New legislation signed by President Obama Tuesday slims down the process of receiving government-issued loans, saving about $68 billion that will go right back into higher education. Target areas include boosts to the Pell grant program for students from low-income backgrounds, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
The new legislation added into the health-care reconciliation bill is an attempt by the Obama administration to hike up the number of college graduates in the United States by making college more accessible.
“It’s a huge win for students,” said Chris Bowser, an enrollment services manager at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa.
The new law cuts out the role private banks play for students receiving federally subsidized loans. As a result, it will be easier for students to receive assistance, which in turn will also lead to more people pursuing higher education, he said.
“There will be more resources available to [students]. Some places, you can literally go to school for free,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
But the move to open the process of getting financial aid is also an effort by Obama to have the most college graduates in the world by 2020. That plan can only be accomplished by having older Americans return to school, officials said.
Officials at the University of Iowa said they are developing greater relations with state-wide community colleges because of the jump in older enrollees there.
But some are still skeptical that the student-aid legislation will increase accessibility. Critics claim that the bill will expand the power of the federal government.
“Who’s to say what the federal government will do with interest rate? At some point, can they just jack that thing up?” said Tim Hagle, a UI political-science professor. “With a bank, at least you have a contract so you know what that rate is going to be.”
Hagle, a Republican, said the Democrats’ law is an overstep on the part of the federal government.
“What this is doing is taking over another section of the country,” he said. “The federal government isn’t supposed to be in the business of making money.”
More from the Daily Iowan at the University of Iowa
Students at Carnegie Mellon University may soon be paying part of student government executives’ living expenses if a student-wide referendum has majority support.
Student Body President Rotimi Abimbola introduced the referendum, noting that the stressful positions held by executives leave little time to earn money.
“I’m either in class or at a meeting, which is what your schedule is like as president. When you do have free time, people always…ask you to come to meetings or make decisions…so the to-do list is really just endless,” Abimbola said. “After a lot of hard work and investing a lot of time and effort into the position…I began to realize that I needed some type of income.”
If approved, executives would receive stipends by fall 2010 at the earliest, and would be allotted to a new president and vice president.
The student government has two options to fund the stipends: from an outside donor or from student activities fees. Students are reacting with concern, but one of the goals of the referendum is to spread awareness of work done by the student government.
At CMU, that work includes not only governance but advocacy on behalf of students before city council. Abimbola and others led the charge in a grassroots campaign to organize students in Pittsburgh against a proposed student tax. Abimbola met with city council members, drummed up media attention, and pushed email campaigns to stop the measure. The mayor dropped the proposal before it ever got to a vote.
“In the past, many in the student body have felt that student government is just a bunch of people who love titles and don’t do anything,” Abimbola said. “Most of the Senators [in Undergraduate Student Senate] thought stipends should come out of the student activities fee so there is some sense of accountability to your constituents.”
But some students like sophomore Eric Wu, who is running for student body vice president of finance, said student activities fees are already cut short by budget reductions and there’s not enough to provide for stipends.
“The Joint Funding Committee already has a hard time cutting down budgets with the pool that is allocated to us from the student activities fee,” Wu said.
Others like junior Michael Surh, running for student body president, thinks the money should be saved and allocated elsewhere, considering the current economic situation.
“Carnegie Mellon is an awesome school, and there are a lot of programs here that could use extra funding. We need to make sure that every single student here gets the full experience, because that is what student government is here to do,” Surh said.
Junior Micah Rosa considers holding a position in the student government a meaningful and worthwhile position even without pay.
“We should be content with our positions and with the satisfaction we get from our positions. We get power, we get influence, we get respect, and we get a strong résumé builder,” Rosa said.
But some feel that having the position without pay closes it off to some students.
"It would be a disservice to the student body if the right candidate for a position decided they were unable to run because they just couldn't afford not to have a part-time job on the side," said Student Body Vice President of Finance Nara Kasbergen, "and the many hours required by holding such a position make it impossible to have a job."
More from the Tartan at CMU
Members of the Student Government Association at Virginia Tech are collaborating with members of the Blacksburg community to counteract a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church in downtown Blacksburg. The church has become controversial for running the site godhatesfags.com, among other things. Church members plan to conclude their protest in front of the Virginia Tech Hillel chapter at the Jewish Community Center in Blacksburg.
The independent Baptist church, founded by Fred Phelps in Topeka, Kansas, is widely considered to be a hate group, known for protesting at military funerals and for their use of strong anti-Semitic, anti-gay rhetoric, according to the Collegiate Times.
Church officials said that they were protesting over the shooting death of Virginia Tech senior Morgan Harrington, who went missing after attending a Metallica concert in October 2009 and whose body was found last month. Outside reports of the planned protest claimed that the church’s protests were related to the April 2007 shootings on the Tech campus, however church officials denied any such connection.
"We've got a sign that says 'God sent the killer,'" said Shirley Phelps-Roper, eldest daughter of church founder Fred Phelps.
The SGA voted to organize a counter-protest on the same day, and has proposed organizing a fundraiser to raise money to help counter the church's protest.
“We’re tough-skinned people who won’t be affected by them,” said SGA president Brandon Carroll, of the Westboro Baptist Church in an interview with the Collegiate Times. Carroll said in the SGA meeting that he hoped to make it clear that the church was not welcome in Blacksburg.
While Tech’s LGBTA Center members are horrified that Westboro is coming to Blacksburg, the student group is not planning to officially join in the counter-protest.
“These people are awful, appalling, despicable. My method is to just ignore them. Me wasting energy on those people is not worth my time,” said LGBTA Center President Aimee Kanode in the Collegiate Times.
The titles of the fliers advertising the protest on the church’s website, godhatesfags.com, read, “WBC will picket these fag-infested, pervert–run West Virginia and Virginia Schools,” and “WBC will picket the Rebellious Brutes of Virginia Tech.”
Kanode said she told the LGBTA members who would be protesting to "be smart about it."
"Be safe and know what you can and cannot do," she said.
More from the Collegiate Times
An unidentified student or students at American University removed copies of the campus student newspaper after it ran a controversial column dealing with sexual assault.
The Eagle column, by AU student Alex Knepper, argued that feminists who rally against rape are detrimental to sexual encounters.
"Sex isn’t about contract-signing," Knepper wrote in the piece, which was published Sunday. "It’s about spontaneity, raw energy and control (or its counterpart, surrender)."
Afterwards, copies of the Eagle were removed from several newsstands across campus and replaced with signs reading "No Room for Rape Apologists." In one instance, the papers were strewn across the floor in front of a stand.
“A few people had taken probably several thousand copies and threw them over against our door,” said Editor-in-chief Jen Calantone.
AU student K. Travis Ballie, also a feminist and LGBT activist, claimed the action was not associated with or endorsed by any student group on campus. Ballie also faulted the Eagle for failing to show sensitivity to rape victims in its editorial decisions.
Students debating the issue on Facebook expressed some disapproval of the protest methods, claiming that the paper's right to free press meant it was justified in publishing even unpopular opinions like Knepper's.
“It’s upsetting, because our general purpose as the campus newspaper is to start these types of discussions,” Calantone said. “We were happy when people started talking about and criticizing this column, but it’s upsetting when it devolves into a kind of vandalism situation.”
On March 13, more than 100 Temple University medical students took a break from the daily grind of studying and exams to give back to their local community.
The students worked on several beautification projects at Kailo Haven, a men’s shelter, as members of the Temple Emergency Action Corps (TEAC).
Kailo Haven, located in Philadelphia, is one of the homeless shelters that receives aid from students as part of the TEAC program. Members of the group work there to help improve the residents’ health and access to care.
Medical students Alison Marshall, Golnar Lashgari and Jennie Johnson organized the project.
“The homeless situation in Philadelphia is a disaster, because many have very little access to health care and preventive treatments,” said Marshall. “They wait until they need acute care and have to go to the emergency room.”
Working with homeless shelters are not TEAC’s usual specialty, however. Initiated as a response to Hurricane Katrina, TEAC normally focuses on domestic and international disasters. Currently, the international arm of the group is planning a trip to Haiti.
But since there has not been a major domestic disaster on the same scale as the 2005 hurricane in recent years, the group has been able to look into more community issues, Marshall said.
The effort to focus on more locally based domestic disasters has led to a three part plan for more student-led assistance in the local homeless community.
Students run health and wellness workshops Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Kailo Haven and also at a nearby women’s shelter. Working with Project HOME and Resources for Human Development (RHD), participants can learn things ranging from sexual health to managing in the cold.
Because there has been so much student support and interest, the workshops are soon to be expanded to include podiatry and dental students.
“The information that we’re gathering from these sessions really helps us determine what the most prevalent health issues in these communities are. It gives us a better sense of what the community needs, and will help us meet those needs more effectively,” Marshall said.
TEAC is also talking to its partners about ways to incorporate more medical students into the two shelters’ clinical care operations. According to Marshall, students might start assisting in RHD’s mobile clinic or the Temple Hospital sometime during the spring.
They also hope to eventually build a treatment facility in North Philadelphia where students can work alongside medical professionals to offer complete service to the underserved population, including help with health care, legal services and social services.
Any student interested in serving the homeless population can get involved in TEAC’s work with shelters. TEAC also offers a credit-bearing course for students to become first responders to natural disasters.
“Temple University is well situated to provide services to the surrounding community through its professional schools, while also giving students the opportunity to learn from people in the community who need their help and care,” said Marshall.
More from Temple University
Liberty University is taking the unusual step of suing the federal government in response to the health care legislation signed by President Obama last week. Liberty is the world’s largest Christian university, with over 50,000 students.
Liberty Counsel, a legal organization that represents Liberty University, argues that Congress “lacks authority to force individuals and private employers to buy or provide health insurance,” and that the law illegally forces the University to “subsidize abortion.”
Student Alexandra Moss is upset that Liberty Counsel is suing on behalf of the university.
"I, along with many others, are appalled at the lawsuit filed against the Health Care reform. The Liberty Counsel filed under Liberty University's name,” wrote Moss. “By doing so, they are leading people to believe that ALL Liberty students share the same opinion as they do. This is certainly not the case. This lawsuit was filed without asking students how they felt about it."
In response to Moss’s email, Jerry Falwell Jr., the chancellor of Liberty, said the University sampled students in a survey and found that 98 percent of the sample supported the suit. He added that the suit reflects the will of the University’s trustees—not the students.
Falwell said the University was compelled to sue because it has the moral obligation to oppose tax-funded abortions, and it was against the student aid reform included in the bill, which the University argues expands the government’s role in providing student loans.
Falwell and University trustees are opposed to the government taking profits in the form of student interest payments, which would help pay for the health care legislation.
However, Liberty Counsel was not able to include student aid in the lawsuit because there are no constitutional objections to that portion of the bill.
"In our opinion, it's the generation that's in college now that's going to bear the burden of the cost of paying for this legislation," he said. "We're in the process of inviting every university in the country to join in this lawsuit."
By Levi Pine
Student organizations at the University of New Mexico are protesting administrators' plan to deny funding to four student groups citing rising student fees. Protesting students have rapidly organized their allies in the UNM community to show President David Schmidly how much of the campus stands against the proposal to deny the groups funding that would come from a $10 fee increase.
If President Schmidly approves the cap, recommended by Vice President of Student Affairs Elisio "Cheo" Torres, four organizations will not receive University funding, according to the student newspaper the Daily Lobo. The groups are the New Mexico Public Interest Research Group (NMPIRG), Community Learning and Public Service, the Research Service Learning Program, and a new student organization, the Queer Resource Center.
The four groups in question held a joint press conference on Monday criticizing the administration for going against the fee budget recommended by the student fee review board, a body made up of student government representatives.
“Student activities and programs are a vital part of the college experience. It’s in this spirit that students should have control over their fees and where the money is allocated. UNM created the [Student Fee Review Board] to do just that," said the student organization representatives in a press release.
The SFRB and the four groups in question are calling the University’s proposal a slap in the face to student autonomy.
With the fee increase recommended by the SFRB, overall student fees would rise to $447.28 per student. Altogether, the four groups would be expected to receive about $200,000 in student fees.
Liz Benton, NMPIRG organizer, said that members of all four groups in question, and even members of other student groups, have tried getting in touch with every member of the New Mexico Board of Regents.
Only Jack Fortner, who had worked with NMPIRG in the past, responded, saying that he would like to meet with the group during spring break. Benton said that members of the group called him everyday during break, and never got past his secretary.
Neither the Regents nor the President are legally required to heed student demands.
Still, the groups have formed a far-reaching coalition with student leaders across campus, including National College Democrats Chair Lee Drake, the Associated Students of UNM (ASUNM), and both of the students running for ASUNM president for next term. The group has also gotten support from the head of the Graduate and Professional Students Association (GPSA).
According to Benton, the issue has even managed to unite the ASUNM and the GPSA, which represent undergraduates and graduate students respectively. While both are scheduled to issue statements of support for the fee increase in the next few days, they often have trouble finding common ground on other proposals.
“ASUNM is voting on issuing an emergency resolution tomorrow at their meeting, and GPSA is confirmed to issue an executive order also on this issue,” said Benton.
President Schmidly is scheduled to make a final decision before he meets with the Board of Regents on Thursday to talk about the future of funding at the University.
More from the Daily Lobo at the University of New Mexico
Recent racially-charged incidents on campus led students at Saint Louis University to drive an email campaign to university administrators last week. Over 120 emails demanding responsive action were sent to five top administrators, including SLU's president, vice presidents and a dean. Violent racial slurs had become more commonplace on campus, and some minor vandalism is also assumed to be connected to the tense campus climate.
“It seems the administration is just kind of like they know what they are politically supposed to say, and I want them to feel uncomfortable," said senior Tianyi Li. "I want them to feel embarrassed that they haven’t done their job.”
Earlier this semester, one black student reported hearing two male voices outside her door saying “F*** you, n*****,” while they ripped the name tag off her door. The students have since been identified and asked to leave campus, but the administration did not do anything to address racism on the campus at large following the incident.
The email campaign, organized by the unofficial student group Students for Social Justice, contained a list of eight demands including a new 24-hour hotline to assist students who feel threatened, immediate notification for students when discriminatory threats occur, and the establishment of a standard protocol for dealing with hate-related incidents.
“I really didn’t know what the motivation was to start the emails now in terms of timing, because we had not heard of any new incidents, so I didn’t quite know what their motivation was,” said Manoj Patankar, the Vice President of SLU's Frost Campus. “But as the number of emails built, clearly it is a serious issue from the perspective of students."
On March 24, Patankar responded to all the students who had emailed him, saying in the email that the administration “shares your concern about any incidents of hate or intolerance, and we are deeply committed to making sure that every SLU student feels safe and respected on our campus.”
Though the administration planned a town hall meeting for Thursday, there was no word of plans to implement or change university policy. Students for Social Justice planned to wear all black to the event.
“We are trying to build that community, and it is a very long and arduous process," said graduate student Sarah Holland, an organizer for the group. "And so that’s what we are trying to do, is build trust between allies and people who are suffering. We are trying to include as many voices as we can."
Racially motivated incidents have seemed to be on the rise on college campuses in recent months, and with them, student organizing. In California earlier this semester, a UC San Diego “Compton Cookout” party mocked stereotypes of poor black people and a noose and a KKK hood were found on campus; at UC Davis, swastikas were found on dorm room doors and the LGBT center was severely vandalized. At the University of Missouri, two students dumped boxes of cotton balls outside the black student center.
In all cases, victimized students and their allies have held meetings, teach-ins, or rallies, sometimes building occupations, and often made lists of demands of the administration to improve the campus climate.
In California, the UC Board of Regents recently announced measures to ramp up recruitment and retention of people of color and low-income students.
In a rare fair-weather story, the Virginia General Assembly’s budget plan will not make any new cuts to higher education. But the plan comes at a price: out-of-state students will be charged extra to help compensate for the state's lack of funding for higher education.
The 2010-2012 budget has increased out-of-state student fees from $10 per credit hour to $15 per credit hour, which will cost the average out-of-state student between $150 and $175 per year. The result is a budget that even avoids faculty furlough days.
A Virginia Tech press release reported that the General Assembly considered extending the increased fee to in-state students, but ultimately decided against it.
According to Kristen Nelson, a spokeswoman for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the government does not expect the increase alone to significantly affect the out-of-state students' demand for a college education in Virginia. Those students already pay two to three times more than in-state students for tuition and fees, she said.
More than 25 percent of Virginia Tech’s undergraduate class is made up of out-of-state students. As of fall 2009, those students’ fees totaled more than $10,000, compared to the $5,000 total for in-state students.
SCHEV statistics from fall 2009 show that 11.1 percent of undergraduates at Virginia public schools were from out of state, a proportion that has increased to 14.9 percent in the most recent class of freshmen.
“I would suspect that given the amount of tuition they are already willing to pay to go to an out-of-state institution in Virginia, an extra $150 a year might prove negligible,” Nelson said.
However, Nelson conceded that combined with this increase, overall rising expenses could negatively affect out-of-state enrollment.
“If there are a number of these types of things — say you increase base tuition, you increase room and board and you increase this — it could get to the breaking point,” Nelson said. “It could get to the point where it may discourage some students from applying to Virginia schools as out-of-state students.”
More from the Collegiate Times at Virginia Tech
In an enormous display of dedication, about 5,000 students, faculty, and administrators traveled to rally peacefully on March 22 in Sacramento against rising student fees, staff layoffs and canceled classes in the state’s public universities and community colleges. In a break from the rancor of the past few months, this demonstration united faculty and administrators with students in an ardent show of determination to stop rapidly eroding budgets for higher education.
The Student Senate for California Community Colleges organized the March 22 demonstration “March on March,” to draw state legislators’ attention to the effects of budget cuts on education.
“The message was to invest in education; students will pull California out of this recession,” said Sacramento City College Student Senate president Reid Milburn, in an interview with the L.A. Times, “But our second message is that with almost 3.5 million students in all three segments of higher education, it’s up to us to continue to advocate for education and not just come up here for one day, for one big march.”
The L.A. Times reported that California’s 112 community colleges took $520 million in budget cuts during the 2009-10 school-year.
Meanwhile, the state of California itself is facing a budget deficit of $20 billion. But students and faculty argue that the solution lies in producing an educated workforce for the state.
"These cuts affect us, they affect us in a very serious way, and we are the future of California,” said Cerro Coso Community College student Austin Hallinan in an interview with 3KCRA.com.
Tony Koester, a San Francisco student also interviewed by KCRA said that he already noticed a decrease in the quality of his education as a result of budget cuts.
"The classes are too full, we're not getting the individual attention that we used to get. I've been in city college for five years, I've never seen it so overflowing before," said Koester.
Amoriah Hartley, a sociology student at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, told KTVU she was worried that budget cuts would cause her school to stop offering services like tutoring and writing assistance, and that she felt increased taxes could solve the problem.
"If we are all a bunch of tightwads, we're not going to get anywhere as a country," she said.
After the rally, California Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss said, "We must do everything possible to ensure that every student wishing to pursue higher education has the access and the resources necessary to earn a degree and build a brighter future. I urge the Legislature to listen to these students and adopt a budget that shares the governor's commitment to fully fund education in the state."