Wall Street Journal
Hundreds of People Made Stock Gifts With Great Timing: When Michael Milken and his business associates donated stock to charity, they had great timing when it came to maximizing their tax write-offs. The stock cratered a few weeks later. Then, the same thing happened a decade later with a different stock. These are just a few of the well-timed stock gifts I found analyzing data from the IRS and the SEC. Luck? Sometimes. But in other cases, people are probably backdating their gifts or using “insider giving,” experts say.
Carl Icahn’s Charity Supports Education—It Also Lent Him $119 Million: Billionaire Carl Icahn donated stock to his charity — and then he wanted it back. Instead of giving the charity the cash up front, he gave the charity two IOUs, effectively taking a loan from the charity.
Why Low-Performing Colleges Rarely Lose Accreditation: Colleges need to be accredited to get a slice of more than $130 billion in federal loans and grants. But they almost never lose it, even those with graduation rates in the single digits. One of the big reasons? The reviews are conducted by administrators from other colleges, who are hesitant to judge their peers. Meanwhile, colleges often fight the rare crackdown.
Despite Low Loan Repayment Rates, Colleges Rake in Cash: The government is supposed to cut off loans to students at colleges where few people pay back their debt. That rarely happens. Not only does the Education Department know that colleges can easily game the test Congress has established, but it also actively helps politically protected schools clean up their data when they’re in danger of failing.
The Long and Winding Recall: We explored why auto recalls take so long. I looked at federal data and documents to examine how many investigations missed internal deadlines (about 70%). We examine one Jeep recall where dozens of people have burned to death, awaiting a fix.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Ballooning Parent Debt: Working with ProPublica, my co-authors and I explored the explosion in Parent PLUS loans. The government allows parents to take out unlimited loans to fund their children’s education at expensive colleges, regardless of their ability to repay. As a result, some parents end up underwater. Some people liken this to the sub-prime lending of higher ed. I also crunched the numbers for this graphic.
High Pay, Small Colleges: I ran The Chronicle of Higher Education’s executive compensation project, overseeing the collection of data from federal tax filings. I analyzed data for an interactive and co-wrote a story about the most overpaid college presidents relative to other variables. The president featured in our story was later fired. The project won several awards for reporting and design.
The Peer Networks of Higher Ed: Who does your college think its peers are? I got data from the Education Department showing what peers colleges actually chose for themselves. I used Gephi to plot those data points and worked with a front-end developer who brought the project to life. I wrote a story analyzing how colleges choose the cool kids.
Iona College Fraud: I discovered financial fraud on Iona College’s federal tax filings. I then found out that the college had never reported the $1-million crime to the police. The employee (a nun) was later arrested and charged in federal court. I now can tell people that, indirectly, I put a nun in jail.