Quick Takes: Insurance Refunds, Community College Formula Fairness, Pork Barrel Expands, More Woes for Indiana Athletics, Sign of Change for WVU, Reforming Adult Education, Elusive Pig

June 27, 2008
  • Aetna will be reimbursing thousands of college students nationwide because the company did not pay what it should have on some medical insurance claims, The Hartford Courant reported. The announcement follows a request for the reimbursements from Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, who investigated claims about underpayments by the company. The underpayments were for out-of-network care. While the company has not said how many students nationally will receive funds, the figure in Connecticut is 1,300.
  • Leaders of Metropolitan Community College, in Omaha, are trying to change Nebraska's funding formula for community colleges, saying that it treats the college unfairly. The Omaha World-Herald reported that college officials point to statistics showing that the area served by the college provides half of the sales tax revenue used to support the state's community colleges, but receives only 24 percent of state aid for the colleges. Officials of other colleges have said they are open to talking about the formula.
  • Many professors at West Virginia University believe the current scandal there over an inappropriately awarded degree has its roots in political leaders and board members not respecting or understanding academic values. In a sign that Gov. Joe Manchin III may have heard the criticism, he has tapped a prominent academic leader -- Charles M. Vest, the former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- as a new board member for WVU. Vest is a West Virginia native who earned his bachelor's degree from the university.
  • Doesn't look like most members of Congress got the memo on earmarking. Despite growing rhetoric against the process of "directed spending," as lawmakers like to call it, both from President Bush and some Congressional leaders, the early signs are that the 2009 fiscal year is looking like a banner one for what critics deride as "pork barrel spending": money specifically allocated by Congress for individual recipients, including colleges and universities. A preliminary review released Thursday by Citizens Against Government Waste shows significant increases in earmarks in the appropriations bills that the House of Representatives has drafted so far, including those for agencies near and dear to higher education, such as the science departments, biomedical research, and energy programs. Earmarks in the bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appear to have doubled over 2008, for instance, the group found. Colleges and universities are found throughout the lists published by the taxpayer group, such as this one for the Commerce Department and NASA.
  • The hits keep on coming for the Hoosiers. Months after Indiana University at Bloomington revealed that the National Collegiate Athletic Association had accused its men's basketball coach, Kelvin Sampson, of breaking rules much like those he broke in his previous job at the University of Oklahoma, university officials announced Thursday that the NCAA had added an additional charge -- the dreaded "failure to monitor" allegation that accuses the university directly, and not just its underlings. Indiana officials said they would defend themselves "vigorously" against the additional charge, which tends to bring increased penalties against colleges that face it. Almost concurrently, the university's athletics department announced that the athletics director, Rick Greenspan, would resign at the end of 2008. Greenspan has come under intense fire for hiring Sampson, and the additional NCAA accusation can't have helped.
  • Adult education programs are failing to reach millions of Americans who lack basic literacy or other skills needed to get decent jobs, says a report released Thursday by a national commission charged with studying the issue. "Reach Higher, America: Overcoming the Crisis in the U.S. Workforce" notes that 18 million adult Americans lack high school diplomas, 51 million haven't gone to college and 18 million aren't proficient in English. The report, from the National Commission on Adult Literacy, calls for an overhaul of federal programs for adult literacy so that efforts have the explicit goals of either job training or preparation for postsecondary education.
  • It's that rare story involving a pig, a taser and a happy ending. For weeks now, Colby College officials and Maine authorities have been trying to capture a runaway pot-bellied pig that escaped from its owner, a student, at a picnic. The pig was roaming the campus and managed to elude capture with nets. Local press coverage has been extensive. This week, the pig was enjoying a snack of some French fries offered by an area resident who called the police. The Morning Sentinel reported that the person who shared the fries also called the police, who used a taser to stun the pig, leading to the pig's capture and ending a month of freedom for the animal. While the pig will not be continuing on at Colby, it will stay in education, and has been adopted by a preschool.
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