics teachers, according to a report to be released today, the Associated Press reports. The report, by the National Council on Teacher Quality, which featured 10 programs that work well, found that most spend too little time training teachers to understand the foundations of basic math concepts.
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