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March 8, 2007

Reciprocity agreement with Wisconsin extended for incoming students

The Star Tribune reports:

Minnesota and Wisconsin higher education officials continue to talk about changes in tuition reciprocity, but students who are entering college this fall don't need to worry about a change.

Trying to calm parents and students who were concerned that their tuition could take an unexpected jump, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) issued a statement this week saying that current students and new 2007 freshmen would be able to complete their education under the current terms of the reciprocity agreement.

"Any changes being negotiated now would apply to entering students in fall 2008," OHE director Susan Heegaard said in a prepared statement.

The longstanding agreement allows students from the two states to attend college across state lines, generally paying the same tuition they'd pay at a similar campus back home. Increasing tuition in Minnesota, especially at the University of Minnesota, has thrown those rates out of whack. Wisconsin students who attend U campuses now pay less than Minnesotans do.

U of M officials say that's unfair, and they've asked for changes and threatened to withdraw from the agreement. Higher education officials in both states had said they hoped to reach consensus by the end of February. Governors' offices in both states are now involved in negotiations.

February 19, 2007

IRS sponsoring MSA to help students file tax returns

From the Daily:

Even though many students spend their college years in a low tax bracket, there is some on-campus help to get their taxes in on time.

Students can go to Coffman Union every Monday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. now through April 16 to get their taxes done for free by the Minnesota Student Association.

This is the second year the Internal Revenue Service sponsored MSA to do student taxes, said Steve Wang, a 2006 University graduate who helped start the program last spring.

Interested students can drop off their forms and show an ID to MSA members to find out how large their refund check will be - or how much they have to pay back to Uncle Sam. The process takes about an hour.

January 25, 2007

University considers pulling out of Wisconsin reciprocity agreement

The University of Minnesota is threatening to pull out of a tuition reciprocity agreement between Minnesota and Wisconsin unless its students from Wisconsin start paying between $1,200 and $2,700 more a year
according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Wisconsin has rejected the proposal, but the University of Minnesota is pushing back.

"We would like to reach agreement within the existing agreement," said Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota. "That's the preferable outcome. But I don't want to rule other things out."

Under a decades-old agreement between the states, a Wisconsin student attending a public college or university in Minnesota pays the tuition rate of a comparable campus in Wisconsin. The same home-state formula applies for a Minnesota student enrolled in a college or university in Wisconsin.

While the tuition rates for the states' two-year colleges are comparable, there are growing gaps at many of the four-year universities, with Minnesota students paying much more than their Wisconsin counterparts.

Wisconsin residents attending the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, pay $8,219 a year, $1,191 less than the tuition paid by Minnesota residents. On the University of Minnesota, Morris, campus, Wisconsin residents pay $7,592, $2,720 less than Minnesotans.

Meanwhile, Minnesota residents pay $8,314 to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison - $1,588 more than Wisconsin students. At UW-Milwaukee, Minnesotans pay $8,363, $1,737 more.

Wisconsin reimburses Minnesota for the difference. In 2005, it paid Minnesota nearly $7 million to close the gap. But under the reciprocity agreement, the reimbursement money goes into the state's bank account, not back into the universities.

As the University of Minnesota sees it, the agreement is unfair.

"It's an equity issue," Swan said. "From the perspective of Minnesota taxpayers, it seems like Wisconsin residents should be paying the same amount as their own sons and daughters are required to pay."

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education, known as OHE, manages the reciprocity agreement for Minnesota. In 2004, University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks sent a letter to the office demanding change.

Bruininks asked that Minnesota and Wisconsin students be required to pay whichever tuition rate was higher, the one charged by the campus they were attending or the one charged by the comparable campus in their home state.

OHE and Wisconsin's Higher Educational Aids Board discussed the proposal over the last couple of years, with both sides expressing interest, according to Susan Heegaard, director of the Minnesota office.

But when Heegaard sent the Wisconsin board a letter in December officially requesting the change, the board balked.

"Making sure that college education remains affordable for students is a priority for Wisconsin," the Higher Educational Aids Board's executive secretary, Connie Hutchison, said in a letter sent to Heegaard on Jan. 5. "To ensure the continued affordability of higher education for our students we want to keep the current reciprocity tuition practices rather than moving to a higher-of-the-two tuition rate agreement."

Under the proposal, Wisconsin students attending any of the University of Minnesota campuses would have to start paying Minnesota tuition starting in fall 2007. None of the other Minnesota colleges and universities would be affected.

According to projections from Minnesota's Office of Higher Education, the reimbursement that Wisconsin pays to Minnesota would be eliminated by 2010. At that point, Minnesota would likely start making reimbursement payments to Wisconsin, which would be deposited in this state's bank account.

Hutchison said in an interview Tuesday that her office opposed the proposal because Gov. Jim Doyle has made keeping tuition down for Wisconsin residents a priority for this year. She said she did not remember expressing interest in a change in previous years, and that she did not have access to notes that would confirm that.

"We like the way this is working now," Hutchison said of the tuition pact.

But Swan said the University of Minnesota was exploring the possibility of withdrawing from the reciprocity agreement and creating an agreement of its own with Wisconsin if it doesn't get what it wants.

"We would make adjustments that would get us the results that we want," he said.

The two sides said they would start negotiations in the coming weeks.

December 13, 2006

Governor and Legislature pledge to limit tuition increases

From today's Minnesota Daily:

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislative leaders from both parties pledged Tuesday to limit University tuition increases when the Legislature reconvenes next month.

At a wide-ranging news conference beneath the Capitol rotunda, DFL and Republican leaders offered a preview of the upcoming session, in which lawmakers will approve University funding for the 2008-2009 biennium.

Although taxes, health care and transportation issues often dominated the discussion - and prompted most of the infrequent disagreement - lawmakers found common ground in their support for more affordable college.

"We know the economics of this tuition equation," said House Speaker-elect Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis. "When Minnesotans have access to education, they make more money for their families."

December 11, 2006

Tax breaks on higher ed expenses extended

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate joined the House of Representatives in passing legislation that will extend a slew of popular tax breaks, including two with coveted by colleges. The measure, passed by a 79 to 9 margin in the Senate, is on its way to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.

One provision would extend through 2007 a tax deduction for “qualified higher education expenses,� which is available even to taxpayers who do not itemize deductions on their federal returns. The provision, which expired at the end of 2005, applies retroactively to the current 2006 calendar year.

Under the provision, individuals who earn less than $65,000, and couples who earn less than $130,000, can deduct up to $4,000 in tuition and some other college costs for themselves or their children. Individual taxpayers who earn between $65,000 and $80,000, and couples who earn between $130,000 and $160,000, can deduct up to $2,000 in such expenses.

“America is in a race with the rest of the world to grow the strongest, most educated workforce available to attract and keep good-paying jobs here at home,� said Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who will head the Senate Finance Committee, which makes tax policy, in the next Congress. “So the tuition deduction is about more than taxes. It’s really about making higher education, whether college or vocational school, affordable and accessible for more of our citizens.�

The rest of the story, from Inside Higher Ed.

December 6, 2006

Graduates increasingly mired in debt

An editorial from the Christian Science Monitor, by way of The Mankato Free Press:

Adults often complain about mixed signals they get from teens, but what about the messages teens get? Here's one with major life implications: Go to college, but graduate with a load of debt. Oh yeah, like that makes getting a degree look real attractive.

The economic health of America's information-driven society depends on how well it educates its young people. So it can't afford to shrug off the mounting student-debt problem with a mere "whatever."

The financial situation facing college graduates today is not what it was in their parents' time. Now, about two-thirds of college students are borrowing; three decades ago, just a third were. And in recent years, the amount of student borrowing has soared. Graduating seniors faced an average of $9,250 in loans a decade ago. Now it's more than twice that, $19,200 (a 58 percent increase after inflation).

The majority of graduates are still able to repay their loans. And it's true that higher earning power for someone with a four-year degree makes this possible. But the trends point toward a worsening situation that needs attention.

Here's the rest of the article.

November 30, 2006

Changes coming to student loan industry?

After years of operating in a favorable political environment, student loan companies woke up November 8 knowing that changes in Washington would probably mean trouble for their industry, which has enjoyed a close working relationship with Congressional Republicans (thanks, in part, to their sizable campaign contributions to key GOP lawmakers).
The Democrats are promising that one of their first acts come January will be to cut interest rates on federal student loans in half — from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent for many loans — and to raise the maximum Pell Grant by more than $1,000. Davis said the interest rate cuts are likely to pass through Congress and, if widely supported, would unlikely be met by a presidential veto.

“There’s a heavy symbolic importance for Democrats, and it’s going to happen in the first 100 days because it has political cachet,� Davis said.

Kennedy has said he plans to reintroduce legislation that would provide incentives to colleges that switch to the direct lending program. He is also proposing to cap a borrower’s college loan payments to no more than 15 percent of a family’s income.

The U.S. House of Representatives leadership plans to take up similar legislation, the Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act, introduced last year by Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisc.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), incoming chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. The bill aims to increase spending on Pell Grants and reduce the deficit, in part by giving colleges incentives to switch with no added taxpayer cost. Kennedy has said that the STAR Act would promote competition between the FFEL program and the direct loan program and would encourage colleges to pick the less expensive choice.

Read the whole story on Inside Higher Ed.

November 28, 2006

A.I. Johnson Scholarship applications available

Any U of M degree-seeking undergrad in any major is eligible to apply for the A.I. Johnson scholarship. Applicants must be interested in public service and commit to completing a public service internship during the 2007-2008 school year. Find more information here.

Applications must be received by February 15, 2007.

November 22, 2006

College costs among "pocketbook" issues new Congress to address

From today's Washington Post:

After retrieving control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years, Democrats will set out to redefine the domestic agenda through policies they say would address the economic needs of middle- and working-class Americans.

Striving for a few quick legislative victories in January and longer-term goals whose details -- and viability -- are not yet certain, Democratic lawmakers want to shift the dialogue on Capitol Hill to workers' pay, college tuition, health-care costs, retirees' income and other issues that touch ordinary families.

November 20, 2006

Beware of scholarship search service solicitations

At this time of year, college students and college-bound high school students may be beset with offers from companies offering to perform scholarship searches on their behalf for a fee.

Students are cautioned not to fall for these solicitations; all the information they need should be available at no charge either from their financial aid office or on the web.

Today's St. Paul Pioneer Press has a story about one local student's experience with a scholarship search service.

The Pi Press also offers the following tips for students looking for new scholarship sources:

• Never pay for scholarship information.

• Talk to your high school or college advisers. If they don't have the information you're looking for, they'll know where you can find it.

• If you're searching for scholarships on your own, here are some reliable Web sites:

• fastweb.com
• finaid.org
• collegeboard.com
• freschinfo.com
• gocollege.com

November 17, 2006

Lame duck Senate to hold hearings on tax breaks for college tuition

For more than a year now, the leaders of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee have investigated the management and compensation practices of charities and, more recently in the wake of a scandal at American University, colleges and universities. So when word leaked out this week that the panel planned another hearing on college issues next month, the widespread assumption was that colleges were about to get more scrutiny along those lines.

Not exactly. Colleges’ tax practices are in for more examination in the months and years ahead — from the Internal Revenue Service (more on that below) — but the Senate Finance Committee seemingly has a different target in mind for its December 5 hearing: federal tax breaks for college tuition.

A Finance Committee spokeswoman confirmed late Thursday that in one of their last acts while their party still controls Congress, the panel’s Republican leaders would hold a hearing “that looks generally at whether tax breaks for tuition and universities’ efforts to help low- and middle-income families are helping in an era of ever-increasing tuition.�

That statement was generally consistent, though somewhat vaguer, than what one Washington higher education official was told the subject of the hearing would be: “a look at the relationship between federal tax provisions and tuition increases.� In other words, do federal policies that give taxpayers a deduction or credit for money they spend on college tuition — like, for instance, a proposal by the new Democratic majority in Congress to “make college tuition deductible from taxes, permanently� — lead colleges in turn to raise their tuition?

Read the entire story, from Inside Higher Education.

November 8, 2006

How the new Congress will affect higher education policy

Inside Higher Ed takes an early look at the how the leadership change in the House of Representatives--and possibly in the Senate, too--will affect higher education:

Democrats, who captured the House of Representatives and made significant gains in the Senate (control of the Senate remained in doubt early this morning, with key races in Montana and Virginia undecided — check back for updates), have vowed to aggressively push an agenda that includes helping students and families better afford college, an effort that higher education officials (and of course student groups) very much support.

But while Democrats may be likelier than their Republican counterparts to seek to ratchet up spending on student financial aid, it is doubtful that they will be any less inclined than Republicans are to hold colleges accountable on a range of fronts, including the prices they charge students and the quality of the education they deliver. So the outlook for higher education may be a decidedly mixed one, college lobbyists and other observers of Congress and higher education speculated as they awaited the election results Tuesday.

The full impact of the changeover in the House and the Democratic gains in the Senate, which end 12 years of full Republican control of Congress, won’t be clear for months. Divided government could result in deadlock, or moderation that results in compromise and some progress.

Among the uncertainties are what effect partial (or more, if the Senate flips) Democratic control will have on the renewal of the Higher Education Act, which has languished in Congress; whether the power shift will leave the work of Margaret Spellings’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education dead in the water; and how much the takeover will change the climate in Congress for for-profit colleges and lenders, both of which have gained from their relationships (forged in significant part through campaign contributions) with Republican lawmakers.

Read the whole story.

October 24, 2006

College costs continuing to rise faster than inflation

the Associated Press reports:

College price increases slowed this year but they again topped inflation, and financial aid isn't keeping pace, a new report says.

Tuition and fees at public four-year public colleges rose $344, or 6.3 percent, to an average of $5,836 for the 2006-07 academic year, according to the College Board's annual ''Trends in College Pricing'' report, released Tuesday.

Accounting for inflation, prices rose just 2.4 percent -- the lowest rise in six years, and the third straight time the gap between prices and overall inflation has narrowed.

The news that price hikes are getting smaller is tempered by the fact that this decade has been a period of an extraordinary increases in college costs. Published prices are up 35 percent in five years -- the largest increase of any five-year period in the 30 years covered the report.

That's coupled with the reality that grant aid -- from the government, colleges and private sources -- isn't covering the price hikes. For the 62 percent of full-time undergraduates who receive grant aid, the average net cost of a four-year public school rose 8 percent to $2,700, the report said.

The cost increases at state schools are baffling to many students and parents, given the relative health of the economy and state finances.

After several years of sharp cuts, state spending on higher education has been rising again nationally. The problem is that more people are enrolling, so there is less and less to spend per student.

And, with another angle on the rising cost of tuition, the New York Times has a story about student loan companies courting university administrators:

One student loan company has invited college and university officials, and their spouses, to attend an education conference — in the Caribbean this February, all expenses paid. Another pays universities bonuses based on how much their students borrow. Others gave away gifts like iPods at a recent conference for financial aid administrators.

With rising tuition and lagging government aid making private student loans a big and increasingly competitive business, these are some of the ways lenders are courting universities in hopes that they will steer students their way.

Students took out nearly $13.8 billion in private loans in 2004-5, more than 10 times the amount borrowed a decade ago, according to the College Board.

The key to this business is university financial aid offices, which compile lists of “preferred� lenders, sometimes as few as two. Students rarely comparison shop and rely on those lists.

Read the whole story.

September 15, 2006

Author to discuss her book "Generation Debt"

Here's the University Relations press release:

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (9/15/2006) -- --“Generation Debt, Why Now Is a Terrible Time to Be Young� author Anya Kamenetz will speak at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20 at Coffman Union’s Theater, 300 Washington Ave. S.E., Minneapolis. The University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Programs and Activities Council (MPAC) is sponsoring the event. Doors open at 6 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

After graduating from Yale, Kamenetz moved to Manhattan and started freelance work for the Village Voice. Assigned to contribute to the series “Generation Debt, the New Economics of Being Young,� Kamenetz’s work earned her a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize and soon attracted publishers which led to the development of the book “Generation Debt, Why Now Is A Terrible Time To Be Young.� The book features detailed interviews with hundreds of young people, as well as thoughtful research on the political, social, economic and public health implications that culminated to cause a dramatic decrease in quality opportunities for young people.

Laurence Kotlikoff, Boston University professor of economics commented on the importance of the book, “America is slowly but surely eating its young by leaving them with massive public and private obligations … We all need to read this brilliant book and see that the American dream is being transformed into a financial, fiscal and personal nightmare.�

MPAC is the main campus-wide programming board for the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Its programming committees are responsible for initiating, developing and implementing a comprehensive and diverse activities program that anticipates and responds to the needs of U of M students and the campus community. For more information, please visit www.coffman.umn.edu .


Students who want an overview of the political and social forces undermining their futures are encouraged to attend.

September 7, 2006

National study gives the State of Minnesota a "D" for college affordability

Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:

Public college costs are taking a much bigger bite out of the average Minnesota family's annual income than in recent years, according to a nationwide report released today.

In 1992, the average Minnesota family paid about 19 percent of its income to attend a public four-year college or university. Now, the average family pays about 26 percent of its income, says the highly regarded National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

How do we compare to other states?

The report gave Minnesota a "D" for college affordability. But that was pretty good, relatively speaking: 43 states got "F's" in college affordability. The highest grade was a "C-," awarded to Utah and California.

Nationwide, costs at four-year public colleges and universities rose from 19 percent in 1992 to 31 percent this year.

August 28, 2006

Question about optional fees

A reader sent me the following message:

Parents who pay for college tuition should be aware of Optional Fees that are tacked onto tuition bills. For example, you may want to check out groups such as MPIRG (Minnesota Public Interest Research Group) that are allowed to add a charge to student accounts, unless you opt out.

To that end, I would suggest checking out the "refusable/refundable" fees listed as 2006-2007 Other Fees here. I only see 2 optional fees, one for COLLEGIANS FOR A CONSTRUCTIVE TOMORROW and one for MINNESOTA PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP, listed.

Star Tribune story on online finances course for parents

Course topics -- from how students' financial decisions affect the family finances to budgeting to banking to credit to gambling -- suggest the reasons the class is being launched: increasingly dire statistics about college students who have credit card debt, online gambling debt and can't balance a checkbook.

While online courses like this one are rare, financial education is a hot-button topic at colleges nationwide, said Jim Boyle, president of the advocacy group College Parents of America.

The course was created by Marjorie Savage, director of a program to help parents stay connected to their kids and the university, and Jodi Dworkin, a professor who studies risk in adolescents at the school's Department of Family Social Science. Topics were picked based on parent focus groups and frequent questions from parents to Savage.

It's modeled after a course they created to help parents learn how to talk to their children about alcohol. That course will soon be adopted by eight schools across the country. Another on sex and sexuality and one on spirituality will follow in years to come.

Read the rest of the story.

The course is only open to parents of University of Minnesota students. Email Marj Savage to sign up or get more information.

August 24, 2006

Student borrowers' privacy compromised by glitch in government software

From the LA Times:

WASHINGTON — The Education Department said Wednesday that it would arrange for free credit monitoring for as many as 32,000 student loan borrowers after their personal data appeared on its website.

Terri Shaw, the department's chief operating officer for federal student aid, said the people involved were holders of federal direct student loans who used the department's loan website — http://www.dlssonline.com — between Sunday and Tuesday.

It is the latest in a string of data thefts and security breaches affecting more than a half-dozen federal agencies in recent months.

Education Department officials blamed the breach on a routine software upgrade, conducted by contractor Affiliated Computers Services Inc., that mixed up data for different borrowers when users accessed the website. Since Sunday, 26 borrowers have complained.

Read the whole story.

August 21, 2006

Class for parents on talking to students about personal finance

The University is offering a new course for parents who want to talk to their student about financial responsibility. Financial experts agree that this is a discussions families should have before students leave home for college, the Star Tribune reports:

[M]any parents are nervous about teaching teens about credit cards because they aren't confident about it themselves, said Paul D. Jones, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Jones Marketing Group and author of "What You and Your Kids Need to Know About Credit."

No financial expert, including Jones, thinks every teenager should have a credit card. There are plenty of reasons to be leery. Eighty percent of high school seniors have never taken a personal finance class and more than a quarter of them have bounced a check, according to a survey of 5,775 teens done by the nonprofit JumpStart Coalition for Financial Literacy.

A 2004 study at the University of Minnesota showed that the number of students who do not pay off their credit-card balances each month ranged from 13 percent for freshmen to 64 percent for fifth-year seniors. The study also showed that excessive credit card debt was a stress factor for about 14 percent of students.

It's a domino effect, said David Golden, director of public health and marketing at the "U." As credit-card debt goes up, so does smoking, high-risk drinking and the number of hours worked outside of class. Debt goes up and GPA goes down, he said. Those findings were the primary reason that the university decided not to allow credit-card solicitations on campus.

While some campuses don't allow credit-card companies on campus, that doesn't stop applications that arrive by mail. Defying logic, they don't require income verification, credit history or a co-signer. Fifty-six percent of college freshmen acquire a credit card, and many of those students' parents don't realize their teens have credit cards, said Nathan Dungan, founder of Share Save Spend, a business to help youths and adults adopt healthy financial habits.

The course is available to parents of current University of Minnesota students at no charge. Parents can take the course online at their own convenience. To sign up, send an e-mail to parent@umn.edu. Please indicate the course you are registering for (there is another course available on students and alcohol use), as well as your student's name and his or her University ID number or birth date. We will not maintain any record of your student's identification, but we need it to confirm U of M enrollment in order to provide you access to the course. After we confirm your student's enrollment, we will send you instructions on accessing the course.

August 1, 2006

High student debt correlated to health risks, lower GPAs

Twin Cities television station KARE-11 reported on the recent rise in student debt, and its detrimental effects on students both before and after graduation:

David Golden, Director of Public Health and Marketing at the University of Minnesota's Boynton Health Service Center, says at least three different student surveys have been conducted on the topic of student debt in the past three years. This past spring, a Boynton Health Services survey focused on credit card debt.

"We looked at students who are carrying high debt on their credit cards. They tend to have other problems, they are much more likely to be diagnosed with depression, tend to have higher rates of high risk drinking, higher smoking rates. Also we noticed an association between when their debt goes up, their GPA tends to go down," says Golden.

Golden says there are no hard and fast solutions to offer students, but some measures have been taken by the university. For starters, credit card companies are no longer allowed to set up tables in the student union hall to attract new cardholders. He also says a special financial advisor has been hired by Health Services to talk and counsel students on credit card debt.


June 28, 2006

This week in the Minnesota Daily

A number of interesting stories and opinions in today's Minnesota Daily, including a cover story on Governor Pawlenty's proposal to provide Minnesota high school students who graduate in the top 25% of their high school class two free years of tuition at any state college or University, and an additional two free years for students majoring in science, technology, engineering, or math:

The program, dubbed Achieve, would begin in fall 2007 if the Legislature adopts it. Any family with a gross income of $150,000 or less would be eligible, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

University professor Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs’ Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, called the proposal “pretty generous,� but said he was concerned that the proposal did not include a way to fund the program.

“Any time a politician makes an attractive proposal without telling how to pay for it, you have to be skeptical,� Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he could not think of any way the state would fund the program.

Given that the state legislature is now out of session until fall, the proposal cannot be addressed until then.

The governor is running for re-election this fall.

The governor's challenger in the September Republican primary will be Sue Jeffers, familiar to many around the U's campus as the owner of the popular bar and eatery Stub and Herbs, and a vocal opponent of the city's smoking ban for restaurants. The Daily profiled Jeffers a couple of weeks ago, and I confess that I didn't read to the end of the article. If I had, I would have noted here her opposition to the proposed light rail corridor along University Avenue, and to the U's funding and support of student groups:

Jeffers said she does not support a new light-rail transit line through the University Avenue corridor, which she sees as "an obscene waste of money."

The proposed line would link downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, with stops at the University.

But Jeffers said mass transit does not encourage new development, solve traffic congestion or pay for itself. Instead, she said, light-rail transit lines harm small businesses during construction and increase crime in the area.

Jeffers said University tuition under Pawlenty has gotten out of control. One way to keep college costs down is to reduce the amount of funding that goes to student groups through student fees, Jeffers said.

"Did you know the University has a goat club?" Jeffers said. "There's a phenomenal amount of these clubs that are out there. Well, they need to be self-sufficient. If you want to have a goat club, then all the goat people get together, chip in your five bucks and you can have your goat club." Jeffers said she heard about the club a few years ago from a bar patron.

"When did it become the University's role to sustain student groups?" Jeffers asked.

Besides the parades, speeches and festivals Jeffers has to get through, she was able to reduce the remaining stages of her campaign to one step.

"Kick Tim Pawlenty's butt," she said.

In this week's Daily, Student Activites Office adviser Erik Dussault offers to clear up some of Jeffers' misconceptions about student groups:

Jeffers suggested that the “phenomenal� number of student groups need to be self-sufficient. In fact, while student groups may apply for grants or other funding resources on campus, they are all self-sufficient.

When student groups register through the Student Activities Office, they do not automatically receive any funding. To register, they are required to have five members and pay a $20 fee.

Registered organizations can request funding from the Student Services Fees pool; however, only about 30 of the 700 annually registered groups apply. University students coordinate the public fees process each year, making all fees decisions and allocations and they welcome debate.

Additionally, the “goat club� Jeffers refers to is most likely the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Sheep, Goat and Llama club, devoted to giving veterinary students experience working in their field of study. This club is self-sustaining. It receives no money from the college or the University. Each member pays a $5 fee to belong, and they also raise funds through activities, such as selling T-shirts.

Next, a Daily editor sits down with President Bruininks to find out what he's working on this summer--the short answer is the stadium, other building projects, and the strategic positioning process, but you can read the full interview here.

And finally, staff, students and visitors to campus are being treated to free lunchtime concerts on Northrop plaza throughout June and July, as part of a campus tradition dating back more than 50 years:

“Summer at Northrop� was launched in 1954, when the Minnesota Orchestra performed for University students, faculty and staff members during their lunch hour on Northrop plaza.

The original event was in appreciation of the University’s offering of Northrop as the orchestra’s temporary home.

In the 52 years that have followed, more than 20 concerts from local and international artists have taken place annually through June and July. This year 24 free concerts are scheduled, including salsa, country and jazz.

If you expect to visit campus this or next month, check the concert schedule.

June 13, 2006

Advice for new college grads from a financial columnist

This is the season for giving advice to graduates as they enter the workplace. Instead of listening to yet another recitation of the usual admonishments to "change the world," "carpe diem," or "wear sunscreen," those graduates — unless they are already trapped on the nonpaying internship hamster wheel — need to hear how to manage their paychecks.

Parents may have tried this. And many will undoubtedly send this article to their children.

But, dear graduate, before you wad this up and toss it next to the keg still sitting there from last week's party, consider this: If you think it is tough living on very little now, imagine what it will be like when you are old and sick.

Surveys say most of you already suspect Social Security will not be around after mom and dad deplete it sometime during your peak earning years. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old favored a system of privatized retirement savings accounts.

Read the rest of this New York Times column.

May 31, 2006

Interest rates on student loans to rise sharply July 1

the Star Tribune reports:

Think prices are skyrocketing at the pump? Look at the price of student loans. The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that after years of historic lows, interest rates on student loans will climb 1.84 points in July to as much as 7.14 percent for federal Stafford student loans and 7.94 percent for PLUS loans, which parents take out for their children. That's atop a similar rate jump a year ago.

Parents and students can avoid the increase by consolidating loans at rates as low as 4.75 percent before the July 1 deadline. Until loans are consolidated, or combined into one payment, rates can rise or fall yearly. Just a year ago, some lucky borrowers locked in at 2.8 percent for life.

For borrowers, consolidating is the last chance to save money before the government changes its student-loan program to save money itself. The Deficit Reduction Act, signed by President Bush in February, will reduce government spending on student loans by roughly $22 billion.

Read the rest of the story.

May 9, 2006

Majority of Americans find student loan debt too burdensome, poll finds

The Project on Student Debt, a non-profit group that studies access to higher education, released poll results suggesting that while Americans believe a college education is more important than ever, they are finding it increasingly difficult to afford:

Americans view a college education as more important then ever, even as it becomes less and less affordable. They see students graduating with more debt, and worry that paying off student loans is a serious problem for both middle-class and low-income families. They believe government should be doing more to help, and they support reforms to make loan payments more manageable.

The national public opinion survey was commissioned by the Project on Student Debt and conducted by the bipartisan polling team of Hart Research Associates and American Viewpoint. Key findings include:

• Eighty percent of American adults feel a college education is more important today than it was 10 years ago. But 66% also say that affording college is more difficult now, and 70% expect it to be even harder in the future.
• Three in five adults (59%) and two in three college parents (63%) say college students today graduate with too much debt. Two-thirds of adults (66%) say it is hard to repay student loans.
• Sixty-four percent of adults say the federal government is doing too little to make higher education available and affordable.
• Sixty-one percent of adults and 77% of recent students favor a proposal to cap student loan payments at 10% of income, even if it involves some additional government spending.
• More than three-fourths of Americans (78%) support a refundable tax credit for student loan interest costs. That support, which crosses demographic and party lines, is strong despite possible costs of up to $2 billion per year.

The survey was conducted March 13–18, 2006, with 804 adults, plus oversamples of 251 recent students (18- to 29-year-olds who are enrolled in or have attended college) and 254 college parents (parents of current college students or recent graduates). Its margin of error is 3.5 percent for all adults, 4.7 percent for college parents, and 5.2 percent for recent students

Read more here.

May 8, 2006

"60 Minutes" puts the spotlight on Sallie Mae

From Inside Higher Ed:

Sallie Mae received the full “60 Minutes� treatment Sunday night, in a segment that highlighted criticism that the student loan giant profits on the backs of students and taxpayers.

The issues raised in the segment (some highlights of which are available on the CBS show’s Web site) wouldn’t surprise anyone who has kept an eye on student-loan debates over the last decade. But by focusing on individual borrowers, the show put human faces on the issues — and reached many millions more than the reports that policy analysts regularly release on loan policy.

The show gave several examples of borrowers who were shocked to find how much greater their loan repayments were than the sums they borrowed. Each of these borrowers also had various difficulties that the show portrayed Sallie Mae as being “unforgiving� in handling. One student found himself unemployed, another was diagnosed with an illness, and a third lost his home in an earthquake.

Sallie Mae was described as refusing to help these borrowers, one of whom helped create a Web site, Student Loan Justice, that criticizes the lending industry. One expert interviewed by Lesley Stahl described student borrowers as being “served up like turkeys at a Thanksgiving dinner.�

The show also made hay of the fact that the company’s chairman and former chief executive, Albert L. Lord, has been highly compensated and is building a personal golf course.

April 7, 2006

Student debt's influence on career options

In a report entitled Paying Back, Not Giving Back, the State PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups), a group of non-profit, public interest advocacy groups, examine the negative impact that a student's debt load can have on that student's career options. Read the report here.

April 4, 2006

Financial planning advice for students

I can't count how many times I've heard it said that the basic concepts of personal finance should be required learning for all college students.

A free 2-part financial planning workshop offered by a private financial advising firm in conjunction with the Career and Community Learning Center, while not mandatory, will offer students an introduction to managing their money.

Part I, scheduled for the noon hour on April 11, will cover savings, debt management, and insurance, and Part II, to be held on April 19, also at noon, will address mutal funds, buying a home, Roth IRAs and 401K/403B retirement savings plans. Free pizza will be served at both seminars.

Students will have an opportunity to ask questions and to request a free one-on-one consultation.

Students can register for the seminar(s) here.

March 22, 2006

Goldpass is live

Goldpass is an online database that lets student search for jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities posted in any of the University's career offices. They can also post their resume and create profiles for employers to view. Students and alumni with University e-mail accounts can register here.

A couple more career items of interest:

Students interested in service learning, internships, volunteering or community-based research will find a wealth of information at Community-University Partnerships open house on Wednesday, April 5, from 4-6 p.m. in Coffman Union's Great Hall. No registration required.

And, finally, students who would like to make service learning a formal part of their education can attend a Community Engagement Scholars Program information session. The program allows students to simultaneously pursue their academic interests and make a difference in their community through integrating community engagement into their program. Participants not only receive special recognition from the University when they complete their degree:

Official Recognition:

-A certificate of recognition from the University of Minnesota
-Community Engagement Scholar notation on official academic transcript
-Acknowledgement of accomplishment listed in the commencement program
-A cord of distinction to be worn at commencement
-A special recognition reception honoring Scholars Program participants

...but also learn how to develop a structured approach to making a difference in a community; enjoy many opportunities to connect with other students, community organizations, faculty, and staff with similar interests; develop skills that will serve them throughout their career; and engage in career exploration and development.

Learn more about the Community Engagement Scholars Program here.


March 3, 2006

Are scholarship search offers legit?

Recently, the Parent Program has received emails from parents who have received solicitations from a group offering scholarship searches for a fee--the group promises results "or your money back."

The University's One Stop resource quotes the Federal Trade Commissions's list of characteristics of possible scholarship scams. Please review this info before making any kind of financial commitment.

One Stop also lists some trusted scholarship sources.

February 27, 2006

"Students suffocate under tens of thousands in loans"

according to USA Today, which reports that the staggering student loan debts many of today's college students are carrying may weigh heavily on their futures:

On July 1, the rate on new federally guaranteed student loans will hit a fixed 6.8%, the highest rate since 2001. It comes as the average graduate owes $19,000. Many undergrads, though, have debt exceeding $40,000.

and

The weight of debt is forcing many to put off saving for retirement, getting married, buying homes and putting aside money for their own children's educations.

Heavy student debts may also keep young adults from starting businesses, says Diana Cantor, director of the Virginia College Savings Plan. Some graduates will refuse to risk what little money they have on entrepreneurial ventures. And securing loans will now be harder. "It's a real crisis," Cantor says. "You're strapped before you get started."