Top Three Stories We’re Talking About This Week in Higher Education

Senators Reach Loan Deal

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators reached an agreement on a long-term change to interest rates on all new federal student loans.

The agreement would tie the interest rate on new student loans to market conditions. Rates, based on the yield on 10-year Treasury bills, would vary from year to year, but be fixed over the life of the loan. Rates would be capped: undergraduate loans at 8.25 percent, and graduate loans at 9.25 percent.

The new rates are retroactive so students that took out loans after July 1 will receive the new interest rate

Court Revives ITT Whistleblower Case

Lawmakers and plaintiffs’ lawyers targeting for-profit education companies continued this week with ITT in their sights.

In a major reversal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Monday resuscitated a whistleblower’s False Claims Act lawsuit against ITT, throwing out an Indianapolis judge’s August 2011 decision dismissing the case. In addition, the appellate court shot down $400,000 of sanctions that were ordered against the whistleblower’s lawyers and two other plaintiffs’ firms. And finally, in what could be interpreted as a rebuke to U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, the Seventh Circuit ordered the case assigned to a new judge to oversee summary judgment briefing and a potential trial.

Apollo Group and Bridgepoint Education Receive Good News

On Wednesday, both the Apollo Group and Bridgepoint Education received good news from their accreditors.

Apollo reported that its University of Phoenix schools would not be placed on probation by its regional accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. U of P’s accreditation was renewed for 10 more years and placed “on notice” instead of probation.

Bridgepoint announced that its Ashford University had received initial accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Western Association had denied initial accreditation a year ago to the school.

By Marc Apple