Higher Education Quick Takes

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Friday, February 3, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Alex Shingleton of Michigan State University reveals how the body protects its most important features during times of malnourishment. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

Friday, February 3, 2012 - 3:00am

The National Collegiate Athletic Association put the University of Nebraska at Lincoln on two years’ probation for major rules violations, including failure to monitor, one of the harshest penalties an institution can face. Over a five-year period, the university provided nearly 500 athletes in all 19 sports with impermissible benefits in the form of scholarships covering books and supplies, the value of which exceeded NCAA financial aid limits by a total of $28,000. The university discovered and reported the violations itself, and worked cooperatively with the NCAA to submit the case facts in written form and avoid a formal hearing. It also self-imposed a $38,000 fine, sic 38k, not 28k? dl *** yes  -ag which was donated to local charities. According to the association’s public infractions report, financial aid packages may only cover required textbooks and course supplies, not recommended ones. The excessive aid caused the inadvertent violations themselves, but the failure to monitor is a result of the length of time and number of athletes involved. The NCAA is also subjecting the university to public reprimand and censure.

Friday, February 3, 2012 - 3:00am

Sallie Mae said Thursday that it will still charge a quarterly $50 fee to student loan borrowers in forbearance, but that the charges will be applied to the borrowers' accounts once they "resume a track record of on-time payments," a spokeswoman said. The lender charges the fee when private student loans have gone into forbearance, continuing to accumulate capitalized interest although borrowers do not have to make payments. An online petition criticizing the fee as an "unemployment tax" had accumulated 77,000 signatures as of Thursday, building pressure on Sallie Mae to alter its policy.

In an e-mail message, Martha Holler, senior vice president for corporate marketing and communications, said that after "giving it careful consideration for some time," Sallie Mae will apply the "good-faith payment to the customers’ balance after they resume a track record of on-time payments," retroactive to forbearances granted as of Jan. 1. The former student who started the petition, Stef Gray, said in a statement of her own that the change did not go far enough. "At the end of the day, Sallie Mae is still asking unemployed college grads to fork over money they don’t have," she said. "Sallie Mae needs to drop this unfair fee for good.”

Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 3:00am

A petition asking Sallie Mae to revoke the $50 quarterly "forbearance fee" that the lender imposes on borrowers who are unable to repay their student loans has gathered more than 75,000 signatures. Forbearance, when loans continue to accumulate capitalized interest although borrowers do not have to make payments, is the last resort to avoid default, and the petition protests the $50 fee as an "unemployment tax."

"As an unemployed person desperately looking for work, I need every extra dollar I have to pay for rent, electricity and groceries," wrote Stef Gray on the petition. "But Sallie Mae is preying on people like me and cashing in on the fact that we need more time to find work before we can repay our student loans."

Such fees are not uncommon on private loans, and Sallie Mae has defended them as a way to ensure that the borrower is committed to continuing to pay.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 3:00am

Class-action lawsuits have been filed against 12 more law schools over employment data, with 51 of their graduates accusing the schools of misrepresenting how many graduates would be able to find high-paying law jobs after earning a degree. The 12 schools -- Brooklyn Law School, California Western School of Law, Southwestern Law School, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, John Marshall Law School, Florida Coastal School of Law, and the law schools at DePaul University, Golden Gate University, Hofstra University, Union University, the University of San Francisco and Widener University -- join three that have already been sued in a similar class action

Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 3:00am

It's the cover-up that always gets you. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln is the latest college to face a bedbug problem in some dormitories -- an event that has been treated as a serious annoyance by students elsewhere, but hasn't led to scandals. As The Lincoln Journal Star reported, however, a resident assistant in one housing unit reported that when she found bedbugs, she was discouraged from telling the students, and was told to tell them that her room was being remodeled, not that it was being scrubbed for bedbugs. The university denies a cover-up, but students aren't convinced.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 3:00am

Pomona College dismissed 17 employees, 16 of them from the dining service, in December when they could not produce documents showing that they were legally in the United States, The New York Times reported. Some of the employees had worked for the college for many years, and their firings have angered many students and alumni. Critics argue that the colleges is failing to live up to its ideals. But college officials said that, under U.S. law, they had no choice but to act when they received a "credible complaint" that some of the employees were working illegally. That led to the request for documents, which in turn prompted the dismissals.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 3:00am

The arts and sciences faculty of Rutgers University at New Brunswick has voted 174 to 3 to call on the university to stop covering athletics department deficits and to let students vote on whether their fees should be used to do so, NewJersey.com reported. The vote follows a series of reports about the large deficits in the athletics program (nearly $27 million in 2010, making Rutgers one of the top money-losing universities in the country with regard to athletics). Faculty anger has been growing as the university has faced steep budget cuts. A Rutgers statement said that the university is working to bring down the deficit and that cuts would hurt Olympic sports that rely on student fees.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 3:00am

Indiana's Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would let public schools teach creationism in science classes, as long as the views of multiple religions on the origins of the Earth are taught there as well, the Associated Press reported. Many scientists have spoken out against the bill, as have some scholars of religion.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 3:00am

In today’s Academic Minute, Greg Crane of Tufts University explains the importance of Arabic translations of documents from ancient Greece. Find out more about the Academic minute here.

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