4 - Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
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The forgotten crisis
In dire straits, higher education needs a dramatic solution
he state of higher education is dire. In the past 25 years, the
cost of college has increased by 439 percent. The amount
students borrow to finance this cost has more than dou-
bled in the past decade. Meanwhile, median family income has
grown slowly in the past two decades, leaving college a privilege of
the wealthy few - that is, unless you plan to bury yourself in debt.
While everyone has someone to blame for these trends (and there
is plenty of blame to go around), few people are talking about solu-
tions. Like our national crises in health care and energy, higher
education needs a big solution - and fast.
As trivial as it may sound, understanding
America's education crisis starts with playing
the blame game.First on most people's list are
state governments. Though state appropria-
tions for public universities typically rise a bit
each year, these increases haven't kept pace
withinflation. For example, in 1960, almost 77
percent of the University of Michigan's gen-
eral fund came from the state. In 2007, state
contributions only made up about 25 percent
of the general fund, leaving students, donors
and investments to fill in the rest.
But state governments are not alone in
their neglect. The federal government has
also abandoned its commitment to financial
aid. Two decades ago, the federal Pell Grant
program, which helps more than six million
low-income students afford college, covered
roughly half of a student's tuition if the stu-
dent received the maximum award. Today, it
covers only one-third of a student's tuition,
even after the Congress raised the maxi-
mum award from $4,310 to $5,400 last year.
And like the students it helps, the Pell Grant
program is broke, with billions of dollars in
looming budget deficits that have been large-
And then there are the universities them-
selves, which can't just pass the blame else-
where. Universities have raised tuition year
after year with little regard for students.
Meanwhile, executive compensation has
skyrocketed, endowments have stayed nar-
rowly earmarked and other costs haven't
Though the fact that health care costs
have risen roughly 250 percent in the past
25 years is considered cause for Washington
to switch into crisis mode, the 439 percent
increase in higher education costs is not even
on most people's radar.
So where do we go from here?
We start with big ideas. In 1993, then-
President Bill Clinton had one of these. He
proposed a massive federal loan program
that wouldhave cut the federalgovernment's
wasteful subsidies to private student lenders
and allowed students to receive manageable
interest rates from the federal government.
During this year's Democratic primary, sev-
eral more ideas emerged. Hillary Clinton
proposed prohibiting colleges from raising
students' tuition once they have started as
freshmen. John Edwards, in the most dra-
matic proposal of any candidate, proposed
a program that covered all college costs for
two million students who worked part-time
while attending college full-time.
Ideas like Edwards's "work to learn" pro-
gram are the big solutions that will allow
higher education to continue to be accessible
for everyone in this country. Barack Obama
and the Democratic Congress need to take
one of these ideas and run with it.
He wouldn't burn that much carbon
flying to Chicago just to talk."
- A close friend of former Vice President Al Gore, addressing speculation about Gore's visit
with President-elect Barack Obama today, in a recent interview with CNN.
ELAINE MORTON I A HR C L S E-MAIL ELAINE AT EMORT@UMICH.EDU
raoodl-hin5 we Suck up
all the C0 e mi l ecd ly aEFail
the blArflirsn9S of 4FtSSil
fuels t-sspower elec+ici . ot,
The reason for the season
s with most children who grew the Freedom From Religion Founda- bunch of people who are mindingctheir
up believing in Santa Claus, tion, told CNN why Christmas makes own business. (Contrary to what he
when I was a kid Christmas himsodamnangry: "Mostpeoplethink said inthe same interview, the nativity
was little more than December is for Christians and view scene is not damning anyone to hell.
a way to reap ben- our sign as an intrusion, when actually And if it were, maybe he could have
efits by doing noth- it's the other way around. People have learned the art of subtlety from it.)
ing. My familynever been celebrating the winter solstice As far as I'm concerned, that sign
went to church, so if long before Christmas. We see Christi- might as well be a burning cross -
you asked me at the anity as the intruder, tryingto steal the coercion is the name of the game here,
time what we were holiday from all of us humans." whether Barker wants to admit it or
even celebrating, Well, first, let me get this out of the not. There have been many attempts
I'd probably stare at way: The sign should not have been to legitimize the ever-growing cult
you blankly and say, BRANDON taken. Stealing is bad, censorship is of atheism, with its foundations, its
"Toys?" CONRADIS un-American and it's atellingfactthat books, its public speakers and news-
Now that I'm 20 one of Christianity's main tenets is letters (sounds like any other religion
and have distanced "thou shalt not steal." I agree. to me), but, certainly, erecting hateful
myself from all OK, moving on. There are so many signs isn't the way to do it.
religion, I can safely say the holiday things wrong with Barker's statement
has lost most of its charm. There are - as well as the sign itself - that even
still things to savor - the eggnog, the an indifferent agnostic such as myself
music, "A Charlie BrownChristmas"- can't help but shake his head in dis- W hy can't atheists
but for the most part Christmas seems gust at this utterly embarrassing, not
even more superficial to me now than to mention prejudiced, excuse for a and Christians just
it did when I was 10. The question of justification.
what we're actually celebrating - and For starters, the signowas positioned get along?
why - seems completely superfluous where it was, and when it was, for a
amid the bastardized, corporate-con- reason. If they had erected a sign that
trolled Christmas of the 21st century. was meant to be there all year-round, I
Yet, incredibly, that doesn't stop would have assumed it was the doing I guess the point I'm trying to eke
some people from being offended by of some old flower-child spreading his out of this frankly minor incident is
it. Earlier this month, a group of athe- ridiculous gospel. And I would have this: Can't we just get along? Hon-
ists in the state of Washington repre- been fine with that. But the fact that estly. If this is what we can expect
senting the Freedom From Religion the signwas erected just in time for the from atheist leaders, I might-as well
Foundation unveiled a public sign that holiday season - not to mention posi- just stick with the religious leaders
read in part, "Religion is but myth and tioned strategically next to a nativity we have now. Besides, doesn't the
superstition that hardens hearts and scene - is clearly meant as an attack Freedom From Religion Foundation
enslaves minds." It was positioned, not on a specific group of people during understand that Christmasisn't even a
coincidentally, next to two distinctly their most important time of year. religious holiday anymore? And more
religious icons: a nativity scene and a Meanwhile, Barker's bigoted views importantly, celebrating Christmas
Christmas tree, both of which were of Christians are apparent in his sounds a hell of a lot more fun than
privately sponsored by other people. remarks to CNN. Clearly, he sees all celebrating the "winter solstice."
Later, when the sign was found in a Christians as the enemy because he
ditch after having been stolen earlier hates what they stand for. So his solu- Brandon Conradis can be
that day, Dan Barker, a co-founder of tion is to make a public attack on a reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Daily is looking for a diverse group of strong, informed writers to be columnists next
semester. Columnists write 750 words on a topic of their choice every other week.
E-MAIL ROBERT SOAVE AT RSOAVE@UMICH.EDU FOR MORE INFORMATION
MAX BRONSTEIN "E P
Seeking a true energy solution
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Elise Baun, Harun Buljina, Ben Caleca, Satyajeet Deshmukh,
Brian Flaherty, Matthew Green, Emmarie Huetteman, Emma Jeszke, Shannon Kellman,
Edward McPhee, Emily Michels, Kate Peabody, Matthew Shutler, Robert Soave, Eileen Stahl,
Jennifer Sussex, Imran Syed, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder, Margaret Young
SHANNON KELLMAN I ViE OIT
What comes next
The Diag seems so calmrthese days. The elec-
tion has been over for more than a month, and
the mass of students who were campaigning have
disappeared back into the woodwork. It's so nice
to be able to walk without being asked to sign a
petition or take a button. But if you're like me,
you're feeling just a little bit of withdrawal. The
good partis that after the elections, the real work
Don't get me wrong - elections are impor-
tant. They provide a great forum for airing the
issues and finding solutions to the problems in
our country. The past two years have proven
that spectacularly. From thinking about women's
issues thanks to Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov.
Sarah Palin to tax policy via Joe the Plumber,
Americans were more in engaged in this election
than ever before. But elections are only the start-
Now that all the fun is over, we need to keep
going. It's not important who you voted for any-
more because their issues still exist. Problems
need to be solved. All that effort that was put
into campaigning for the candidates earlier this
semester could be wonderfully channeled into
other projects. To put it succinctly, we need to get
off our asses and get to work. There is much to
If you were an Obama-maniac, apply for a job
as a community organizer. Barack Obama's cam-
paign credited its strength to its massive organiz-
ing apparatus, so think of the wonders that could
be accomplished if that sort of organization were
applied elsewhere. Community organizers aid
those in the direst circumstances and oftenbring
people together to better the community. You
spentso long defending Obama's qualifications to
be president that it's about time you gave it a shot
yourself. The University should be producing stu-
dents who aim to help others instead of just lec-
turing the world on the qualifications of others.
If you were a John McCain fan, think about
embodying some of the principles for which he
stands. McCain has long been a defender of the
rights of prisoners, especially when it comes to
the issue of torture. Take some time and consider
how you feel about simulating drowning on a
prisoner, and instead of arguing with your friends
or classmates about it, do something. Preventing
torture is an issue of human rights and should be
championed by people everywhere.
These causes aren't going to go anywhere on
their own. They are not partisan issues but Amer-
ican issues. It takes hard work and dedication to
get things done. But look at where being a com-
munity organizer and a human rights advocate
got Obama and McCain. These men have served,
and continue to serve, their country in ways that
demand nothing but respect. We all should strive
to embody some of their characteristics and serve
as admirably. We owe it to ourselves to be the
next great generation of public servants.
Shannon Kellman is an LSA senior.
Recently, I filled up my gas tank, wincing every time the
pump added another dollar. I looked away and noticed a
much less perturbed individual. This customer was calm-
ly filling up his hybrid Prius, which stood in stark contrast
to a nearby, hulking SUV. I recalled that it was only a few
shortyears ago when the roadways were overrun by SUVs.
Of course, at that time gas was cheaper than milk and con-
sumer environmental awareness was seemingly nonexis-
While I admit that the shift toward hybrid vehicles is
progress, hybrids still pollute. People have convinced
themselves that they are somehow good for the environ-
ment when, in reality, they are just the lesser of two evils.
Hybrids do not offer a comprehensive solution to the ener-
gy and environmental crisis facing the world. At best, they
are a stop-gap solution marketed to those who feel the
need to assuage the guilt of living in a world that produces
excessive carbon emissions.
Automakers, politicians and engineers alike have
endorsed zero carbon emission hydrogen. But there's
a problem with hydrogen. Regardless of the amount of
money spent on developing this technology, it will not
be viable for decades and will certainly not have any real
impact on the world's carbon output in the next 30 years.
While there are significant technical challenges to over-
come, the greatest challenge may be one of private infra-
structure. Gas stations are controlled by the oil industry,
which until recently was enjoying unprecedented profits.
As long as there is oil available at a somewhat affordable
price, it would be unthinkable for them to retool at astro-
nomical expense. In an era of skyrocketing industry con-
tributions to political campaigns, it is also unlikely that
politicians would be able to mandate such change.
So if industry and government fail to take the lead, the
question then becomes, can the planet afford to wait for
hydrogen? Climate science says no. The U.N. Intergov-
ernmental Panel on Climate Change, honored with the
Nobel Peace Prize in October 2007, asserts that the Earth
is warming faster than ever, which could lead to abrupt
and even irreversible impacts on human health, drinking
water and agriculture. Clearly, rapid cuts in carbon diox-
ide are necessary.
Strangely enough, the technology for a viable emission-
free mode of transportation has already come and gone.
In 1996, General Motors Corp. released the EV, an elec-
tric car with a range of at least 55 miles per charge. Over
the next three years, GM leased more than one thousand
of these vehicles, which were adored by their lessees.
Sadly, in 1999, GM canceled the program, claiming that
the EVi and the electric car in general were not viable
products for the marketplace, and in 2003, it took them
off the road.
Ironically, GM has since changed its position and is
in the process of developing the Chevy Volt - an elec-
tric car with a range of 40 miles per charge and a reserve
high efficiency gasoline engine. The Volt is scheduled to
be released in 2010, but with the future of GM currently
under debate in Congress, it seems likely that the Volt is
simply too little too late.
Unlike hydrogen, the greatest advantage of electric cars
is that the infrastructure to power themis already in place.
Nearly every home and business has access to electricity,
which means that you could charge your car virtually any-
where at a cost far below the average price of gasoline.
If electric cars became popular, we would face a huge
increase in demand for electricity as our dependence
shifts away from oil. In order to make that shift sustain-
able, we would also need to reinvest in clean, renewable
energy. After all, if the electricity to power electric cars
was produced from coal and oil, then we have simply
transplanted the carbon dioxide source from vehicles to
power plants. However, if the electricity is derived from
a renewable source, then we will have effectively closed
the carbon loop.
Power plants and automobiles are two of the most
important products of industrialization. They are integral
components of modern infrastructure. Unfortunately, it
is this same infrastructure that has created the specter of
a warming world. We possess the technology and knowl-
edge to mitigate this process and remedy our missteps but
lack firm leadership in government and industry. That is
why it is important that future energy policy be made not
on the basis of politics, profit or campaign finance, but on
sound science and environmental stewardship.
Max Bronstein is a Public Policy graduate student.
SEND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@UMICH.EDU
Balancingtheright u r undermine Israel's policy, while allowing refu-
tto return gees and their families to return to their lands
from 60 years ago will undermine Israel's Jewish
nationalism. The right for Israel to exist is similar
to the Palestinians'request for the right to return,
TO THE DAILY: because in many ways, Israel destroyed the state
Daniel Horowitz's recent letter to the editor that Palestine was supposed to be.
focused on Israel's security and right to exist (In There are several ways for the state of Israel
Mid-East debate, there is little common ground, to survive this conflict. The right to return is not
1/25/2008). It stated that a previous editorial necessarily a death sentence for Israel, as many
was naive to call for Israeli and Palestinian sup- polls have shown that Palestinians support the
porters on campus to set aside their differences right to return but only a small minority want to
in order to engage in civil debate. He argued that return to their former lands. If you want Israel to
giving Palestinian refugees the right to return continue to exist, then Hamas must acknowledge
goes against the establishment of Israel asa Jew- Israel's right to exist, Israel must acknowledge its
ish state by allowingnon-Jewish settlers into the role inthe refugee crisis and give Palestinians the
country. However, Israel will eventually either right of return in some symbolic aspect.
have to choose between being a democracy or a
Jewish state. Occupying the West Bank and Gaza Nate Gire
without giving these citizens their rights will LSA senior
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