Weekly Market Update

HARVARD ADMISSIONS LAWSUIT

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A lawsuit claiming that Asian-American students were victims of illegal discrimination in Harvard University's admissions process went to trial this week in Boston. The plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), assert that Harvard uses an unlawful quota system that denies admission of qualified Asian-Americans, in violation of their civil rights. In response, Harvard asserts that grades and scores are not the only factors it considers in admissions, but rather that the university conducts a holistic review of each applicant. The university also considers diversity-including race, among other factors—in shaping the learning environment for its students. The plaintiffs argue that objective and discrimination-free admissions should consider only grades, test scores, and other objective assessments. The trial, scheduled to last three weeks, is taking place in the court of US district judge Allison D. Burroughs, but many expect that the case will ultimately be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

In Other News

  • Hardin-Simmons University is cutting academic programs, staff, and campuses due to funding reductions.
  • Unaccustomed to accepting cryptocurrency donations, colleges are working to adapt to the currencies' risks and volatility relative to traditional currencies. The University of Puget Sound accepted a Bitcoin donation from an alumnus in 2014, which may have made it the first college to do so. Fearing volatility, the school opted to sell the 14.5 Bitcoins shortly after receiving the donation, for approximately $10,000. They would have been worth about $95,000 at the current price.
  • Federal municipal bond rules and issuance priorities may change again if Republican Congressional power erodes in the upcoming midterm elections. These include large infrastructure programs, advance refundings, and subsidies for new private activity bonds.
  • When completing the FAFSA, low-income students are asked to verify their family's income more frequently than students from families with higher incomes, and colleges are finding that many never complete the process as a result. Financial aid experts are seeking more transparency and an easier application process. One college financial aid officer asked, "How many times does a student or parent have to repeatedly prove they are poor?"
  • MIT announced that it is committing $1 billion to a new College of Computing. The university received a $350 million donation for the new college from Stephen A. Schwarzman, who will be the naming donor. The college will have 50 faculty positions as well as fellowships for graduate students. One area of focus will be ethical considerations in the use of artificial intelligence.
  • The Tennessee Higher Education Commission voted 8-to-5 Monday to reject a plan to relocate Valparaiso Law School from Indiana to Middle Tennessee State University, ending the work the two schools started last November to relocate the northwest Indiana-based law school to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.