Eliminating Student Loans for Low-Income Families

Eliminating Student Loans for Low-Income Families

Amherst joins other colleges and universities in striving for economic diversity.
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THIS SUMMER AMHERST COLLEGE (MASS.) BECAME the latest higher ed institution to eliminate student loans to low-income students. The new program substitutes scholarships for loans, ensuring that these students from families with annual incomes of $40,000 or less will graduate debt free. In making this commitment, Amherst joins Princeton and Davidson College (N.C.), two private IHEs that already have "no loan" policies. The latter's new policy took effect just this August and is being helped with a $15 million financial commitment from The Duke Endowment. (Davidson is one of four nonprofit institutions that have historically been assisted by the philanthropy.)

Other public institutions have already made pledges to assist lower-income students. The University of North Carolina has the Carolina Covenant, which was expanded in 2004 to include families from 150 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent. Specifically, this promises a debt-free education to students from a family of four with an annual income of about $37,000, or a single parent with a child who makes about $24,000. The University of Virginia's program, "Access UVa," instituted in 2004, is supported by a $16 million annual commitment that replaces need-based financial aid with grants for low-income students, whom UVa defines as those whose family income is equivalent to 150 percent of the federal poverty line or less.

Such programs help higher ed institutions-especially selective private ones-achieve more diversity among their student bodies. They also give low-income students a better chance at attending graduate school or taking internships, officials note. The UVa Office of Student Financial Services adds that low-income students are more likely to default on student loans and have less family assistance to pay them back.

SOUND BITE
'You never accomplish everything you want to accomplish.
-University of California President Robert C. Dynes, announcing that he will resign this December.

Nationally, college students borrow $53.8 billion per year to cover college costs, according to The College Board. The average debt for a student graduating from a four year private institution in 2003-2004 was $19,500.

No loan programs require significant investment. Davidson reports that it will cost the college $3.5 million annually over the next four years to replace loans with grants. The cost for Amherst will be $3 million per year, says Stacey Schmeidel, director of public affairs. Such pledges are easier for well-endowed institutions to make, adds Samantha Veeder, senior consultant for Scannell & Kurz, an enrollment management firm based in Pittsford, N.Y. Amherst's endowment income-at $1.3 billion by June 2006-will help. So, too, will donors, who will be asked for support. -Jean Marie Angelo

BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS CAN BE a little focused on the bottom line, but not so at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. Students frequently work with local nonprofits and small businesses, and a study abroad experience also is required. In June those factors were combined when five MBA students and one undergrad traveled for two weeks to Botswana, Africa, to develop a sustainable business plan for establishing two private boarding schools. The students met with the president of Botswana, the president of the country's only university, the minister of education, and the local Anglican bishop. The idea came from Think Tank Thuto, a nonprofit focusing on education in southern Africa, that was founded by a Marshall graduate. The final plan will be presented in the fall. "We want students to understand [business] is not about making money and sailing off on your yacht," says David Bloom, associate dean and chief communications officer. -Ann McClure

THE PHOEBE A. HEARST MUSEUM OF Anthropology, at the University of California, Berkeley, has a long-standing relationship with Native American tribes, particularly with California Indian groups. Possessing the second largest number of human remains of any museum in this country, the Hearst museum recently cataloged its collection of artifacts and sacred objects in compliance with the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and a soon-to-be-implemented state law.

But when the job was done, university officials merged the NAGPRA unit into existing museum departments-without consulting tribal representatives.

The Native American NAGPRA Coalition, a group consisting of five tribes such as the Kashia Pomo Tribe and the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe, protest the decision. In a media release, the coalition argues the university accepted a review committee's recommendations to close the unit without including tribal representatives or soliciting the direct input of the unit, which includes three Native Americans.

Interim Museum Director Kent Lightfoot defends the decision, saying it's based on the unit becoming more autonomous and the lack of communication with museum staff. He adds the Hearst Museum is the only museum in the nation to have a self-directed NAGPRA unit; most already have been integrated.

Passed in 1990, NAGPRA requires museums to inventory human remains and objects-sacred, funerary, or of cultural patrimony-in their possession. Federally recognized tribes can visit the collections and claim remains and objects of their ancestors. Lightfoot says a small percentage of artifacts have been repatriated.

In discussions with tribes, Lightfoot says some appreciate having more input in the process and gave the go ahead, while others maintain a "wait and see" manner to tell if the museum could create a more efficient NAGPRA program.

Lightfoot hopes to strengthen the museum's repatriation program and schedule more tribal visits. He welcomes their guidance on matters such as handling, exhibiting, and storing Native American materials.

Lightfoot says the reorganization will grow and change through feedback from tribal groups. "It's a legacy that has come down over the years. I think it needs more attention ... and I think that this is one way we can do that." Learn more at hearstmuseum. berkeley.edu. -Michele Herrmann

PERHAPS BALL STATE UNIVERSITY'S (IND.) TRUSTEES took notice when David Letterman claimed his alma mater named a building after him during a broadcast, showing a photo of the so-called "Dave Letterman Stadium" (it was Scheumann Stadium).

The board chose to honor the late night television host and 1970 graduate with a more suitable facility: the just completed $21 million David Letterman Communication and Media Building. Letterman and his mother Dorothy Mengering will attend a dedication ceremony in September. In a statement, Letterman says, "I am proud to have been a student at Ball State and I'm deeply honored to have this recognition for me and my family."

The decision was prompted by Letterman's significant contributions to Ball State. Since 1985, Letterman has funded three annual scholarships for telecommunications students, the type of student he once was. He continually gives assistance to the student-run campus radio station, which he helped to establish in the 1980s.

The 75,000-square-foot facility will support the communication studies, journalism, and telecommunications departments as well as the Center for Information and Communication Sciences and the Center for Media Design. It will contain classroom, studio, and faculty office space and will offer students technology resources, such as a $1 million post- production studio, a surround sound recording and editing suite, and a high-definition and surround sound playback studio. Students will work in a post-production studio similar to ones at Sony Pictures or ESPN, says Roger Lavery, dean of the College of Communication, Information, and Media.

Throughout his career, Letterman has brought exposure to Ball State in jokes and skits. When the football team was on a losing streak in 2000, Letterman had NBA great Earvin "Magic" Johnson give them a nationally televised pep talk. When the team won its next three games, he naturally took credit for the comeback. -M.H.

AFTER THE DEATH OF FRESHMAN Gary DeVercelly from a night of excessive drinking in March 2007, Rider University (N.J.) began taking steps to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. Six months after DeVercelly's death, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr. has announced the indictment of Rider's dean of students, Anthony Campbell, as well as its Director of Greek Life, Ada Badgley, and three Phi Kappa Tau fraternity members and Rider students.

The aggravated hazing charges allege that Campbell, Badgley and the three students "knowingly or recklessly organized, promoted, facilitated, or engaged in conduct which resulted in serious bodily injury to Gary DeVercelly," according to the press release from the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.

The charges follow a dramatic change in Rider's alcohol policy, which earlier this year banned alcohol from social events at fraternities and implemented new safety measures such as assigning Greek House managers to every fraternity. These adjustments were already too late for the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. During the investigation into DeVercelly's death, it was discovered that dangerous underage drinking had taken place at the fraternity house during unregistered parties. This information led administrators to immediately dissolve the chapter on the Rider campus.

As further results of the investigation, in addition to the aggravated hazing charges, 15 individuals were charged with providing alcoholic beverages to an underage person, and 23 individuals were issued Lawrence Township Ordinance Violations for underage drinking. Three students were also charged with drug-related offenses after a search of the fraternity house.

Regarding the indictment charges, Rider President Mordechai Rozanski,has announced: "We were surprised by the charges against Tony and Ada. We know that neither [Campbell or Badgley] was present at the fraternity house, nor did they engage in any of the activities outlined in the prosecutor's press release." Both have been granted a paid leave of absence to prepare their defense to the charges brought against them. Aggravated hazing is a fourth-degree charge and carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000. -Eileen Mullan

WIKIPEDIA IS ADMIRED AND DERIDED BY HIGHER ED PROFESSIONALS. ADMIRED FOR creating an ever-expanding knowledge base that is unique in that anyone can edit the entries, and derided for the same reason. Now an offshoot project hopes to accent the positive. Called Wikiversity, it will be a clearinghouse for the creation and use of free learning materials. Subjects will be divided into various "Wikiversity Schools," including Humanities, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology, Social Sciences, Education, Media, Professions, and more.

Wikiversity proposes to host a range of multilingual learning materials/resources in all languages. It will also complement existing Wikimedia projects, such as the aforementioned Wikipedia. Learn more at http://en.wikiversity.org. -Tim Goral

By Judith Rodin, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007; 232 pp; $34.95; www.upenn.edu/pennpress

"WE HAD TO FACE THE PROSPECT OF TAKING the lead in redeveloping a distressed neighborhood that disliked us and of assuming an unprecedented level of financial and social risk," writes former University of Pennsylvania president Judith Rodin, who then explains how she and her team helped renovate a Philadelphia neighborhood.

Although everyone has heard about the great retail mix the university developed around campus, there was more to reclaiming the area than bringing in a few stores. The multipronged effort included leading the charge in removing graffiti and installing streetlights, and buying and renovating abandoned properties to improve the housing market. Realizing that to be sustainable the plan would have to be holistic, even the public schools were addressed. Giving credit to the many Penn personnel and neighborhood groups involved in the effort, as well as the support of the trustees, Rodin highlights how important positive relationships were to the success of the project-and how the project's success developed "a community of shared values."

Catalyzed by a murder in 1996, the book documents efforts through 2004, when Rodin stepped down. -Ann McClure

FRESHMEN ORIENTATION ISN'T just for new students anymore; it's for the whole family. More schools have begun offering "family-friendly" orientation programs that appeal to students, parents, and younger siblings. Schools such as Boston University, Alfred State University (N.Y.), and Northwestern State University (La.) offer special programs to keep young siblings busy while a big brother or sister gets acclimated to campus.

In 2002, Northwestern State started the Kid Konnection program, which caters to children between the ages of 5 and 12. The program runs during two sessions, and for a $30 fee, siblings can participate in activities such as meeting the university's president, going on a campus tour, taking a picture with Vic the Demon- the mascot-and learning the fight song. They even have a "mini pep rally" and receive "Future Demon T-shirts," says Reatha Cox, director of Student Success.

DATA POINT
3.4% - The FY2007 inflation rate for colleges and universities.
- Annual compilation of Higher Education Price Index from the Commonfund Institute, which notes that the rate is down from FY2006's 5.0 percent.

At Alfred State, siblings are divided into two age groups (7-12 and 13-17). Activities listed on the program's website include arts and crafts, sports competitions, and watching movies.

Four years ago, Boston University began offering a siblings program for each orientation session. Now, approximately 70 siblings participate per session in activities such as playing ping-pong, watching a movie at BU central, and participating in a "seek and find" treasure hunt. The $25 fee also includes lunch, which siblings can buy at the campus food court.

Some benefits of these programs include the opportunity for younger siblings to become familiar with college life while parents enjoy their own orientation activities without worry, knowing their children are safe and having fun. -E.M.

ANTIOCH COLLEGE, BASED IN OHIO, HAS ALWAYS HAD A reputation for being a little out there. This is the IHE that doesn't grade classes and encourages students to design their own study plans. In 1993, the national press had a field day with its "Sexual Offense Prevention Policy," otherwise known as the Antioch Rules for Dating, which required students to ask permission of each other if they wanted any type of physical contact, including hand holding.

In early summer, Antioch raised eyebrows again when its board of trustees announced that the college, founded in 1852, would have to suspend operations in June 2008 because there were not enough funds to ensure the college's future. The endowment of $30 million was not enough to cover the necessary facilities and curricular improvements needed, they announced.

Alumni and faculty let out an immediate protest. Faculty members are now suing, claiming that the college's trustees have violated the contract with them. The lawsuit, filed in mid- August, specifically asks the court to stop trustees from firing faculty and disposing of Antioch College's assets. President Steve Lawry publicly noted that he didn't have much advance notice regarding the announcement. He then decided to resign and will leave the college at the end of this year.

"We were particularly shocked that this monumental decision was taken by a small group of the board of trustees without consulting the stakeholders," says Nancy Crow, an attorney and current alumni board president. She has vowed to fight to keep Antioch open. Other alums have joined her.

Several have publicly worried about the assets of the college, the arm responsible for undergraduate education, and whether assets, including buildings and the college's land, would have to be turned over to Antioch University, a parent organization that offers graduate and distance education. Distressing, too, has been the absence of needed fundraising, say alumni. They have since vowed to be more hands-on.

An annual alumni gathering held June 21-24 was expected to draw 200 people. Instead, about 500 showed up. During the gathering the Alumni Board Treasurer Rick Daily challenged the group to raise $40,000 by the end of the reunion weekend. They raised more than $424,000 for the new College Revival Fund. A series of meetings has been scheduled to review fiscal details and discuss next steps.

Will the efforts be enough to keep the college going? That is unclear at this point. Enrollment is down dramatically from a reported 2,000 students at a high point in the 1960s to 400 today. Crow and other alumni are already doing outreach to incoming students.

"How many will come in Fall 2007 is not certain," she acknowledges. Even though there may be fewer students to educate, she and others are working to explore options. "We want to keep the college open." The Board of Trustees was slated to meet in late August for more discussion about Antioch's future. -Jean Marie Angelo


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