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Colleges across the country are raking in millions by giving credit card companies student names and special access to the student body.
An investigation by the Huffington Post Investigative Fund found that although some of the credit card industry’s practices are being halted by the new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act), they can still set up “affinity” contracts with schools.
These contracts grant card marketers lists of student names, rights to market at campus events and the right to use the school’s logo, implying the school played some role in negotiating the terms of credit cards companies offer to students. In some cases, schools are paid more if students keep a credit card for at least 90 days, make purchases on the card or carry a balance.
While the Investigative Fund was unable to determine how many of the nation’s colleges and universities have these contracts, at least 800 do, mostly with Bank of America.
More from the Huffington Post Investigative Fund
Across the country, states continue to cut higher education budgets and schools are predictably responding with tuition and fee hikes.
In California, the California State University trustees are set to propose a 5 to 10 percent increase in fees on the heels of last year’s 32 percent hike. A plan backed by the Governor and Assembly could close enough of the budget gap that CSU would only need the revenue from a 5 percent increase. However, that plan hasn’t passed and trustees are nervous about banking on it. After a different revenue raising plan failed last year, trustees decided to impose a mid-year tuition hike prompting a lawsuit and state-wide protests from students. To stave off a similar situation, some on the board are advocating for the full 10 percent increase.
In Virginia, tuition at Virginia Tech is set to rise 11.1 percent at the same time that 200 faculty and staff positions are cut. Like in California, the Board of Visitors argues the tuition hike is necessary because of another drop to state funding. While the state’s stated policy is to provide 67 percent of the cost of education of each resident, this year the state will only provide 40 percent on average. At schools like Tech, that percentage is even lower—for 2010-2011 state funding will comprise only 28.9 percent of the budget.
Further north in Massachusetts, students at the University of Massachusetts campuses will start feeling last year’s $1,500 fee hike as trustees fail to find another way to fill their budget hole. While tuition will remain flat this year, most students got a $1,100 rebate on tuition last year after federal stimulus funding kicked in. Now, that rebate is unlikely to come.
After state-wide controversy over an undocumented Kennesaw State student paying in-state tuition, the Georgia Board of Regents has agreed to find a way to check the citizenship status of all students.
Existing Georgia law allows undocumented students to attend the state’s colleges and universities but requires they be charged out of state tuition. Until now, schools have taken students word that they are legal residents of the United States.
In the wake of the controversy, the board approved two new measures that will change their procedures for potentially undocumented students. First, university presidents are now expressly barred from granting in-state tuition waivers to undocumented students. Second, universities will now have to review and verify the status of all newly admitted students.
Though some students are likely to be upset with the decision, the Board was likely acting to stave off more attacks on its policies. The Cobb County Sherriff already asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate whether the regents are violating the law by admitting undocumented students at the outset.
More from the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Cal State Los Angeles students essentially opened their own library when they found the school’s shut at 8pm because of budget cuts.
In response to the library’s reduction in hours, students found tables, power outlets, a copier and printer and opened their own study area. University officials, after some initial unease, have essentially signed off on the students’ creation by helping them secure electrical hookups.
Though students are glad to have the space to study, no one is pretending the makeshift “People’s Library” is a permanent or sufficient solution. Noting that the makeshift space exists because of the same cuts students protested in mass earlier this year, one of the organizers said students were “studying in resistance.”
While some students can easily study at home, organizers argue that many Cal State students’ family obligations and living situations mean they don’t have another good study location. As Anthony Francoso, one of the organizers, told the LA Times, “a lot of these students have to go home and prepare the family dinner or look after their little brothers and sisters; that’s why the library is so important.”
While the students may be able to temporarily replace the library’s study space, they can’t replace some of the other resources it’s losing. Budget cuts also meant that the library cut subscriptions to 400 journals and 10 databases this year.
More form the Los Angeles Times
Another round of cuts to Louisiana higher education is prompting some in the state to suggest closing up to 8 of the state’s 14 universities.
Over the past year and a half, the state legislature cut spending on higher education by more than $250 million. While those cuts were buffered last year by $290 million in federal stimulus spending, this year the university system will have to absorb the full budget shortfall.
After hearing about the proposed cuts, leaders of the university system presented the legislature with scenarios for how it would reduce spending. One of those scenarios would close eight of the fourteen public universities and displace 50,000 students.
More from WWLTV
A state auditor has partly resolved years of controversy over what role the student government has in reviewing and allocating student activity fees at UW-Stevens Point. Students and administrators have sparred for years over whether the Student Government Association should have the sole power to review fees or if that power had to be shared with un-elected student organizations.
The controversy arose when the elected student government at UWSP decided it should be the body to review the section of student fees that pay for the student union instead of an unelected advisory body that had filled that role since 1989. The former chancellor refused to implement the change saying the student government didn’t have the power to make it. The current chancellor, Mark Nook, also refused to implement the change arguing that students would need to hold a referendum to change which body would review the union’s fees.
An auditor with the Legislative Audit Bureau found that “there are no statues or policies that explicitly require such a process.” Instead the auditor recommended that the school simply make the process clearer for when students decide they want to change the body that represents them.
By statue, students at the University of Wisconsin campuses play the lead role in determining how to spend student activity fees. That same statute makes it clear that “students of each institution or campus shall have the right to organize themselves in a manner they determine and to select their representatives to participate in institutional governance.”
After several years of deep cuts to higher education in Nevada, the board of regents approved eliminating several departments from both UNLV and UN Reno. While legislators cut state appropriations by 6.9 percent this year, the budget was cut by 31 percent over the past three years.
At the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the regents cut marriage and family therapy, informatics, clinical laboratory sciences, sports education leadership and urban horticulture. At the University of Nevada Reno, the regents scrapped animal biotechnology and resource economics, the Center for Nutrition and Metabolism, German studies, interior design and supply chain management.
More from KOLO TV
Members of Congress are starting to question a little known section of bankruptcy law that makes it nearly impossible to get rid of student loan debt when graduates file for bankruptcy.
Though few students know about the law, the combination of a deep recession and ever increasing levels of student debt are making more people take notice. When graduates struggle to find full employment and pay off their loans, they’re often left without options. To discharge student loans in bankruptcy, graduates must meet an almost impossible standard of “undue hardship.”
Now bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives propose to let people filing bankruptcy get out of some student loan debt. Under the proposals, federal loans couldn’t be discharged. Federal loans are both backed by taxpayers and already have more options for forgiveness or slower repayment. Private loans for education, however, would be dischargeable.
More from the New York Times
Demand for financial aid in Illinois is up so sharply that the state has already had to deny 27,000 students need-based aid grants for the 2010-2011 school-year. The agency that distributes the grants says that number could go as high as 200,000 by the time school starts.
This year, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission plans to award $400 million in grants under the Monetary Award Program or MAP. This year, however, demand is far outpacing supply in the grants after the recession has left more students cash strapped and schools hiked tuition to deal with declines in state appropriations. The MAP grants can provide up to $4,968 per year for students in need.
More from the Daily Illini