The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should do more to improve the management of its Post-9/11 GI Bill Program, which provides benefits to veterans who pursue a higher education, by cutting down on payment delays, working with colleges to give veterans more information about their financial-aid options, and taking advantage of outcomes data.
Those conclusions are among the recommendations in a report released on Wednesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which in 2011 also issued recommendations to the department regarding concerns about the program.
The GAO’s latest review found that, in the 2012 fiscal year, the department took an average of 31 days to process a new application, which is eight days longer than the department’s target benchmark. The department also took an average of 17 days to process a claim for benefit payment, five days longer than its target, the report says.
Student veterans faced several challenges as a result of the delays, the report says, and many said they took on more debt to cover the shortfall. Since its last report on the matter, the GAO said the department had worked on a new system to deal with such delays, though the GAO found the creation of that system had faced delays of its own.
The report says the department generally agreed with the GAO’s findings and vowed that it had taken steps to resolve problems identified by the review. It notes that the department is developing a long-term study to track veterans’ outcomes over the next two decades, and says officials expect an annual survey of Post-9/11 GI Bill beneficiaries to begin this year.
President Obama promised on Wednesday to veto legislation, currently pending in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, that would prevent interest rates from doubling on some federal student loans by switching to a market-based formula for setting the rates.
The bill, HR 1911, was approved last week, on a largely party-line vote, by the House education committee. Sponsors of the bill, including the panel’s chairman, Rep. John P. Kline Jr. of Minnesota, described the measure as a rare opportunity for bipartisanship because it paralleled Mr. Obama’s proposal, in his budget plan for the 2014 fiscal year, to switch to market-based rates.
But in an announcement on Wednesday, the White House objected to the bill on several grounds, as “the wrong approach.” Unlike Mr. Obama’s proposal, in which an interest rate would be set for the life of each loan, the legislation “would not guarantee low rates.” Interest rates would be reset annually (although they would be capped), an approach that would “create uncertainty and lessen transparency” for students and their families, the White House said, and would particularly hurt low- and middle-income families struggling to finance a college education.
The White House statement also said Mr. Obama objected to the House plan because it would not allow all borrowers to take advantage of new repayment options and because it would use any money saved to reduce the federal budget deficit.
The Republican-backed legislation is expected to be approved by the full House, but its prospects in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where other bills are pending, are dimmer.
President Miloš Zeman of the Czech Republic on Wednesday abandoned his opposition to conferring the title of professor upon one of his critics, after taking issue with the scholar’s gay-rights activism. His refusal to appoint Martin C. Putna, an esteemed literary historian at Prague’s Charles University, set off a wave of criticism from students, academics, and other politicians. Mr. Zeman asked the country’s education minister to bestow the title upon Mr. Putna.
New York University’s law school has announced that it will shut down a legal-education program it had introduced in partnership with the National University of Singapore, saying that the program will end when its Class of 2014 graduates. In its announcement, NYU said the cost of graduate legal education had risen “significantly” in recent years, and said the program had been made possible by a grant from the government of Singapore. The two universities have agreed to end the program without seeking additional money to continue it. The move marks the second time in the last year that NYU has decided to end a program in Singapore due to financial woes. Last November its Tisch School of the Arts Asia announced that it would stop admitting new students.
Eddie R. Williams, Northern Illinois University’s executive vice president for finance and chief of operations, will retire at the end of this month, shortly after returning from a two-month leave of absence. His leave began when FBI agents executed a search warrant indicating that they were investigating whether he had used campus police officers to respond to crimes reported at a housing development he owns. Mr. Williams has worked at the institution for more than four decades.
The National Center for Education Statistics, the Education Department’s statistical arm, on Tuesday released a “first look” report at new data on college pricing across sectors, finding that tuition and required fees for in-state students at four-year, public institutions rose by 6.7 percent from 2010-11 to 2012-13. That increase outpaced the rise in tuition for out-of-state students over the same period, which the report said was 4.1 percent. Four-year, private nonprofit institutions saw an increase of 3.1 percent. At four-year, private for-profit colleges, tuition and fees dropped by 2.2 percent. The report also includes data on 2011-12 enrollments as well as degrees conferred.
The president of Cayuga Community College, in Auburn, N.Y., was the subject of a no-confidence resolution approved by three of the college’s four unions last week, but he still has the full support of the institution’s Board of Trustees, The Citizen, a local newspaper, reports. The trustees expressed their support for the president, Daniel P. Larson, in a written statement released after a special meeting on Monday night.
The college and the unions have been negotiating for months over contract revisions the institution is seeking to make up for a spending deficit of $1.5-million. The no-confidence votes were announced on Thursday by the Faculty Association and the bargaining units that represent administrative professionals and educational-support professionals. The latter two of those groups, along with the maintenance unit, have accepted contract revisions that would have employees take two to 10 unpaid furlough days, with the money to be repaid in later years. The college and the Faculty Association, however, are still at odds.
After Monday’s meeting, the board also released a statement saying that because negotiations between the college and the Faculty Association were at an impasse, “we therefore will be pursuing financial relief through other means to address our budget shortfall.” Those means, according to a news release cited by The Citizen, include increasing efforts to receive a loan and “right-sizing our staffing.”
Betsy Palmer, an associate professor of education at Montana State University at Bozeman, died on Monday as a result of injuries suffered in a landslide while leading a group of 16 students on a study trip in Nepal, university officials announced. No students were injured. The university said it was working with the U.S. Embassy, the office of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, and officials in Nepal to expedite the students’ return to the United States.
Ms. Palmer had deep roots in Nepal. She spent the 2011-12 academic year conducting research there, and she had met her future husband there during a previous visit, in 2005. The study trip was part of a course offered through the University Honors Program on education and economic development in remote areas. It culminated in an extended trek to a remote village in the Arun River Valley, in the Himalayas.
Students at California community colleges could see additional class options for the shorter summer and winter sessions under a bill that passed the State Assembly on Monday, but those courses would come with higher price tags. According to the Associated Press, the measure, AB 955, would let colleges offer certain high-demand courses at nonresident tuition rates of about $200 per unit, compared with the in-state rate of $46 a unit. The bill now heads to the State Senate.
The bill’s author, Assemblyman Das Williams, a Democrat, said the measure would help students who have been shut out of classes they need to complete their degrees. Responding to one objection raised by some fellow Democrats, he said: “If you fear a two-tiered system, I’ve got to wake you up: It’s already here. There’s one tier that can get in and one tier that is locked out.”
The bill is similar to a proposal that Santa Monica College considered last year but withdrew amid widespread opposition from faculty members and students.
Three medical researchers at New York University have been charged with commercial bribery for allegedly trading information about their magnetic-resonance-imaging research for payments from a Chinese company, according to The Wall Street Journal and a news release by federal prosecutors.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said in the news release that two of the researchers, Yudong Zhu and Xing Yang, were arrested on Sunday. The third, Ye Li, was believed to have flown to China before charges could be brought. All three were charged with one count of commercial bribery. Mr. Zhu, an associate professor of radiology, was also charged with falsifying records in connection with a National Institutes of Health grant that financed the research. The three were accused of concealing ties to a Chinese medical-imaging company and a research institute sponsored by the Chinese government.
A spokesman for NYU’s Langone Medical Center said the institution was “deeply disappointed” by the researchers’ alleged misconduct. He said the university became aware of possible irregularities in the research, and notified prosecutors after conducting its own investigation. He said the three researchers had been suspended and added that the university was continuing to cooperate with the investigation.
Lawyers for Mr. Zhu and Mr. Yang did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.