OPINION | Federal financial aid legislation fails to solve the runaway cost of college

On March 21, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2010 passed as a part of the health care reconciliation bill.Under this legislation, the federal government has made college affordable, insured the increased success of community colleges and put American education back into the hands of the students … April Fools!Despite the bill’s inability to solve all higher education problems, you folks should listen up, ’cause this affects you.The Student Aid Fiscal and Responsibility Act, includes some great measures, including decreasing the amount a borrower must pay in student loans per month to 10 percent of their discretionary income. SAFRA allows loans to be forgiven for responsible borrowers after 20 years of repayment in place of the current 25-year policy.At first, the legislation appears sweeping. In an unprecedented move, SAFRA eliminated the Federal Family Education Loan program and will put all federal student loans under the Federal Direct Loan Program by July 1.This action drew a lot of heat from the private sector about loss of jobs and government takeover while others see it as an important step to President Barack Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.Before SAFRA, federal student loans were distributed through two programs. Both programs administered similar loans at similar interest rates with similar repayment options.One program, which SAFRA preserves, is the Federal Direct Loan Program, in which students loans are administered through the Department of Education and its contractors and funded through the U.S. Treasury.The second program was the Federal Family Education Loan program, administered by private financial institutions which were subsidized to lend to students.The University of Minnesota has been serviced by the Federal Direct Loan Program since 1995, and since then the financial aid office has felt good about the switch.”It’s been a much better system for students, and you get the money faster and they know where the money is,” said Kris Wright, director of financial aid at the University. “They’re not dealing with a lender who is … Continue Reading

OPINION | Optimism in the “jobless” economy

For those of you planning to graduate this spring, the finish line is finally in sight. Suddenly, you realize after four years of long, tiring work, and probably some play, that you still don’t have a job or a concrete idea of what you are going to do when May gets here and that real world smacks you in face.On top of that, jobs are scarce. So, as tired as you are from finishing your classes, writing your thesis, doing research and trying not to slip up in the final moments of what people often refer to as the best four years of your life, you have to start an excruciating job hunt.”I think last year, as the recession was in its worst months … I worried how many [students] there were that were just kind of giving up,” Sara Newberg, director of the St. Paul Campus Career Center, said.Newberg recalls a student who should have been able to get a job even in a tough economy.”She had a lot of talent, she had a lot of experience and she was saying, ‘Is it OK if I just work as a waitress for a while?’ Continue Reading

OPINION | Slow down, green movement

For those interested in researching cutting-edge environmental and sustainable technology, the University of Minnesota is increasingly becoming the place to be.President Bob Bruininks has signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which focuses on sustainability and carbon neutrality. Climate neutrality means offsetting any carbon-producing activities with activities that reduce and capture carbon.The University is committed to a legally binding emissions reduction through the Chicago Climate Exchange. Also, University Facilities Management’s Energy Management group has pledged, through the “It All Adds Up” campaign, to reduce its energy consumption by 5 percent by the end of 2010. The University is projected to meet or surpass those goals with annual savings of about $2.5 million.The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment has provided more than $24 million to 170 projects, supporting more than 430 researchers here.This is on top of individual departments supporting research on environmental and sustainability projects. The University often tries to make its facilities available as a “living laboratory” to put some of its research findings into action.The University Sustainability Goals and Outcomes Committee was formed specifically to meet regent requirements of sustainability, but the committee is trying to gather all of these programs together to understand what has been done at the University to encourage energy efficiency and sustainability. Continue Reading

OPINION | Who’s dismantling the Ivory Tower?

It’s hard to find a day we aren’t inundated by the news of more financial troubles for the University of Minnesota and higher education in general. It’s hard not to feel students’ educations are being left on the bench in place of a profit-driven administration. 
It leaves us wondering if we’re getting the whole story. In a recent public opinion poll by Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 60 percent of Americans said they believe colleges act like businesses and care more about their bottom line than the educational experience of students. For higher education, an institution seen as the foundation of America’s leadership, this is a big accusation. But are we really getting swindled? Continue Reading

OPINION | Get off the social host bandwagon

Please spare me another news report with stereotypical college students chugging endless amounts of alcohol that leaves me wondering, “who agreed to do this on camera?” However ridiculous, videos like these explicitly show the reality of underage and binge drinking on college campuses.According to a Boynton Health Service report, 36.1 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds at colleges and universities admitted to binge drinking in 2007. Binge drinking, which the survey defined as the consumption of five or more alcoholic beverages in succession, among 21- to 25-year-olds was 45.7 percent. These are serious numbers, and I am glad the city is taking them seriously.However, in response to this problem at the University of Minnesota campus and the city of Minneapolis as a whole, the Minneapolis City Council has proposed a restrictive ordinance.The council will vote tomorrow whether to be the 40th city in Minnesota to adopt a controversial social host ordinance.The social host ordinance makes it a misdemeanor to host or allow an event where underage people drink or may drink alcohol. This law attempts to restrict underage access to alcohol by targeting the place where it is consumed. Continue Reading

Olympic Biathlete from Battle Lake, MN

Wynn Roberts was introduced to biathlon just as one might expect in small town Battle Lake, Minnesota. At a cross country ski meet, his dad ran into another competitor’s mom whose child also participated in biathlon and mentioned that Wynn might be interested. And for the five years since then, it’s been biathlon for Roberts. 
The biathlon, depending on the race, consists of an athlete skiing six to twenty km and shooting two or four times from a distance of 50 km. Two shooting positions are used, standing and prone (lying on the ground, stomach down) with corresponding target sizes for each position. The competitor makes shots between each lap, with a final lap at the end. Continue Reading

OPINION | The dangers of a “post-racial” society

At the University of Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008, there was yelling and cheering in the mall outside Northrop Auditorium. Along the streets of the West Bank, celebrations could be heard as a nation rejoiced at a racial and political victory long deserved. The United States experienced a historic moment: the election of our first black president. Now, one year after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, we are beginning to see the repercussions – positive and negative – of this groundbreaking night. Continue Reading

St. Paul psychic looks to 2010 and beyond

Looking back on the past 12 months reveals a whirl of events – new president, nuclear proliferation, health care, war in Afghanistan, global warming, terrorist plots, H1N1. We didn’t start the fires, but someone keeps throwing logs on and we really wish they’d cut it out.  And what’s ahead in 2010? 

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Human trafficking in Minnesota

“I got my life back, that is why I’m standing up, to put a face on the story” began Bukola Oriola, who was a journalist in Nigeria before marrying a United States citizen, a family friend from Nigeria. After they were married, they moved to Minnesota. Then, Bukola says, her husband “changed from someone very gentle and kind to someone I’d never met.” Bukola was not allowed to see neighbors or form relationships. Her husband forced her to work 14 hours a day braiding hair, without pay, even when she was pregnant. Continue Reading