Higher Education Quick Takes
The U.S. Education Department today proposed new rules governing federal student loans, which would, among other things, ease the process by which disabled borrowers could have their loans discharged, establish a new income-contingent repayment plan for direct student loans, and expand the government's income-based repayment program. The changes regarding borrowers with disabilities were prompted by concerns (many contained in a 2011 series by ProPublica) that they were being required to jump through far too many hoops to have their loans forgiven. The rules emerged from a round of negotiations that the agency held last winter, and public comments on the proposed changes are due by Aug. 16.
Four former student recruiters have filed a False Claims Act lawsuit against the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, claiming that the for-profit institution used illegal incentives to recruit students, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The university has denied those claims, arguing that it complied with federal policies. A U.S. district court judge ruled last month that the case could proceed.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled 4-to-3 Friday that the University of Iowa does not have to release files related to a 2007 investigation of sexual assault charges against former football players, The Des Moines Register reported. The university has to date released only some of the files, and those have been redacted. The university maintains that the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA, bars release of more of the files. While critics question the university's interpretation of FERPA, the Iowa Supreme Court ruling was ultimately about a state law, not FERPA. Iowa's Supreme Court cited a provision in Iowa's open records law that exempts documents whose release could "cause the denial of federal funds to a state agency." Since some interpretations of FERPA are consistent with the university's that a more complete release would violate FERPA, the Iowa court ruled that the university has no obligation to release the materials.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools last week gave Ashford University one month to prepare a report demonstrating the for-profit university's compliance with the commission's criteria for accreditation, according to a corporate filing by the university's parent company, Bridgepoint Education. Ashford last week had its bid rejected for accreditation with another regional accreditor, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which found the university lacking in several areas, including low numbers of full-time faculty, high student dropout rates and questions about academic rigor.
Ashford had sought to change its accreditation status in part because the Higher Learning Commission has required that the university demonstrate a "substantial presence" in the region. Now Ashford must respond to a range of questions from the commission that stem from the critical finding from WASC. After submitting the report, the commission will conduct a site visit sometime before a mid-October.
Trustees of Pennsylvania State University have reportedly decided to keep the campus statue of Joe Paterno, at least for now and potentially for good, ESPN reported. Last week's independent report that listed the late football coach as among those senior leaders at Penn State who collectively opted not to report Jerry Sandusky to authorities has tarnished the reputation of the coach who was beloved by generations of Penn State fans. ESPN reported that trustees do not want to offend fans who remain loyal to Paterno, and also do not want to be rushed into a decision.
"You can't let people stampede you into making a rash decision," a trustee said. "The statue represents the good that Joe did. It doesn't represent the bad that he did."
Meanwhile, the artist who painted a mural in State College, Pa. that includes Paterno has removed a halo that he added after the coach died, The Centre Daily Times reported.
Faculty members at Lebanese University are questioning the creation of new departments to study Persian and Turkish languages, The Daily Star reported. The administration created the programs, citing the values of language study. But faculty members say that the administration ignored the faculty role in creating new academic programs. Further, some professors are concerned about the political implications. Some faculty members say that they were alarmed to see the new Persian language program included in an education agreement between Iran and Lebanon. And some faculty members question the teaching of Turkish, which is not widely taught in Lebanon, in part because of lingering anger over Ottoman rule in the region.
Simon Fraser University in British Columbia is one step away from becoming the first non-American college or university to belong to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The Canadian institution awaits a ruling by the association's executive committee, expected next month, that would modify a rule that requires all NCAA members to be accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies. Simon Fraser, which was one of several Canadian institutions that explored joining the NCAA (the others opted not to), has applied for membership to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and would qualify under a rule change that would permit NCAA membership for foreign colleges that are candidates for regional accreditation.
Students are shouldering an increased share of their own college tuition payments (with their parents picking up less of the tab), and more families are considering price when deciding where to send their children to college, according to an annual study by the lender Sallie Mae to be released today. The study, "How America Pays for College," found that the proportion of families that said they had stopped considering certain colleges had risen to 70 percent, up from 56 just three years ago. And the proportion of college expenses that students themselves paid for rose to 30 percent, the highest level in four years, with the proportion covered by parents' out-of-pocket expenditures falling to 28 percent, down by 9 points from a high two years ago.
After setbacks last year stopped its plan to open a new medical school in its tracks, the University of California at Riverside is trying again, fresh with non-state funds that it hopes will overcome an accreditor's concerns, the Los Angeles Times reported.