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October 23, 1986 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-10-23
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Disaster for higher ed? Reform would alter the status of scholarships, student loans and charitable contributions
Facing a Taxing Proble
The so-called "tax simplification" bill may raise some college costs

and environmental-design schools are
America's largest; the agriculture school
is second largest. A&M has become a re-
search heavyweight; its research budget
tops $150 million this year. Though histori-
cally weak in the humanities, the school is
proposing a core curriculum that will boost
itsalreadyexpandingliberal-arts college.
Not that academics has entirely overtak-
en athletics. The maroon machine's bas-
ketball team shared the 1985 Southwest
Conference title, and A&M regularly turns
out the most football-crazed crowds in a
football-crazed state, united against a com-
mon enemy. Journalism senior Loren Stef-
fey explains, "t.u. is to A&M what the Sovi-
et Union is to Reagan." Under head coach
Jackie Sherrill (whom A&M hired in 1982
on a $1.6 million, six-year contract), the
Aggies won the 1986 Cotton Bowl, ending
the season ranked sixth nationally. De-
spite a fumbling start, this year they hope
to pick cotton again, with 16 of last year's
starters back for more. Sometimes a hint of
scandal surfaces: Texas media last year
investigated whether a booster paid for
players' car leases and whether players
were offered Hawaiian vacations. None of
the charges was substantiated.
The most ardent keepers of A&M's tra-
ditions, whether stirring or silly, are the
2,000 members of the corps. "Without
it," says Company K-2 commander Davis,
"A&M would revert to just any other uni-
versity." From each morning's 6 a.m.
wake-up and inspection to the three hours
of mandatory study time at day's end, a
cadet's every waking moment is governed
by rules-known as "privileges"-for per-
missible dorm decor or how to chew food.
Freshmen (known as "fish") must answer
"campusology" questions, from the names
of Aggie congressional Medal of Honor
holders to the life spans of the various
"Reveille" mascot collies.
No 'swirlees': But even in this sanctum
some reforms are stirring. Since 1965 corps
membership has been voluntary. The ad-
ing, the most dangerous corps tradition,
since the early 1980s; when a sophomore
cadet died of heatstroke after a
round of 2 a.m. "motivational" V
push-ups in 1984, the crack-
down intensified. Outlawed are
practices like the "swirlee"-
putting a student's head into a
commode bowl on his birthday
and flushing once for each year.
If Aggies don't act quite
the same as they used to, they
don't look the same, either.
Women, first admitted in 1963,
now make up nearly a quarter
of the student body. Female
cadets have been able to =
join since 1974. Though they
have suffered harassment and Pyreinthe.

have wrested some advances
through lawsuits, they advance
nonetheless: this year the depu-
ty commander of the corps is
a woman. The last five editors
of the campus newspaper, The
Battalion, have been female.
Last year three women joined
the band-thoughonly one last-
ed through the year. There is
even a chapter of the National
Organization for Women, even
if it did raise funds last year
with a bake sale. Nor is the cam-
pus completely lily-white; al-
though the school has only
2,117 blacks and Hispanics, it
has an unusually high reten-
tion rate of 82 percent. This $
year's newspaper editor is
black, as is the president of the
MemorialStudent Center. Says
editor Cathie Anderson of her
appointment: "It's ashame that
that was newsworthy ... blacks
are starting to think they're
partofthetraditions, too."
Spike's woes: Whether icono-
clasts are now morewelcome on
this cohesive campus is still a
subject for debate. Certainly,
Last year a 10-year-old gay-stu- Engineerie
dent organization won a fight
for official recognition in federal court, and
a fledgling antiapartheid group has
formed. But support is somewhat ephemer-
al. Take Students Working Against Many
Problems (SWAMP), which works on hun-
ger relief and also challenges Aggies to
question tradition. When SWAMP an-
nounced it would set feet on the Student
Center lawn-regarded as an inviolable
war memorial-hundreds of irate students
blocked access.
Nonconformist style still draws stares-
or worse. Witness Carey (Spike) Domin-
guez, 22, who was. attracted to A&M's
highly regarded school of environmental
design. His Goodwill-chic clothes and ear-
ring would scarcely raise an eyebrow at

,. ?
: ; ,


g power: Using a plasma cutting toi

higher education may soon find out
Everyone who is connected with
that tax reform can be a costly
proposition. The so-called tax sim-
plification bill, which seems cer-
tain to become law in the near future, will
complicate the calculus of college-alter-
ing the status of scholarships, loans and
charitable contributions. Like
other members of the Reagan Worst cas
administration, Secretary of
Education William Bennett ar-
gues that the changes will stim-
ulate economic growth, to the .
ultimate benefit of colleges.
But many financial-aid officers
take a different view. Cyrus Jol-
livette, a vice president at the
University of Miami, puts it '
bluntly: "This bill is a disaster
for higher education."
The most sweeping revision
of the tax code since the federal
income tax was adopted in 1913
will hit schools from several .
Interest payments on stu-
dent loanswill no longer be tax-

Scholarships and other aid that cover
nontuition bills will be treated as ordinary,
taxable income.
Lower tax rates may cut alumni incen-
tive to make donations.
Campus building plans may be scuttled
because of restrictions on tax-free bonds.
Tax reform looms most threateningly
e: Donations to schools could drop by $1.2

over students who have major loans out-
standing. Begun in the 1960s as a welfare
program for middle-class families, the fed-
eral Guaranteed Student Loan program
(GSL) now floats nearly $10 billion a year;
many high-priced colleges simply assume
that their students will be as much as
$10,000 in debt at graduation. Many law
students at Yale, for example,
billion borrow the first $9,000 of their
financial aid. About $5,000
comes from GSL at a 9 percent
interest rate and $4,000 comes
from other sources at a 12 per-
cent interest rate. "Because the
interest will no longer be de-
ductible," says Bert Wells, a
third-year student, "I'll be los-
ing about $4,500 initially in de-
ductions a year."
Parental financing: Lower tax
rates and increases in the
standard and personal deduc-
tions should soften the bite, but
some students may find it pref-
erable to seek creative parental
financing rather than loans.
Under the new bill, taxpayers
may borrow against ahome and

more diversified campuses, but several Ag-
gies have picked fistfights with him. De-
spite black eyes and frustration, he's hang-
ing in. "I go here, and I'm gonna go here,
and they might as well face the facts," he
says defiantly, showing true Aggie spirit.
As A&M faces more future shocks, money
will be scarcer. The oil glut has reduced in-
come from the school's oil-based endow-
ment while cutting into state revenues, and
so the state has asked theschool to take a 13
percent funding cut. But "We're going to
hunker down for the interim," says A&M
administrator Robert Cherry. Old Ags re-
mainfiercelyloyal, making$11.8million in
private donationsinthe1984-85schoolyear
alone-and A&M's rapid growth over the
past three decades should mean
even more lucre in future years.
"The big rich," Cherry confides,
"arejustgettingtothe age when
they're ready togive."
A&M president Frank E.
Vandiver has his own favorite
Aggie joke, one shared by most
Aggies: "What do you call an
Aggie five years after grad-
uation?" The answer: "Boss."
Though it shows A&M's
predilection for vocation over
education, it also goes to the Ag-
gies' core: they can take a joke,
-TEXASA&M so longas they get the last laugh.
ndafter JOHN SCHWARTZ in College Station

sky: Yearly bonfire (with outhouse), before ai


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