Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 21, 2016

Last week the U.S. Department of Education announced a delay in the release of an updated template colleges are required to use next year to make gainful employment disclosures. The gainful employment regulations, which went into effect last year, set performance standards for the ability of graduates of vocational programs to repay their federal student loans. The rule applies to for-profits and non-degree programs at community colleges and other nonprofit institutions.

The department in November released its first batch of gainful employment data, which it plans to use to enforce the rule. The public release didn't include programmatic numbers, and the disclosure template is not slated to be available until the tail end of January, the department said. Colleges will have at least 60 days to post the required information once the template is out. Prior disclosure requirements remain in effect under the 2016 version of the template. But experts said specific gainful employment data might not be publicly available until the new template is out.

Congressional Republicans have been critical of the gainful employment rule and likely will seek to roll it back, or at least portions of it, probably with the backing of the incoming Trump administration.


December 21, 2016

The American Bar Association is suing the Department of Education over the denial of Public Service Loan Forgiveness to four attorneys employed at the association and previously approved for the program.

The lawsuit claims that three plaintiffs received employment verification for the program and a fourth believed she qualified because she worked at a nonprofit employer certified by the department before it dropped the ABA and other public interest law organizations from the program. The ABA says in the lawsuit that qualifying as an eligible employer under PSLF its essential to its recruitment and retention efforts. The lawsuit was filed after multiple attempts to resolve its eligibility with the department, the association said in a release.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness was enacted in 2007 to allow borrowers of federal direct student loans working in public service careers to have their loans discharged after 10 years and making 120 qualifying monthly payments under an income-driven repayment plan. Data released by the department in August showed that more than 430,000 student loan borrowers had submitted at least one employment certification form required to qualify for the loan forgiveness program.

"The PSLF program promised these dedicated lawyers a chance at financial stability in return for doing public service work," said ABA President Linda A. Klein. "After following the rules, these people had the rug pulled out from them."

December 21, 2016

Until The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported this month that Ben Holm had agreed to plead guilty in Georgia to charges of aggravated assault and statutory rape, students at Loyola University Chicago had no idea that their fellow student (and a member of the university's golf team) had been charged with rape and was awaiting a trial since 2013.

Now, many students are upset that they didn't know. More than 1,200 students and others have signed a petition calling on Loyola to apologize for not letting students know about the charges against Holm. "Students at Loyola University Chicago are disgusted by the institution's actions and do not feel safe on campus," the petition says. "The administration's silence is only making things worse."

Loyola released a statement on the situation after the petition started to get attention on campus and elsewhere. "In the past few days, Loyolans have expressed concern following media reports related to a student-athlete who was charged and pled guilty to a gender-based violent crime that occurred in his home state of Georgia," the university statement said. "This crime occurred prior to the individual joining Loyola. To our knowledge, we neither received information about the crime, nor had any awareness that it occurred until Monday, Dec. 12, when we received a media inquiry. Based on media reports, the individual is in police custody in Georgia. The individual is not registered for classes in the spring semester."

December 21, 2016

A long-running dispute over licensing of prostate cancer drugs has ended in the University of California’s favor.

California’s Supreme Court last week upheld lower court rulings in favor of the University of California Board of Regents. The decision effectively awards the university $32 million in additional licensing income while also resolving contract claims against the regents and confirming a jury verdict clearing a drug inventor of fraud.

Litigation was first filed in the dispute more than five years ago, in May 2011. At issue was the licensing of two prostate cancer drugs -- one called Xtandi and another referred to as A52. The regents licensed Xtandi to biopharmaceutical company Medivation Inc. But Medivation claimed breach of contract against the regents after they licensed the other drug, A52, to a different company, Aragon Pharmaceuticals. Medivation claimed it should have received the A52 license.

Information came to light during the litigation process that led the regents to file a cross complaint claiming they were underpaid on drugs licensed to Medivation. The regents won a bench trial in that matter, and lawyers won a jury trial on whether University of California, Los Angeles, Professor Michael Jung -- a drug inventor -- defrauded Medivation out of rights to A52. The regents also won a summary adjudication that eliminated the company’s contract claims against them and established that it had no rights to A52, according to a press release from the law firm representing the regents, Crowell and Moring.

Medivation appealed the decision, but the First Appellate District for the California Court of Appeal affirmed the rulings in September. The state’s Supreme Court upheld that Court of Appeal’s findings Dec. 14.

Inside Higher Ed is also one of Crowell and Moring’s clients.

December 21, 2016

Two Wisconsin Republican legislators have threatened to withhold state funds from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in relation to a planned course on racism called The Problem of Whiteness. State Representative Dave Murphy has also called on the university to fire the professor in charge of the course over his tweets, saying that some condone violence against police officers.

"The state has a lot of different priorities when it comes to funding things," Murphy told the Wisconsin State Journal. "Is funding a course that’s about ‘The Problem of Whiteness’ … a high priority? I’ve got a feeling it’s not.”

Wisconsin Senator Steve Nass also criticized the planned course in a statement. "Madison must discontinue this class," he said. "If [Madison] stands with this professor, I don’t know how the university can expect the taxpayers to stand with [Madison]."

The university defended the course, saying in a separate statement, “The course title refers to the challenge of understanding white identity and nonwhite identity across the globe.” The course is not mandatory, according to the university, and “will benefit students who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of race issues.” Murphy also criticized the professor’s tweets, including ones he posted in July after a gunman killed police officers in Dallas.

Murphy said that Damon Sajnani, the assistant professor of African cultural studies in question, should be fired for the "vile" tweets, according to the State Journal. Sajnani declined an interview, citing "the preponderance of white supremacist backlash against myself and the [university] community."

In response, Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf said the university "supports the First Amendment rights of its students, faculty and staff, including their use of social media tools to express their views on race, politics or other topics, in their capacity as a private citizen."


December 21, 2016

The federal government is withholding a portion of Social Security benefits from a growing number of older Americans to cover defaulted student loan debt, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. This so-called offset accounted for about $171 million of the $4.5 billion in defaulted student loan debt that the U.S. Department of Education collected in 2015.

The report found that among older borrowers (age 50 and older) who were subject to the offset for the first time between 2001 and 2015, about 43 percent had held their student loans for 20 years or more. And three-quarters of these older borrowers had taken loans only for their own education, with most owing less than $10,000.

December 21, 2016

The leaders of nearly 200 colleges and universities have signed an open letter calling on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and members of Congress to support climate research, investment in a low-carbon economy and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The letter was developed by colleges, universities and the Boston-based nonprofit Second Nature. It currently lists the names of more than 170 colleges and universities from more than 30 states as signees. It will be open for additional signees until Jan. 13, at which point organizers plan to send it to politicians.

“The upcoming transition of federal leadership presents a unique opportunity to address head-on the challenges of climate change by accelerating the new energy economy and creating strong, resilient communities,” it reads in part. “This is particularly important for those in our communities most vulnerable to climate change. Your support for these three areas is a critical investment in the future of the millions of students we serve. We will continue to prepare graduates for the work force as well as lead in world-class research and innovation in order to secure a healthier and more prosperous future for all.”

December 21, 2016

Alaska Pacific University has announced plans to become a tribally controlled college, Alaska Dispatch News reported. The plan is to become affiliated with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Alaska Pacific is well short of the requirement of having half of students be Native Alaskans or from other Native American groups, but officials said they expected to see enrollment of these students grow. Alaska Pacific was founded as Alaska Methodist University and maintains ties to Methodist groups.

December 21, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Shervin Assari, research investigator in the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, details the reasons why members of one race might be more resilient than members of another. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 20, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday that it would block federal student aid funds to Charlotte School of Law as of Dec. 31, a major blow to the viability of the for-profit institution.

The American Bar Association placed the law school on probation last month, citing its failure to comply with standards that a program only admit applicants likely to succeed and pass the bar exam.

The department noted Charlotte's failure to comply with its accreditor's standards as well the department's regulations. And it said the law school had made substantial misrepresentations to students about the program's accreditation and the likelihood of graduates to pass the bar exam.

“The ABA repeatedly found that the Charlotte School of Law does not prepare students for participation in the legal profession. Yet CSL continuously misrepresented itself to current and prospective students as hitting the mark,” Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said in a statement. “CSL’s actions were misleading and dishonest. We can no longer allow them continued access to federal student aid.”

The law school received $48.5 million in federal student last year, mostly from federal student loans. The program has until Jan. 3 to submit evidence to dispute the findings of the department.

A statement released by the law school to The Charlotte Observer said that the institution had "no warning" that the action was about to be taken, nor an opportunity to discuss the penalties with federal officials. The statement added that the law school would respond to the federal complaint and "protect our students."


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