Friday, October 24, 2008

Barack Obama's position on Higher Education (unedited)

Throughout his presidential campaign, Democrat Barack Obama has emphasized “change,” but more importantly for college students, he has emphasized on reforming higher education.

If elected, Obama promises to simplify the application process for financial aid, eliminate subsidies on the most costly student loans, expand Pell Grants for low-income undergraduate students and improve community colleges across the nation.

Obama plans to create the “American Opportunity Tax Credit” which proposes that the first $4,000 of a college education would be completely free for most Americans. The tax credit would also make community college free for most students.

At AACC, tuition is has been $86 per credit hour for Anne Arundel County residents since 2006. For a full-time credit student, two semesters at AACC cost $2,064. With Obama’s tax credit of $4,000, an AACC student would have their tuition covered and enough for fees and books.

There is a catch to Obama’s tax credit plan: recipients have to complete 100 hours of community service a year. Community service might be a better alternative to the high interest rates that accompany student loans.

Even at an affordable community college, students may still wonder, “How am I going to pay for this?” According to Obama and Joe Biden’s plan, the average graduate leaves college with more than $19,000 in debt.

Obama and Biden’s plan promises to eliminate subsidies for the most expensive private loan programs. Unlike publicly funded loans, the Federal Family Education Loan Program is funded privately by banks and lenders. Private loans cost more than publicly funded loans and do not offer any extra benefits. Obama plans to eliminate the subsidies given to private lenders and direct the money into aid for students.

Many students are forced to seek student loans when financial aid isn’t enough or their families are determined ineligible.

Obama has proposed to reform the financial aid process by eliminating the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). Instead of completing the lengthy application, families would be able to apply for financial aid by checking a box on their tax forms.

He argues that by simplifying the financial aid process, more families will be able to afford college tuition without racking up student loan debt.

Throughout Obama’s political career, he has worked towards increasing Pell Grant’s available to students. Currently, Pell Grant’s are available to low-income undergraduate students.
Grant amounts are determined by the estimated family contribution, the cost of attendance and whether the student attends school full or part-time classes.

The maximum amount a student can receive from a Pell Grant is $4,731. Obama hopes to maximize the Pell Grant to $5,400 in order to better fit the needs of students and reflect tuition inflation.

According to Obama’s plan, 12 million people attend community college’s a year and without them, millions of people would not be able to access the education and skills to succeed.

Obama plans to give more support to community colleges though his Community College Partnership Program. He hopes to provide grants to community colleges to analyze what programs and degrees are needed for the American people to keep pace with the demanding workforce.

He would also like to reward the institutions that have high graduation and transfer rates.

“We'll help schools determine what skills and technical education are needed to help local industry; we'll expand new degrees for emerging fields; and we'll reward schools that graduate more students,” said Obama in a speech gave at the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency in 2007. “That's the change we need so that our young people can achieve their dreams.”

How State Budget cuts will affect AACC. (unedited)

College officials say that although no final decisions or plans have been decided yet, it doesn’t look like any specific programs at AACC will suffer from recent state budget cuts.
On Oct. 15, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the Board of Public Works announced a budget cut which has resulted in $1 million cut from Anne Arundel Community College’s operating budget.
The board is cutting approximately $350 million from Maryland’s budget and 8 percent will be cut from all community college aid. AACC officials are confident that recent cuts to state budget will not jeopardize students, faculty or staff.
“A million dollars is a lot of money,” said Vice President for Learning Resource Management, Melissa Beardmore. “I wouldn’t want to have to pay it myself but the college’s operating budget is over $100 million. So $1 million, in the scheme of things, we’ll manage.”
Linda Schulte, director of Public Relations and spokesperson for AACC President, Dr. Martha Smith, said that there are several ways the college leadership could manage reductions to the college’s operating budget.
“If we don’t fill the [empty] positions and we don’t add any tremendous increase in benefits or programs or anything like that, we can weather the first million dollar storm,” said Schulte.
According to the Human Resources office, the college is still currently advertising and filling positions. It is still unknown whether college officials will implement a hiring freeze.
While the college will survive the first round of cuts, there are many concerns that if the state and county revenues do not improve, community colleges may suffer more cuts in December; no one knows how much the next cuts might be.
“It’s a million dollars - for now- and there could be additional cuts – at least that’s what we’re hearing from the governor and the comptroller,” said Beardmore. “So it’s still a little early to tell.”
AACC officials are committed to making education affordable and accessible to students. Since 2006, tuition rates for county resident students have been $86 per credit hour.
Schulte says that the Board of Trustees is doing everything thing they can to avoid raising tuition rates.
“The Board of Trustees is very committed to affordability as one of our five mission mandates here,” said Schulte. “They’ve taken a long hard look at the million that we’re going to lose and they don’t think that’s going result in that. But if something else comes down the road, I can’t speak for what they’ll do.”
College representatives also fear a reduction in much needed renovation funding.
“Next year we’re on a list to get more funding to help with our library expansion as one of the capital projects,” said Schulte. “Well, you know, maybe the state looks at that and says we’re not going to fund capital projects at community colleges at all.
“But that’s just speculation at this point.”
The Andrew G. Truxal Library was built in 1968 and renovations are said to begin in fiscal year 2010.
The library’s plumbing, heating, air conditioning and electrical systems all need to be repaired or replaced.
According to the county’s capital budget and program, the library will be expanded by 31,260 GSF square feet and will also be updated to meet student needs. The renovation should be completed by 2013.
The capital budget will fund $21,300,000 million of the renovation but college officials are unsure how much the state will be able to contribute.
There are several ways the college might compensate for future budget cuts.
According to Schulte, business partnerships with companies seeking to train employees is
one way the college generates revenue.
Keeping enrollment rates high may also help the college compensate for the reduction in state contribution.
In 2007, AACC had an enrollment of 56,370 non-credit and credit students and with new programs such as WeekendYou, enrollment is steadily increasing.
Schulte says that the troubled economy may also increase enrollment.
“Historically, when times are tough, a lot of people come back to community college to either get a better career change or upgrade their skills because they want to keep their job,” said Schulte. “Growing the enrollment is another revenue producer and so that’s obviously at the heart of what we do.”
College officials will not know what the final fate of the college budget is until late December. Still, the administration and faculty are conscious of excessive and unnecessary spending.
“At present I have not heard about direct impact on faculty, but indirectly we are all att-empting to economize when possible, such as by being cautious with use of supplies and
other resources,” said professor Roy Carson, president of The Faculty Organization.

Despite the fear of future budget cuts, officials are confident that their leadership and community support will uphold the college through the economic downturn.
According to Schulte and Beardmore, the college’s first priority is students. When Dr. Martha Smith became the president of AACC in 1994, she declared that student success comes first. Beardmore said that AACC students should know that they are always first priority.
“The primary thing they should know is that the college’s mantra is ‘students first’ so whatever we do is with that in mind. That’s our guiding principle,” said Beardmore.

College officials are dedicated to keeping AACC affordable and accessible to all of their students; however, Schulte said that the school is affected by the troubled economy too.

“I think they [the students] just have to understand that there are economic pressures on us,” said Schulte. “This is $100 million business – the college is these days. It’s not a like a buck fifty, our budget is about 100 million. So, were committed to our mission and were committed to all of those things but at the end of the day, we have to pay our bills.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

I don't understand anything about football. I don't know what a first down is, I don't know why people cheer for yards. All I know is that a touch-down is six points and a field goal is one point. I have never cared about football. But, last night when I watched my little brother play JV football was quite possibly the most moving experience I've ever had. He stood on the sideline, his white jersey turned brown from being tackled. My little brother is quite possibly the laziest person I know. Last night was the first time I have seen him work as a part of a team, the first time I've heard people cheer for him. I don't have to understand what a first down is to understand how much that meant to him. There was a water tower next to the field that read "GO FALCONS!" and fall leaves falling on the field. People were screaming and the bleachers were rumbling from people stomping. The stands echoed from "Na na na, na na na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye" when there were 10 seconds left on the scoreboard - it was clear the Falcons had won the game. The Falcons lined up infront of the auidence and yelled "Thank You!"
For the first time, I understood why Football means so much to so many people. For the first time, football meant something to me. When my little brother came out of the locker room with his hair wet with sweat - and quite possibly the rest of his body - I ran up to him (literally, ran) and gave him the biggest hug I have ever given him. I am so proud of him.

My little sister haley is here. I love it when she is here because I feel like I have a family again. Even though on the ride home me, my mom, and her had an argument over whether or not her dad is an asshole. We fought over this because when I was little, her father used to scream at me to look at him when he was talking to him. If I didn't, he would grab my chin and force me to look in his eyes. I am nineteen now and cannot look anyone directly in their eyes. Last night when him and my mother both had attitudes, I said "both of you need to calm down, I don't know why your so stressed out." He started screaming at me, told me to look at him when he was talking to me, and grabbed my chin to force me to do so. I said nothing and obeyed. Why didn't I tell him that I am not a child anymore? Why didn't I tell him to never put his hands on me again? Maybe thats the point - he scared the shit out of me when I was eight and 11 years later, he still does. I wish my little sister could understand that.

We're making halloween cookies tonight and carving pumpkins, and perhaps doing a little painting. We are quite the festive bunch. We are holding on to something we lost a long time ago - our childhood.

I have to go to class today, and I don't think its necessary but my newspaper has promised a surprise so how could I turn that down?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

So I have decided that maybe I'll start actually using this blog. It's what the cools kid are doing. Or not doing. Wwhhaatever. So I have decided that I hate the AACC library. Every time I try to find a book, I can't. I figured I'm just retarded because I am incapable of navigating a library. Well, as it turns out, I'm not retarded - they are.
I was looking for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson and according to the catalogue, it was in the library, along with many other books by him. GREAT! So, I go searching, despite my fears. Not only could I not find the specific book I was looking for, BUT no other books by him. I go and ask the circulation desk to please help me. "Did you look for it?" God. Of course I looked for it, perhaps you could come show me where it is and perhaps how to find books so we can avoid this problem. 10 minutes of searching goes by. "Hm. Thats weird. Its not here." You are completely right ::taps nose:: so maybe you should update the FUCKING CATALOGUE with a note that says, search at your own risk because chances are, you won't find what your looking for. BITCHES.

Aahh. Well I have started to write for the school newspaper. Lots of boring articles about lots of boring happenings at the college. Look for me on the front page.