Friday, October 31, 2008

Education Industry Investment Forum is You

We've put up a new web site for the Education Industry Investment Forum.

Welcome to your network for the 11th Annual Education Industry Investment Forum.

Just in time for the election, and in the midst of the credit crisis, we're preparing for your participation in discussions on the following:

* Making business decisions based on expert forecasts of changes to No Child Left Behind and the Higher Education Act
* Marketing for your K12 or post secondary school to help you retain more students and increase scale in any economic climate
* The climate for post secondary lending and strategies for school operators that repair damage brought on by the credit crisis

We look forward to seeing you in Phoenix, Arizona in March.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Will the Real Education President Please Come Forward?

Seeing stories claiming Obama is going to win the presidency reminds me of a saying I coined recently to describe people who try to tell a story that has not happened yet.

It's like sending smoke signals before dawn. Lots of smoke, but not a light on to let anyone know the truth. We need more stories telling us the what-ifs, so that the electorate -- investors, school operators, analysts all -- can make our own decisions on November 4.

What if either of the two presidential candidates wins? What will they do with education?

For all the talk in the press about the future of the economy under Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential hopeful, and Sen. John McCain, his Republican challenger, we see hardly any solid stories on the future of education.

Where is the discussion in the mainstream press? What will these candidates do for the education industry.

We would like to have your ideas on what you think will happen? You don't have to tell us who you are voting for, but tell us, who has the better education package?

When we meet March 9-11, 2009 at the 11th Annual Education Industry Investment Forum, there will be some highly charged discussions about what just happened in November, and what it means for the industry.

Join those discussions now. Send your smoke signals. We're turning on the light for you.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oregon's English-Only Law

We don't take political views very openly on this site, because we prefer to pass on the latest business relevant news. However, we thought people in the education industry would be interested in what the web site Opposing Views is doing with polls and user participation.

While Obama and McCain slug it out on the national stage, voters in individual states are considering legislation that could have widespread repercussions. In the first of a special election series, Opposing Views examines Oregon’s Measure 58, a proposal that would require “English immersion” in Oregon public schools while limiting foreign language instruction. Do English immersion laws help or harm students? Figure out where you stand now; your state may be next.

Look for more of their commentary online at the Education Industry Investment Forum.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Economic Recovery Initiatives Not Enough: Analysts

At the end of the day, the question being asked is, "How will this affect the investment climate for for-profit education in years to come."

Concerns are turning to worries, as financial market indicators plunged overnight in European and Asian markets, especially in the emerging markets class.

It looks like investors in Asia, Europe and perhaps the United States today will tell us that the bailout activity was either too little too late, or just generally too late.

We will be experiencing some tumultuous fallout financially in the next few years.

But IHT blog "Managing Globalization" thinks it is more likely that most investors are being 'myopic' and silly, sending stock prices down way beyond what they should be discounted for a recession.

With that in mind, is the world really coming to an end? If we are thinking ahead, would there not be some good deals for the education industry going forward?

What will this do to the investment climate for education? Please write in with your comments and we will post them here.

Be sure to also check out The Education Industry Investment Forum in Phoenix, Arizona slated for March 9-11, 2009

This conference will highlight analysis given by the leaders in Education investment and regulation, including:

Gene Hickok, senior policy advisor at Dutko Worldwide and former Deputy Secretary for Education

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who Will Be the Next Secretary for Education?

The two advisers to the Republican and Democratic parties debated at Teacher's College at Columbia University on October 21.

Lisa Graham Keegan, former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction and advisor to Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and Linda Darling-Hammond, the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University and advisor to Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) spoke about the future of education under the leadership of both potential presidents.

The debate's moderator, Susan Fuhrman, president of Teachers College, asks who each would want to be Secretary of Education. The two advisors do not answer the question directly but allude to two individuals.

Paul Vallas is mentioned. Vallas has since 2007 been the man in charge of New Orleans Recovery School District.

And Dr. Michael McGill is pointed out in the audience at Teacher's College, Columbia University, during the Democratic speaker's time. McGill was named Superintendent of the Year for his work in New York.

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Students Worry about the Price of University Education

Students at 69 schools wrote over 1500 letters to the next US President. Only 164 were about education.

Those 164 letters can be read at the Letters to the President website, sponsored by Google and The Writing Project.

Here's a sample letter:

Let's talk about education. You want us to get the best one possible, right? Well, with the way things are going, that's not going to happen for many of us. College is getting more expensive every year. The price of college has skyrocketed 439% since 1982. The average student has $21,500 in college debts according to Is the level of education going up as much as the price? What can we do to change this? Should we have more financial aide programs or have more scholarships available to all students? Should we set up additional benefits to encourage students to attend college? How can you make every child in America attend school until the age of seventeen, but then not give them aide to ensure that they will be able to keep attending school if they want to further their education? I believe that to help our economy, our society should be more highly educated than we are today. More people should be able to get their college degree. One reason I believe this is that our economy is as majorly labor-based as it is logic-based. Many of the labor jobs in factories have moved overseas to countries like China because the price of production is cheaper there.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Putting New Thinking on the Stand

One of the great things about the upcoming Education Industry Investment Forum is that it provides a platform for innovators and iconoclasts to debate the future of education.

On March 11, 2009, founder of Princeton Review John Katzman and founder Jordan Goldman will discuss the role of online innovation in the future of for-profit education.

Why? In short, because they are two people who know intimately what it means to be entrepreneurial. And they are engaging speakers.

What makes John Katzman fun to listen to is his tendency to call things absurd that he thinks are absurd, like his belief that the SAT is not an accurate measure of a student's abilities. He said this in a recent PBS interview.

We need objective measures. If all colleges had were grades, then every teacher, every high school teacher in the country, would have complete control over your future. At the same time, the idea that one test is a perfect measure for several million kids going to several thousand colleges is absurd. You need a flexible system where you can be tested in the things that you are passionate about.

Katzman has now teamed with the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California to run an online community that accentuates current degree programs in Education. It's entrepreneurial, gutsy and an assertive game-changer in the education space.

And Jordan Goldman? He was an early instigator of industry-changing business ideas.

At 18, Goldman created Student Guides, a print publication that gave insight on the college selection process.

He's now done one step better than that and decided to go online, for free, and let students make their own pitches for their own campuses.

He's young, and he's very bright. He sees a future in the social networking and web 2.0 model for college admissions and selection.

He was able to create a model that transforms the possible student population of a school, because it allows more information about that school to be given in a way that makes sense to the potential student. In other words, let's students market their own school to people most likely to attend it. the case of Unigo, it means prospective students who previously couldn’t afford to go on campus tours all across the country, who weren’t able to grab a current student by the arm and ask them questions – now they have a way to find an amazing range of authentic information right from their living rooms. Prospective students have a way to interact with one another and ask each other questions about these schools. And they have the ability to see each college from the perspective of someone just like them. Sure, Columbia is a great school. But is it a great school for African American students? What about students from California? Is it the same experience for a wealthy student as it is for someone a bit less well-off? How about a conservative student, or a gay student? Those are questions Unigo can instantly help you find the answer to. We want to move the focus away from overly broad rankings that don’t tell you much of anything, and over to “What’s the college that’s actually best for YOU?”

You can join them March 9-11, 2009 at the Education Industry Investment Forum.

Register now to benefit from early bird discounts. Early registration

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Panic is Never Good

While I am not one to panic about market conditions, today's actions do draw up a bit of concern in my cubicle.

To keep on top of it, I have turned to Floyd Norris at the New York Times, who is blogging about the market collapse? readjustment? recessionary pricing? going on at the NYSE and world markets today.

Have a good one.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

NYC Gifted Schools to Base Outside Manhattan Burough

In a change of tactic, Manhattan may be looking to place new gifted schools outside of the city limits in 2009. The story comes from the New York Times CityRoom blog.

Asked whether the Brooklyn and Queens programs would definitely open next year, Andrew Jacob, a department spokesman, said in an e-mail message: “That’s our tentative plan, but it’s too early to say that they will definitely open.” He said that would depend on the department’s ability to find a site, and sufficient demand from families whose children qualify.

The department also announced that all elementary school gifted programs would start in kindergarten next year. Last year, some parents were angered to learn that while their children qualified for gifted kindergarten slots, the programs available in their school districts did not start until the first grade.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Andy Ross, VP Global Services, Florida Virtual Schools

The EIIF is very happy to announce that Andy Ross, Vice President of Global Services for Florida Virtual Schools, is joining the conference to speak on March 10, 2009.

To offer some insight, I link to a NACOL paper that mentions FLVS about one of their programs. I offer it as some independent insight into what the school does.

NACOL's Credit Recovery Practices review

Florida Virtual School Credit recovery courses delivered by a state-led supplemental program Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is the largest online program in the United States, and one of the oldest.

In the early days of the program most of the program’s students were seeking Advanced Placement courses, accelerated learning opportunities, or scheduling flexibility. In recent years, credit recovery has become an increasingly important part of the program, to the point that nearly 20% of students in FLVS courses are seeking credit recovery, or grade forgiveness as it is referred to in Florida.

Unlike many online programs for credit recovery or at-risk students that use mostly (or entirely) a blended learning approach, FLVS primarily offers fully online, distance education courses that are self-paced. FLVS students who are recovering credit are not segregated into special class sections and mix readily with their peers. In many instances instructors are not even aware the students are enrolled in the course for credit recovery.

In addition to the fully online model led by FLVS teachers, FLVS is also partnering with nine school districts to provide online curriculum delivered by the local school district instructors. In these instances, the local school district provides the teacher of record and retains the FTE funding for the student. FLVS is also establishing physical e-learning centers in schools across the state where all types of students take FLVS courses on their school campus. FLVS provides the teacher of record and often the school provides a mentor or facilitator to provide additional assistance to the student.

“One of our challenges is to demonstrate the effectiveness of online learning for these students,” according to Brenda Finora, Public Affairs Liaison for Southwest Florida. “Some people still raise the question ‘If the students are not motivated enough to pass the course in the classroom, how can we expect them to be self-motivated in an online course?’ We find very little difference in the level
of motivation between students seeking credit recovery and other FLVS students. They all come to FLVS for specific reasons with a drive to succeed.” If motivational or behavioral issues do arise, FLVS provides counseling or refers the student back to the local school counselor to work with the student individually.

“As more data is gathered it confirms what so many of us believe, that online learning gives students seeking credit recovery the individual attention they need to be successful,” reports Cindy Lohan,eSolutions Manager for FLVS. Success rates for students recovering credit have been remarkably similar to rates for the entire FLVS student population. In the 2006-2007 school year, FLVS students who self-reported taking courses for credit recovery had a passing rate of 90.2%, similar to the 92.1% passing rate for the entire FLVS student population.

A significant number of online programs outside Florida use FLVS curriculum, and the use of FLVS online curriculum for credit recovery has risen dramatically in recent years. This growth, in part, drove the development of diagnostic testing as part of the FLVS courses. For example, pre-tests in math courses identify both the material the student has mastered and the material that is still problematic.

Diagnostic tests are being added to the FLVS courses most often needed for credit recovery.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jordan Goldman, Founder, Joins Forum

We are happy to announce that Jordan Goldman, the young entrepreneur who founded Unigo will be joining the Education Industry Investment Forum to discuss student-led marketing for universities.

He joins a fantastic cast of speakers, including Michael Haggen, Deputy Superintendent for the New Orleans Recovery School District, and Arthur Benjamin, CEO of ATI, who will be speaking on the main conference day.

If you would like to register for the conference, please visit the main page for the Education Industry Investment Forum.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is America Giving Up On Education?

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Sequoia Capital Warns Businesses to Trim Expenses

This is a slideshow presentation making the rounds of the market in a panic.

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Will G7 Meeting Guarantee All Interbank Lending?

Rumors are swirling. During a financial panic that has wiped more than 1/3 off the market value of several international exchanges, the G7 is preparing to meet in the US to solve the pandemic.

Marc Chandler, analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman, said despite the grim outlook, the G7 still has some options to help calm the storm.

"We are hesitant to spread rumors, but there is increasing speculation that the G7 meeting could take another major step and that is to guarantee all interbank lending," he said.

"This talk is having a demonstrable impact on the interest rate markets. It is difficult to evaluate the likelihood, but it is important to note that officials generally recognize that current measures are not yet sufficient to turn the corner of the crisis."

G7 Gathering to Solve the Market Collapse

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Thursday, October 9, 2008


The bloggers at 2Tor have pointed out an enlightening instance of candor and humility in education.

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New Forum for Education Industry Executives and Investors

We've set up an Education Industry Investment Forum for you to join. Please sign up so that you can be among the first to receive information about changes to the event and to learn about new speakers.

You can also participate in lively discussions and debates about the industry, the executives you admire and want to meet, as well as the issues that will define the future of investments in the industry.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

Arthur Benjamin, CEO, ATI

We are proud to announce that Arthur Benjamin, CEO of ATI, will be hosting a special executive master class on marketing post secondary education.

The master class will be held on March 9, 2009, in the morning, so participants are encouraged to mark their calendars and to be there early, as the session will fill up.

Stay tuned for the registration brochure at at the official Education Industry Investment Forum, which will be published in a few weeks.

For now, here is a short biography of Mr. Benjamin, a native New Yorker:

Arthur Benjamin was born in NYC and lived in that metropolitan area until leaving to attend Clark University in Massachusetts. Since then he has lived in numerous cities throughout the USA, England, Colombia (SA) and for a short time in Denmark and Spain. Currently, he lives in Delray Beach (FL), Dallas (TX) and Salt Lake City (UT).

Mr. Benjamin has over two decades of experience in marketing and sales, in school marketing and operations, and numerous years in corporate management. Prior to joining Datamark in 1993, his employment history included executive and sales positions at CBS, Group W, Major Market Television and Connecticut Public Broadcasting. He has started several companies, grown them, and sold them as well. He has been responsible for operations as diverse as the publication of a regional magazine, a TV production company, an ad agency, a media buying service and over 50 colleges. He has also led civic efforts including sharing responsibility for a $13 million capital campaign and co-developed a number of successful real estate subdivisions.

Mr. Benjamin was the Chairman & CEO of Datamark, Inc., the nation's largest comprehensive marketing company exclusively for colleges and proprietary schools and amongst the top 20 direct marketing agencies in the U.S. until 2005. He served as its President and thereafter Chairman & CEO having joined it in 1995 after serving on its board of directors for two years. In just 10 years, Mr. Benjamin successfully grew the company by over 2,000 percent. He was also Executive Vice President of its public parent company, eCollege, after it acquired Datamark, a technology corporation that creates the online educational platforms for numerous colleges and universities.

Mr. Benjamin joined ATI, a nationally-accredited group of private postsecondary schools and colleges, as its President & CEO in April of 2005, after serving on its board of directors, and currently serves as its Vice Chairman & CEO. Since then, he has dramatically expanded the depth and breadth of the management team, improved processes, and begun new initiatives the achievement of the future growth of the company. ATI expanded, in just the past twenty months, from eight to twenty campuses (15 in full operation and 5 in the build-out/approval process) under his leadership.

In 2006, he along with two partners founded EdExperts, a new comprehensive marketing company specializing in colleges and proprietary schools and employing unique best-in-class partnerships. Just last year, it grew 300%.

Late last year, in 2007, he was also instrumental in the creation of American Institutes, a group of private postsecondary schools training in the upper end of allied health fields. Primus Capital Funds joined Randy Proto (who will serve as its CEO), a life-long partner of Mr. Benjamin, and a group of investors including Mr. Benjamin (who will serve on its board) in the enterprise.

Mr. Benjamin is a former Commissioner of the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT), former chair of several organizations: the Utah Central Region Workforce Council, The Living Planet Aquarium, and Women Beyond Cancer; he is also a former board member of: the Utah State Workforce Investment Board, the American Heart Association and the L.A. Film School Foundation and former trustee of the Career College Foundation (AKA Imagine America Foundation). He has served on a variety of campaign finance committees for elected officials.

He currently serves as a board member of Franklin Templeton Bank & Trust, ATI Enterprises and the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC).

Mr. Benjamin believes that, in George Bernard Shaw's words, life is no brief candle but is a splendid torch that we've got hold of for the moment, and he's committed to making his burn as brightly as he can, while its in his care, before passing it on to future generations.

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California Needs $7B Loan to Meet Schools Obligation

Three billion dollars of the $7B California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneger is requesting will go to to pay 1,000 school districts.

It's customary for California to borrow billions of dollars at the start of the fiscal year to fill its coffers until the usual flood of sales tax receipts comes in after Christmas and income tax receipts arrive in the spring.

"California is so large that our short cash-flow needs exceed the entire budget of some states," Schwarzenegger wrote.

The cash needs to be in the state's bank account by Oct. 28 to be available to fund a scheduled $3-billion payment to more than 1,000 school districts.

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Citigroup Talks End, Wells Fargo to Buy Wachovia

Remember that Wachovia-Citigroup merger? Never mind that.

Wells Fargo is taking Wachovia in a US$15.1B all stock deal.

The Citigroup deal would have been done with the help of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., but the Wells Fargo deal for Wachovia will be done without it. Shares of Wachovia and Wells rose in morning trading, while Citigroup shares fell.

"This deal enables us to keep Wachovia intact and preserve the value of an integrated company, without government support," Robert Steel, Wachovia's president and chief executive, said in a statement.

The Wachovia-Wells deal, announced Friday, comes in a turbulent time for banks and financial firms as they grapple with the ongoing credit crisis, which led to the recent bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and the failure of Washington Mutual Inc.

"Wachovia Corp. shareholders will receive 0.1991 shares of Wells Fargo for every share of Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia stock they own, valuing Wachovia at about $7 per share."

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bank Limits Credit Lines to Schools

The entire New York Times article sits behind a registration wall, so here it is in full:

Bank Limits Fund Access by Colleges, Inciting Fears

Published: October 1, 2008

In a move suggesting how the credit crisis could disrupt American higher education, Wachovia Bank has limited the access of nearly 1,000 colleges to $9.3 billion the bank has held for them in a short-term investment fund, raising worries on some campuses about meeting payrolls and other obligations.

Wachovia, the North Carolina bank that agreed this week to sell its banking operations to Citigroup, has held the money in its role as trustee for a fund used by colleges and universities and managed by a Connecticut nonprofit, Commonfund.

On Monday, Wachovia announced that it would resign its role as trustee of the fund, and would limit access to the fund to 10 percent of each college’s account value. On Tuesday, Commonfund said that by selling some government bonds and other assets held in the fund, it had succeeded in raising its liquidity to 26 percent.

Still, Wachovia’s announcement sent shock waves through higher education, sending hundreds of college presidents rushing to check their financial vulnerability on every front.

Some smaller colleges that had not previously arranged lines of credit were feverishly seeking to negotiate those on Wednesday. And some large institutions said they were facing, at the least, a major financial inconvenience as a result of Wachovia’s action.

The University of Vermont, for instance, said that about half of its liquid operating assets — $79 million — were invested in the fund.

“It appears that the asset is secure,” said Richard H. Cate, vice president for finance and administration at the University of Vermont, because, he said, much of the $9.3 billion is held in securities that will become available when they mature. “But we’re not real thrilled with the fact that we can’t access all of our money when we want it.”

Wachovia’s action was perhaps the most tangible signal yet that the credit crisis could have a powerful impact on higher education. Another sign came on Tuesday as Boston University, saying it needed to respond to the financial crisis with cautionary steps, announced an immediate hiring freeze and a moratorium on new construction projects. That decision was unrelated to the action by Wachovia, where Boston University was not an investor.

On Tuesday, officers of Commonfund held a lengthy conference call to provide details of Wachovia’s action to representatives of more than 900 colleges and universities, many of whom were upset, said W. Judson Koss, a spokesman for Commonfund.

“The whole issue is liquidity,” Mr. Koss said. “This is a fund that has been in operation for over 35 years, and is invested in nothing but Triple-A government and corporate paper, all top-notch equities.

“We’ve been going along just fine, but Wachovia had a liquidity concern. They asked, ‘What if there’s a run on the bank and we can’t redeem these securities?’ So they were the ones who pulled the pin on the grenade.”

Colleges have used the fund, formally called the Commonfund Short Term Fund, almost like a checking account, depositing revenues including tuition payments and withdrawing funds daily to finance payrolls, maintenance expenses, small construction projects and other short-term needs, college officials said.

Nearly 60 percent of the securities in the fund are scheduled to mature by Dec. 31, and thereafter would be available to investors, Commonfund said in a statement. When the remaining funds would become available was unclear. The fund said it was seeking a trustee to succeed Wachovia.

To date, none of the securities have defaulted, and all were continuing to pay timely principal and interest, the statement said.

But for the time being, some institutions that have relied on the fund were scrambling to secure money for operating expenses.

Augsburg College in Minneapolis is one of more than a dozen Minnesota colleges with investments in the fund. Augsburg was fortunate, its president, Paul C. Pribbenow, said, because its holdings were just $13,392.

“But this certainly raises the specter that we can no longer take anything for granted,” Dr. Pribbenow said. “It shows just how vigilant we need to become about every financial relation we have.”

The University of Akron had $800,000 invested in the fund, a small part of the university’s total portfolio of operating funds, which typically range from $100 million to $150 million in a semester, said John Case, the university’s chief financial officer. Shortly before Wachovia’s announcement, the university withdrew $80,000, but has since been unable to withdraw any of its remaining money, Mr. Case said.

Matthew Hamill, senior vice president of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, said, “This is a pretty significant event, in the short run, because it’s going to cause dislocation and uncertainty.” Mr. Hamill added: “My estimate is that in the long run, investors will wind up with their money back. But they don’t have access to cash in the short run, so it’s going to cause significant financial and operational changes.”

Molly Broad, president of the American Council on Education, which represents 1,600 colleges and universities, said: “A widespread credit crisis will affect a large number of our institutions very quickly. Those folks who’ve been saying that the economy could be seized by a liquidity crisis, well, it’s unfolding before our eyes, and it’s having an impact on colleges and nonprofits.”

At Boston University, President Robert A. Brown sent an e-mail message to faculty and staff members on Tuesday saying that the university would temporarily freeze hiring, with the exception of public safety employees and professors whose hiring process was under way, and that it would postpone all capital projects that had not begun.

Joseph Mercurio, the university’s executive vice president who oversees its budget, called the steps pre-emptive.

“We have a lot of economic uncertainties that have to do with the national economy,” Mr. Mercurio said, “and in light of those conditions we’re going to take some prudent steps right now.”

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Allied Capital Covers Bankrupt Unit for US$150M

Followers of the Education investment industry will be interested to know what is happening at Allied Capital. The holding company has just paid out US$150M to cover the costs of bankruptcy proceedings for Ciena, one of the company's portfolio companies.

Financial distress collapses Ciena.

The company attributed Ciena's troubles to the uncertainty in the financial markets, which it said forced it to write down the value of its loans to businesses to the point at which Ciena became insolvent. It voluntarily sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and Allied stepped in to guarantee Ciena's obligations to its lenders.

Allied said it would use $150 million in cash and other liquid securities and may borrow $170 million on its revolving line of credit to cover Ciena's obligations. Allied also will guarantee a remaining balance of $10 million on Ciena's line of credit.

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