As you all know, I have been somewhat closely following the investigation initiated by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Last week, some 40 schools were served with either subpoena duces tecum or other sorts of formal requests for documents (the NYAG office and the media seem to be unclear about what was actually sent to whom) regarding the school's dealings with student loan provider University Financial Services. As most of you probably know, the University of Louisville was sent either a subpoena or a letter requesting documents pursuant to the investigation.
Last Thursday, the Courier-Journal wrote this article which appears to drag UK into this seeming morass. The alleged connection is that a student loan consolidator (i.e. alumni lender) has reached a settlement with the NYAG where it agreed to stop contributing to university alumni associations at UK and Northern Kentucky University.
The newspaper reported nothing but facts, but then goes on to suggest Nelnet, the consolidator apparently involved with UK and NKU, is part of the same sort of dealings as UFS, the subject of the aforementioned subpoena/letter to the University of Louisville.
These two subjects would appear to be related on the surface, but in reality they are entirely different. No legal process has reportedly been served to UK, nor any illegal/immoral/unethical behavior alleged. The same is not true for U of L, yet the C-J ties them neatly together and invites the reader to conclude that both universities are equally involved in this alleged scandal.
This article is, in my view, misleading and unfortunate. I am not imputing any bad behavior to U of L -- that is yet to be determined, and in my mind, there are no facts other than a legal process to implicate them. But UK has not even been implicated in the slightest, except by this C-J article.
Now, the C-J has filed an open records request of the UK alumni association, ostensibly to gage the veracity of the alumni association's response. The UK AA is a non-affiliated public corporation, but the open-records law has been applied before to similar entities at U of L, and my best guess is that if it goes to court, the C-J will win. They almost always do win these types of showdowns.
After reviewing the terms of the agreement and the fact that the UK alumni association disclosed in two separate places on its website the fact that it would receive compensation for any alumni taking advantage of its offers, it seems to me a completely above board, legitimate and perfectly legal agreement. Full disclosure mitigates many things. This fact was buried at the bitter end of the article in one line, without properly identifying which alumni association was performing the disclosure, and by its poor wording, inviting the reader to conclude it was NKU's AA, and not UK's
This article is poor journalism at best, "gotchaism" at worst. It is typical of the unfortunate efforts of our local newspaper here in town to cover UK. While reasonable people can disagree about the relationship between UK's conduct and any alleged conduct by U of L, the two are so intertwined by the narrative that it invites the reader to an incorrect conclusion. Furthermore, it is hard to see where the C-J thinks it is going with this open document request.
Why do I feel so incensed? Simple. One behavior is alleged to take advantage of students, young men and women barely of age and going to school. The other is supposed to be a service for people who have already graduated from college and become productive citizens -- in other words, adults with sufficient life experience to make an informed decision about their financial dealings. Clearly, no fiduciary arrangement exists between the UKAA and its members, but the same cannot be said of the University and its charges.
A sad situation, if you ask me. Full disclosure -- I am a known critic of the C-J and, as anyone with half a brain can figure out, I do have a dog in this fight (apologies to Michael Vick for the flashback).