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News in higher education

Bethel College has opened a second campus in a shopping plaza near Gate 1, Clarksville.

Bethels main Clarksville campus on Corporate Drive in the St. Bethlehem community and serves about 150 students. The new campus eventually will serve 150 students, said Cindy Chambers, regional manager for Bethel College.

Chambers said the school opened the additional campus as a convenience to soldiers, their family members and other north Clarksville residents.
Bethel College has opened a second campus in a shopping plaza near Gate 1, Clarksville.

Bethel's main Clarksville campus on Corporate Drive in the St. Bethlehem community and serves about 150 students. The new campus eventually will serve 150 students, said Cindy Chambers, regional manager for Bethel College.

Chambers said the school opened the additional campus as a convenience to soldiers, their family members and other north Clarksville residents.

Bethel College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor's and master's degrees. (The Leaf-Chronicle, Sept. 7, 2006).

A federal appeals court in San Francisco last week reinstated a massive fraud lawsuit against the University of Phoenix, which, with 180 campuses and more than 310,000 students across the country, is now the nation's largest accredited university.

The suit was filed under the federal False Claims Act by two former employees who alleged that school officials violated federal rules barring incentive payments to employees who recruit students to enroll in the college.

Two years ago, after a probe by the Department of Education, the University of Phoenix paid the government $9.8 million in compensation. A report issued by the department said the company promoted an intense sales culture that rewarded recruiters who encouraged the most students, even if they were unqualified, to enroll.

The vast majority of students at the University of Phoenix use federal loans and grants to pay their tuition. According to government records, last year the university obtained $1.7 billion in federal education funds.

According to Taxpayers Against Fraud, a group that supports False Claims Act lawsuits, many students who enroll at the University of Phoenix "never complete their education," leaving taxpayers on the hook when the students are unable to repay their loans. (Los Angeles Times, Sept. 6, 2006)

Tennessee receives a “C-minus” in preparing its young people for college, though that is a substantial improvement from a decade ago, and flunks on the financial burden it places on students trying to get a degree, a national report card said.

Tennessee's higher education effort has made strides by most measures since the early 1990s, according to ``Measuring Up 2006: The State Report Card on Higher Education,'' a biennial study released last week by the independent National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings in Washington.

The only category in which Tennessee made no gains was in college affordability. Tennessee and 42 other states all failed.

The report said the cost of going to a four-year college in Tennessee now equals 38 percent of the income of a lower-middle class family in Tennessee. As a result, student borrowing is going up -- the average undergraduate loan in 2006 was $3,463.

Both the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents systems kept tuition increases this fall below 5 percent. It was the smallest hike in a decade, thanks to a rare boost in appropriations from the state. (Maryville-Daily Times, Sept. 7, 2006)
(Editor's note: To read the National Report Card on Higher Education, use the following Web link: http://measuringup.highereducation.org/_docs/2006/NationalReport_2006.pdf. For more information on Tennessee's effort, go to http://measuringup.highereducation.org/_docs/2006/statereports/TN06.pdf.)

State officials and plaintiffs gathered in Nashville on Monday to mark the end of the landmark Geier vs. Tennessee lawsuit that changed the face of public higher education in the state.

"This is significant, and not just for Middle Tennessee State University," said MTSU President Sidney McPhee. "It's an acknowledgment the state has made good progress."

On Monday, Gov. Phil Bredesen and plaintiffs in the case announced intentions to ask the courts to dismiss the case after 38 years because the state has achieved a unitary system of public higher education.

In her 1968 suit, Rita Sanders Geier claimed the state was maintaining a segregated system of higher education because of funding inequities between Tennessee State University, the state's historically black university, and other state schools. Geier was a faculty member at TSU, which was still known at the time as Tennessee A&I.

In 1984 the courts entered a stipulation of settlement, providing a guide for equitable funding and access. The parties entered into a consent decree in 2001 that stated the litigation would end after five years if the state fulfilled its obligations.

For many years, graduate programs at MTSU and Austin Peay State University were limited by the 1984 stipulations. The 2001 consent decree allowed MTSU to add a number of doctoral programs. (Daily News Journal, Sept. 8, 2006)

The University of Memphis no longer will offer scholarships exclusively to black students after the 2006 school year, following the resolution of the Geier lawsuit.

However, if the case is dismissed, then a whole new problem will arise.

Some of the stipulations are no longer legal, said Michelle Banks, Equal Employment and Affirmative Action officer.

Two separate lawsuits filed against the University of Michigan in the late 1990s have resulted in race no longer being allowed to be the sole factor in admission or scholarships.

"Based on the legal precedents set by the Michigan cases, we would be under scrutiny if we continued to offer 'other race' scholarships," Banks said. "The reason that we have had them for over 20 years is because we've been under the Geier stipulations.

"When that case is dismissed, we may have to follow the legal precedents set out in the Michigan cases and will be relying on legal directives from the Board of Regents and the campus."

If the U of M fails to receive the previously provided funding, the school's scholarship fund will shrink drastically, Banks said.

"If we don't get the money from the scholarships, then the school's scholarship funds are going to get much tighter," she said. "Before, under the Geier system, the recipients of African-American scholarships received the funds from their scholarships, thereby not entirely competing for University funds," she said.

"But now, in this 'post-Geier' era, everyone will be competing for the same money." (Daily Helmsman, Sept. 6, 2006)

A former Tennessee State University professor was indicted Sept. 7 for allegedly misusing federal grant money.

Barbara Nye was indicted on one count of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud.
Nye, who once served as executive director for the Center of Excellence for Research and Policy on Basic Skills at TSU, is accused of using employees funded by a National Science Foundation grant to help with her own consulting work.

The scheme, according to the indictment, included staff members' submitting travel vouchers to TSU and the NSF indicating they were doing work for TSU when they were working for a firm called Science Training Services, a private consulting business.

The indictment, which does not specify how much money is at issue, does not allege any wrongdoing by TSU.

The agency has given the skills center at least $15 million in grants. The center was established in 1984 to study and sponsor projects about families, communities and children's learning.

In a statement, TSU officials said that the university "fully supports" the charges and that Nye failed to file required disclosures about her outside consulting activities. (The Tennessean, Sept. 8, 2006)