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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Study abroad under investigation by NY Attorney General

Published: January 25, 2008
Section: Front Page, News

Brandeis University has received a subpoena from the New York Attorney General in a study abroad investigation, Dennis Nealson, Brandeis Director of Media Affairs, confirmed in an e-mail to The Hoot.

Director of Study Abroad Scott Van Der Meid also confirmed the subpoena. “Brandeis University has received a subpoena and the university lawyers are evaluating it,” he wrote in an e-mail. He did not elaborate further.

Brandeis is one of 15 universities involved in an investigation of study abroad practices being conducted New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Other schools under investigation include American University, Brown University, Columbia University, Harvard University, and Northwestern University.

This is the second investigation into higher education issues conducted by the New York Attorney General. Cuomo initiated an investigation into student loan practices last year.

According to the Jan. 21 issue of The New York Times, the investigation comes after the Times revealed instances of back-door dealings between universities and study abroad providers.

In some cases, university officials received free travel, rebates, and other perks from study abroad providers. Such relationships can lead to higher costs and limited options for students, the Times reported.

The universities subpoenaed were selected due to concerns that special relationships between the schools and study abroad providers exist, according to the Times.

The Times reported that the investigators are interested in who makes contracts with study abroad providers, the criteria upon which programs are chosen, billing practices, and if the schools have “received anything of value” from providers.

The exact information requested in the subpoena to Brandeis is as yet unknown. The Hoot filed a request for a copy of the subpoena with the New York Attorney General under the Freedom of Information Act. As of press time, The Hoot has received no response.

Judith Sizer, General Legal Council for the university declined to comment explaining that university council does not speak with the press.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators recently released a report on study abroad management and practice. Including sections on “institutional commitment” and “study abroad infrastructure,” the report features a section entitled “clarity and accountability.”

The report, available on the NAFSA website, states, “[a]ll institutions of higher education should have general conflict-of-interest policies, which typically include prohibiting arrangements that result in personal benefit.”

The report continues, “[e]ach institution must develop policies that…include guidance on issues such as complimentary site visits, exclusivity agreements, cash payments to the institution, discounts, service on advisory boards, service on fiduciary boards, and so on.”

Lastly, the report says, “[i]nstitutions must be able to clearly explain their policies and demonstrate that those policies directly benefit students.”