The barrage of dueling entreaties and warnings about the future of the federal student loans continued Tuesday, as four leading Congressional Republicans told college presidents in a letter that "the elimination of the [Federal Family Education Loan Program] is not imminent" because "there remains widespread, bipartisan support in Congress" to continue it. Many Republicans oppose the Obama administration's plan to end the lender-based guaranteed loan program and shift all federal lending to the competing Direct Loan Program, for which Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Democratic leaders, in multiple letters, have encouraged college leaders to prepare. Tuesday's letter from Sens. Michael B. Enzi and Lamar Alexander and Reps. John Kline and Brett Guthrie accused Democrats of "prematurely pressur[ing] schools" to switch programs.
Higher Education Quick Takes
Eastfield College is being sued for allegedly violating the religious freedom of students in a ceramics class by barring them from making crosses in the class, WFAA News reported. The Texas community college says that the class bans many relatively common objects students might create -- including Christmas items, dog bowls, and mugs with names of states or football teams -- not to limit religious expression, but to encourage student creativity.
As negotiations and lobbying continue, Pittsburgh's City Council is slated to vote today on a plan to impose a 1 percent tax on tuition, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, and the outcome is unclear. Earlier articles suggested that the necessary five votes were there for passage, but the newspaper quoted one of the council members who had been expected to vote Yes as saying she was undecided, and others may want to delay a vote. Higher education leaders and students have been strongly opposing the idea, and a court fight is likely to follow any vote to impose the tax.
An organization that seeks tougher enforcement of immigration laws is suing Texas over a state law that gives in-state tuition rates to some students who lack the documentation to show that they have the legal right to live in the United States, The Houston Chronicle reported. The suit charges that the law violates federal statutes, but defenders argue that there is no such federal ban. The suit says that at least 8,000 students currently benefit from the law.
Students at Boise State University organized a rally after hateful fliers were distributed on campus -- by who is not known -- KTVB News reported. The fliers claimed to be providing information about safe sex, and said that "blacks are walking STD factories" and "once you go black we don't want you back."
Authorities are investigating vandalism that damaged about three-fourths of the pianos in practice rooms at Ithaca College this weekend, The Ithaca Journal reported. Some of the pianos were severely damaged, while others had parts removed. The piano vandalism comes as music students are preparing for final exams and performances.
Canadian universities -- like their counterparts in the United States -- have been telling students to stay away from campuses if they have flu-like symptoms. But some students are taking advantage, according to an article in Maclean's, which said that students "quickly expanded the definition of flu-like symptoms to include smoker’s cough, hangovers and an insatiable appetite for TLC’s Cake Boss." The magazine spoke to one Dalhousie University student who said she reported flu-like symptoms once for her logic course and once in her deduction course, and was planning to contract flu-like symptoms before an epistemology exam. "It’s supposed to come in waves," she said. The University of Western Ontario recently created a database into which students skipping classes for H1N1-related reasons are supposed to enter their names. While the database could be used to detect those experiencing multiple instances of the "flu," officials said it was created for public health record-keeping.
The acting inspector general of the U.S. Education Department said in a letter Monday that her office would investigate Republican charges that senior department officials inappropriately encouraged college officials to support the proposed elimination of the Federal Family Education Loan Program. In asking the inspector general last month to conduct the review, Rep. John Kline, the senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, expressed concerns that department officials may have exhorted community college and other leaders to lobby for the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which would shift all federal lending to the government's Direct Loan Program. A spokeswoman for Rep. George Miller of California, who heads the education committee, said in a news release late Monday that "[w]e believe the Department is acting in the best interests of students and families, especially as lenders continue to withdraw from the federal student lending business, and welcome the upcoming investigation."
Stanford University has decided not to try to sell about $5 billion in endowment assets in an auction, determining that these assets are starting to show gains in value, The Wall Street Journal reported. The planned sale was seen as a sign of how challenging wealthy universities were finding the market at a time that they hold many illiquid assets. Bids on the planned sale were in the range of 80 to 85 cents on the appraised value, the Journal said.
The Big Ten Conference will today announce that it is considering adding a 12th member, the Chicago Tribune reported. (The conference, its name notwithstanding, already has 11 members.) In recent years, conference officials have dismissed the idea of adding a member, but the Tribune reported that attitudes have changed as some members have watched other conferences earn extra money and attention by having a football playoff game, something the conference could do with an additional member. Among those that might get asked to join: Rutgers and Syracuse Universities and the Universities of Cincinnati, Louisville, Missouri and Pittsburgh.