Study abroad to be investigated

Connecticut’s attorney general has asked Yale and nine other schools throughout the state to hand over records pertaining to their study-abroad programs as part of an investigation into whether school officials received kickbacks from study-abroad companies.

The investigation comes less than a year after Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and officials in other states found that student-loan companies had provided kickbacks to financial-aid administrators at Columbia University and other institutions around the country in return for being promoted as preferred lenders.

Blumenthal’s office is undertaking the investigation in partnership with New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who last week widened his investigation to include several Ivy League schools, including Harvard, Brown and Columbia.

Now, Yale has become part of the probe, along with the University of Connecticut, Wesleyan University, Quinnipiac University and six other schools across the state.

The investigation was first reported in Sunday’s editions of The Hartford Courant.

Blumenthal said he is seeking records from the schools in order to determine whether colleges may have contracted with study-abroad companies — which offer housing and academic programs for students overseas — because of the financial benefits or other rewards they or their universities would receive from the providers.

“The question is whether the arrangement is in the student’s best interest,” Blumenthal told the Courant.

The Yale Office of Public Affairs did not respond to a request for comment Sunday. But Blumenthal said the schools he contacted are cooperating with his request for information.

The investigation by Blumenthal and Cuomo follows an August 2007 report in The New York Times indicating that the relationships between officials at some colleges and the study-abroad organizations they are affiliated with might be too cozy. In some cases, university officials received perks ranging from free overseas trips to cash bonuses and kickbacks in return for agreeing to contract with various travel-abroad companies.

Following the publication of the article, Yale’s lawyers evaluated the University’s practices and affiliations with study-abroad providers, Jane Edwards, the associate dean for international affairs, told the News in September.

They ultimately concluded that the highest ethical standards were being met, Edwards said at the time.

Edwards and Barbara Rowe, the director of the Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs, declined interview requests this weekend and referred questions to the Office of Public Affairs.

Yale is affiliated with three of the four study-abroad providers being scrutinized in Cuomo’s investigation, according to the University’s study-abroad Web site. The providers are the Institute For Study Abroad at Butler University in Indianapolis; the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark; and the Center for Education Abroad at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa.

Also under investigation is the American Institute for Foreign Study in Stamford, Conn.

This fall, 60 Yale students studied abroad, Director of Study Abroad Karyn Jones said in November.

— The Associated Press contributed reporting from Hartford, Conn.

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