Higher Education Quick Takes
Wheaton College, the evangelical Christian college in Illinois, has filed suit again over the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employer-provided health plans cover contraception -- including emergency contraception -- at no charge to consumers, which took effect Wednesday. While church-affiliated employers, including Roman Catholic and some Protestant colleges, have an additional year to comply with the requirement, Wheaton does not qualify for the temporary reprieve, said the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Wheaton is excluded because its health plans already cover some forms of birth control; the college's objection is to the emergency contraception requirement, since it believes those pills can prevent a human embryo from implanting.
The Becket Fund filed a motion on Whetaon's behalf Wednesday for a preliminary injunction against the law.
Ralph Wager, a former soccer coach at Catawba College, has been indicated on charges of sexually abusing a boy in 1987 and 1989, when the alleged victim was 9 and 11 years old and was involved in a sports activity on the campus, The Charlotte Observer reported. Authorities believe that some of the abuse took place in a house and office on the campus, and that college officials at the time responded by restricting Wager's access to a pool. The college is conducting an investigation of what happened.
WASHINGTON — The American Council on Education has asked Congress to renew expiring education tax credits past the end of 2012 after some provisions were excluded from a bipartisan bill extending tax credits that expired this year. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, as well as the student loan interest deduction and tax breaks for employer-provided education benefits, are set to expire at the end of 2012, and all were left out of a bill extending other tax breaks for higher education. The American Opportunity Tax Credit, a benefit originally included in the economic stimulus bill that provides up to $2,500 in partially refundable tax credits for tuition, appears to be the most at risk, with some Republicans in both the House and Senate opposing its expansion.
The tax credit is likely to figure in an end-of-year battle over taxes and spending as the prospect of sequestration, or mandatory spending cuts, looms and the Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire. "It is essential that these tax provisions be extended this year to help make higher education accessible for millions of Americans and to ensure our nation will have the educated citizenry the future requires," Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the council, wrote in a letter co-signed by 11 higher education associations.
A new survey by the National Consumer Law Center seeks to focus on the characteristics of students who default on their loans. Among the findings:
- 80 percent are unemployed.
- 85 percent receive public assistance.
- Nearly 65 percent attended one or more for-profit institutions.
- Only 47 percent completed their education.
Earlham College announced Wednesday that it has called off plans to have Jonah Lehrer be the featured speaker at this year's new student convocation. Lehrer recently admitted that he fabricated some quotes in his new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works. Greg Mahler, academic dean at the college, said he was "saddened" by the scandal. But he noted that the appearance was to have been sponsored by the college's Robert Simpson Charles Lectureship in Ethics Endowed Fund, and said that a talk by Lehrer would be "inappropriate at this time." The college said that Lehrer's agent has pledged to repay all funds advanced for the appearance. David Ebenbach, an author and teacher of writing at Georgetown University, will replace Lehrer. Ebenbach was formerly a visiting professor of creative writing at Earlham.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor and former California governor, is working with the University of Southern California to create a think tank that will seek bipartisan policies on environmental protection, the economy and other public policy issues, The Los Angeles Times reported. Schwarzenegger has pledged a total of $20 million for the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy -- with some of the funds coming in a direct contribution from him, and others to be raised by him. "When you think back of everything I've done — body building, training people, writing about diet and food supplements and promoting movies and entertainment — I've always been interested in making sure other people can benefit from my experience," Schwarzenegger told the Times. "And it's the same with this. It would be a shame to think what I learned from my governorship over seven years … ways of solving problems — will now be left behind and no one will benefit."
The University of Charleston announced Wednesday that it will be taking over the campus of Mountain State University, a troubled institution about 60 miles from Charleston that had its accreditation revoked in June and is slated to close on December 31. Charleston's board struck a memorandum of understanding with the board of its fellow West Virginia institution that the former will "teach out" Mountain State students and offer enrollment to any Mountain State students who are in good standing and want to complete their degrees.
Charleston will continue to use the Beckley campus after Mountain State's accreditation expires, and a formal agreement with more details will emerge in a few weeks. Under the memorandum, Charleston will be required to keep a Beckley presence on its board. Charleston will evaluate Mountain State's campuses in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina during the fall semester.
An article in Education Week highlights the practice of some big-time university athletics programs recruiting middle school athletes. Recruits can't commit to a university until the fall of senior year, but the article noted the view that those teams that make offers early -- years before one could commit -- may have an edge in the eventual decision. Many high school coaches object to the practice.
A 16-year-old has admitted to taking entry exams under the names of others seeking to get into Piedmont Technical College, in South Carolina, WYFF4 News reported. The youth was paid $150 per test. In addition, authorities said that they believed a proctor had been helping students pass entry exams so they could become eligible for Pell Grants. The proctor was fired last year. The college asked federal officials to investigate at that time, having found what it considered irregularities in its use of Pell Grants.