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October 23, 2009 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, October 23, 2009 - 7A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, October 23, 2009 - 7A

Concerns linger
about Rackham's
enrollment policy

Former Daily sports editor, 'U'
Business School alum dies at 27

From Page 1A
Rackham students and the admin-
istration - regarding details of the
plan and answer questions students
felt had gone unanswered.
The second resolution asked
Rackham officials to provide stu-
dents with a written promise that
students be "guaranteed a fellow-
ship or an equivalent source of
funding," as a means of lessening
the financial burden that the new
policy could place on students.
Most doctorate students do not
pay their own tuitions. Instead,
they are paid by a third party, often
the University.
Rackham Dean Janet Weiss said
the policy will continue to go for-
ward as planned. When the policy
was announced last spring, Weiss
set out a timeline, which she said
is still in effect. According to the
timeline, every school with doctor-
ate students was scheduled to come
up with a funding plan, which the
17 schools announced last week.
The next step in the process will
be for the Board of Regents to get
an informal briefing on the status
of the plan, which is scheduled to
take place during one of the board's
monthly fall meetings. In Win-
ter 2010 officials are scheduled to
announce leave of absence policies
and thentraining will beginforstaff
who work with graduate students.
The regents will set tuition rates for
Rackham students in June 2010 at
the same time they set tuition rates
for the rest of the University and
the policy will be implemented in
the fall semester of 2010.
"None of this is actually going to
happen until next September so we
still have 10,11 months to make sure
everything is all aligned," Weiss
said. "But we want to do the plan-
ning as far in advanced as we canson
that people know what is going on."
Rackham student Shaun McGirr
wrote in an e-mail that implemen-
tation of the policy is moving too
fast without taking student input
into consideration.
"Delaying implementation would
be betterthan nothing, but it doesn't
in itself change the fact that this is a
rotten policy with no solid evidence
base in support of it, very little sup-
port amongst faculty and depart-
ment administrators, and almost
zero support amongst the students
it would actually affect," he wrote.
McGirr, who was involved in
the formation of the CEWG, wrote
that one concern is that because the
new plan requires students to pay
tuition for consecutive semesters,
departments will alter their defi-
nitions of "satisfactory progress."
McGirr said that this might require
students to take less time earning
their degrees so that departments
aren't left footing more student
tuition bills.
"Under the current system, peo-
ple can take (a leave) and remain
connected and remain working
and this puts the onus back on the
departments to define what is satis-
factory progress for each student,"
he said. "So we're concerned that
students who have that second kid
and the department is under fund-
ing pressure, they might alter the
definition of satisfactory so that the
department itself doesn't get left
with the bill for your tuition"
Weiss said she believes that fac-
ulty would not alter their definitions
ofsatisfactory progress. She said that
each department receives enough
money to cover their students for

the amount of time that is typically
needed to complete their degrees.
"The definition of satisfactory
progress is very program-based
and faculty-based, and that's what
constitutes progress in our field
toward doing a high-quality dis-
sertation," Weiss said. "So, it's
extremely unlikely that the faculty
would change what they expect in
a student working on a dissertation
because of so-called departmental

tuition fellowship shortages."
Several students have also
expressed concern over the lack
of communication with University
administrators regarding the poli-
cy. McGirr wrote in an e-mail that
the main point students are still
unclear on is why the dean's office
believes the policy would be benefi-
cial to students.
"The evidence base for imple-
menting this is currently just 'We
believe it will be beneficial to
graduate students' - when pushed
repeatedly on scholarly evidence
of a causal (i.e. true) connection
between requiring continuous
enrollment and increased degree
completion," McGirr wrote in the
e-mail. "The dean has admitted
that this evidence does not exist."
Puccio and McGirr said they are
of the new policies - like decreased
flexibility for students - and feel
Weiss and other administrators have
only offered vague and incomplete
responses to their concerns.
"The current system, though
flawed in some respects, provides a
non-punitive way of achieving this
flexibility," McGirr wrote in the
e-mail. "Most students we talk to
don't understand why this new pol-
icy adventure has been embarked
upon, at the cost of so much effort,
and stress on graduate students'
part from the poor communication
by Rackham and the unexplored
and unintended consequences of
the policy."
Puccio said although LSA has
come up with a funding plan to cir-
culate to students, the plan is con-
fusing and vague.
McGirr said that while there
was some two-way communication
at the inception of the Continu-
ous Enrollment Student Advisory
Committee, it has become more of
a "funnel" for the administration to
tell students about their decisions
and updates on policy movement
instead of being a forum for stu-
dents to voice concerns.
Weiss countered that there are
many venues for students to voice
their concerns.
She noted that she has met with
many students and groups, like the
working group, and said that she
is willing to meet with any group
that would like information about
the policy.
"It is very much a conversation
and acommunication,"shesaid."We
have used the (Continuous Enroll-
ment Student Advisory Committee)
for a couple of other conversations
as well, but the primary purpose of
the committee from the beginning
has been to help us understand how
students can effectively communi-
cate their questions and concerns
to us and how we could effectively
communicate our questions and
concerns to students."
Weiss added that though some
students are still unclear on the
policy, it will move forward as
"We are trying to make things as
clear as we possibly can. obviously
we haven't succeeded with every-
one yet," she said. "But wehavebeen
trying very hard and diligently."
Though McGirr and other gradu-
ate students and student associations
have had the chance to meet with
Weiss to discuss the policy, McGirr
said that he left those meetings with
many questions unanswered.
"Specific answers came out,
which were interesting but still we
left with the impression that there's
still basically no rationale for the

policy and we're not sure if it's'
financially sustainable in the long
run," he said.
The graduate students involved
in the negotiations are expecting to
receive concrete details about the
plan from administrators later this
- Daily News Editor Jillian
Berman contributed to this report.

After battle with
testicular cancer,
Sikora passed away
in Los Angeles
For theDaily
Naweed Sikora, a University of
Michigan Business School alum
and a former Michigan Daily sports
editor, died last Friday morning at
the age of 27 after a two-and-a-half-
year battle with testicular cancer.
Sikora passed away in Los Ange-
les, surrounded by his parents,
younger brother and close friends.
His family held the burial that
Throughout his experience at
the University, Sikora balanced his
business school workload and 40 to
50-hour weeks working as a Daily
sports editor, according to one of
his closest college friends and the
Daily's managing sports editor
during Sikora's time there, Brady
Aaron Sub, one of Sikora's house-
mates and best friendsat the Univer-
sity, said Sikora wore many different
hats: that of a deeply religious Shiite
Muslim, an "ever passionate" Wol-
verine fan, a sharp editor and an
intensely dedicated student.
This complexity, Suh said, is
reflected in the various pronuncia-
tions of his first name. "Naweed"
can be pronounced "Nah-weed" or
"Nah-veed," although, on the first
day of their freshman year of col-
lege, he asked that his friends call
him "Weed."
McCollough, who now writes
for The Kansas City Star, said
that although Sikora was talent-
ed enough to work in the field of
journalism, he ultimately entered
the business world, working for
the consulting firm Ernst and
Young immediately after gradu-
ation. He then moved to Hong
Kong, working for a "small, grow-
ing business" based in Orange
County, Calif.
While in Hong Kong, Sikora start-

Naweed Sikora (right), with fellow Daily editor Brady McCollough, at the 2005 Rose Bowl game.,

ed feeling pain in his lowerback and
received medical attention. In the
spring of 2007, he was diagnosed
with testicular cancer. After a con-
stant, aggressive battle with the dis-
ease, Sikora's last month was well
spent, McCollough said.
McCollough said Sikora's fam-
ily had been contemplating a trip
to India to visit a prominent spiri-
tual leader since Sikora received
his diagnosis in the spring of 2007.
They were finally able to fly to
Mumbai this September.
"Naweed met with (the spiritual
leader) for just a couple of minutes
because so many people are meet-
ing with him every day," McCol-
lough said. "Apparently it was a
very emotional experience for him
and this spiritual leader gave him
some peace about his life."
Suh said the trip to India was a
huge personal accomplishment for
"Millions of people want to meet
this man and only a few get to," Suh
said. "He felt better about (that trip)
than probably anything he had ever
done in his life."
McCollough, along with another
one of their friends and Daily co-

workers, Seth Klempner, visited
Sikora in Los Angeles soon after the
family returned from India. McCo-
llough said Sikora's trip to India
seemed to bring positive change to
his condition.
"I expected him to be house-
ridden and in pain but he looked
great," McCollough said. "We went
to an Angels-Rangers game (and)
Naweed wanted to go to Hoot-
ers before the game so we went to
Hooters. We were just 27-year-olds
doing 27-year-old things."
Hopeful that Sikora would be
healthy enough after that visit,
McCollough arranged for Sikora
to attend the Michigan foot-
ball game versus Penn State this
weekend and to be brought down
to the field.
"The last time I talked to
Naweed, I called him and told him
that and he was speechless," McCo-
llough said. "He was so happy."
Starting in February of this year
Sikora maintained a blog called
survivor journey, where he posted
details of his fight against cancer,
like his experience receiving radia-
tion treatments for the disease and
updates from doctors visits.

In April 2009, Sikora posted an
audio clip from a phone call with
former head football coach Lloyd
Carr. In the call, Carr encouraged
Sikora to stay strong, calling him a
true "Michigan man."
In his time on campus, Suh said
Sikora was the glue that held the
members of their house together.
"We each individually consid-
ered Weed our best friend," Suh
said. "He was and still is a source of
inspiration for us."
McCollough experienced the
same feeling of inspiration, espe-
cially near the end of Sikora's life.
He said that during a conversation
he and Sikora had while watch-
ing the Angels game, Sikora talked
about how he should spend the lit-
tle time he had left. He decided that
volunteering at a homeless shelter
felt the most appropriate.
"It totally blew me away," McCo-
llough said. "This is the last per-
son who should be thinking about
anybody but himself. But that's the
kind of guy he was."
McCollough said Sikora's family
is planning a memorial service in
Ann Arbor on Nov. 7. The location
has yet to be determined.

While other states' education trusts are in
peril, Michigan's remains secure, stable

From Page1A
401K or a pension plan or a prepaid
college savings plan," Stanton said.
"Certainly there was an impact in
market fluctuations that started
about a year ago."
The MET - the nation's first-
ever prepaid college tuition plan -
was established in 1986, according
to collegesavings.org, and is now
one of the larger prepaid tuition
plans in the country. It now has
89,615 accounts and a net worth of
$809 million, according to Mark
Kantrowitz, publisher of Finaid.
org - an educational website on
financial aid options.
AccordingtoStanton,the MET's
assets decreased in market value
by about $8 million from Sept.
30, 2008 to Aug. 31, 2009 because
of negative returns in the equity
But despite this downturn in
assets, Stanton said the number
of new accounts being opened has
remained steady, with between
3,200 and 3,500 new contracts
purchased during each enrollment
According to Stanton, the MET
is currently 86 percent funded.
This number is significantly high-
er than some states' plans, which
have projected shortfalls of as
much as 50 percent, said Kantrow-
"Michigan happens to be one of
the ones that hasn't been affected
as much," Kantrowitz said. "Other
states are much more severely
impacted and so have to make
harder choices."
Kantrowitz said these states'
funds - among them Alabama,
From Page 1A
"It's probablyagood ideato have
some buffer of savings if that were
possible in order to make it easier
to get by if you have a hard time
getting a job or to take a particular
type of job that's a good opportu-
nity but maybe lower income than
others," Evans said.
Economics Prof. Matthew Sha-
piro, who was one of the panel-
ists, said the good news is that
unemployment is unlikely to climb
much higher. He added that the

for example - are experiencing an
actuarial deficit because of both
the downturn of the stock market
and the increasing cost of college
"Their revenues are down and
their costs are up and that tends to
lead to a shortfall on an actuarial
basis where the current funding
under projections based on rea-
sonable economic assumptions
will fall short of their obligations,"
Kantrowitz said.
Contributing to some prepaid
funds' financial complications is
the fact that many states' plans
are not backed by the state in the
event that the fund doesn't have
the money to cover its investors'
tuition, according to Kantrowitz.
While the MET is not backed
by the state, there is a provision
that allows the program to request
money from the state legislature
if the program is falling short in
funding. But the program has
never employed this provision,
and according to Stanton, it is not
expected that it will in the foresee-
able future.
"Most of (the programs) are sep-
arate entities that are established
by the state but aren't guaranteed
by the state," Kantrowitz said. "So
if they run out of money, then they
run out of money and you might
not have a recourse. So there's a
moral obligation on the state to
make good on the promises and
there's certainly a political obliga-
Alabama is among those states
whose prepaid college tuition plan
is not backed by the state. It has
experienced actuarial shortfalls,
prompting Alabama's Prepaid
economic growth now is good, but
not great,
"It's very hard to see how
employment will fall much in the
near future," he said.
While the job market may be
tough for recent graduates, Evans
said students still in college will
also experience remaining effects
of the recession.
Evans said many public univer-
sities are encountering budget cut-
backs. He added that sources from
student loans are not as generous
as they were the last few years,
making them more difficult to
come by.

Affordable College Tuition Pro-
gram to suspend the enrollment of
new accounts.
"You can imagine the uproar
across the state of parents who
can't send their kids to college
because the prepaid tuition plan
failed and there might not actu-
ally be a legal obligation because
of various statements made by
state representatives," Kantrowitz
said. "In the early days of this plan
they were not careful about the
language they used and they used
words like 'guarantee.'"
According to Kantrowitz, a
number of factors like investing
geographically, not using enough
of a mix of treasuries in invest-
ments and investing in real estate
may have contributed to the dif-
ferences between state plans
that are facing financial crisis
and Michigan's financially sound
The kinds of premiums these
plans offer, their actuarial models
and the amount of tuition increas-
es in these states are also contrib-
uting factors that determine the
success of a state's prepaid fund,
Kantrowitz said.
Stanton said while it is hard to
compare the MET to other states'
prepaid funds to determine what
has caused the difference between
the MET's relative success and lack
of relative success in other states'
programs, the MET's investment
strategies have contributed to its
good standing.
"We clearly invest our funds in
prudent investments (that) help
limit losses," Stanton said. "Over
the years, the MET board and oth-
ers who administer the program
"It's a tough environment for
everybody," he said.
Founder of Computer Trading
Corporation Peter Borish, another
one of the panelists said tuition
around the country continues to
rise, placing more pressure on stu-
dents and their families.
"That is the microcosm of
what's going on in the economy,"
Borish said. "There's tremendous,
tremendous inflationary pressures
During the discussion, Shapiro
offered possible exit strategies for
the current economic situation.
He said a monetary policy cur-

have been responsible in maintain-
ing the program, whether it be cur-
rent investments or price increases
when necessary to ensure the pro-
gram remains viable."
Stanton said the recovery of
the stock market in the past few
months hasbeen helpful in further
rallying the MET's funds.
"Since the stock market's low
in March of this year, the market's
up almost 60 percent and that cer-
tainly has benefited, the MET and
other programs that rely on the
market," Stanton said.
Public Policy junior Joseph
Sutkowi, whose family invested
$8,500 in the MET in 1988, said
this money has completely cov-
ered his college tuition, which has
proved helpful with the continued
increase in college tuition.
"The cost of college was rising,
and they kind of imagined it would
probably continue to do the same
and it certainly has," Sutkowi said.
"So it was a way to try defer a cost
that would be really expensive in
the future and do it a little soon-
er and it ended up being a good
While there are advantages of
using prepaid college tuition plans,
like the avoidance of increasing
college tuition and the investor's
funds being tax deductible, Kan-
trowitz said there is no guarantee
when using a 529 prepaid college
tuition plan.
"If you're investing in these
things for peace of mind, the cur-
rent situation doesn't exactly
engender peace of mind," Kan-
trowitz said. "Ultimately you're
bearing a risk of loss if it's not
backed in full credit by the state."
rently exists that directly provides
credit to the economy, adding that
a similar policy "essentially saved
us from the brink of the next Great
Sinai added that with the cur-
rent recovery and remaining
employment concerns in mind,
policymakers are attempting to
accommodate current policies and
foster more economic growth.
"Now the task is to use exist-
ing policies and devise new
ones to make sure the recovery
is sustained to put the economy
on a track for full employment,"
Sinai said.

From Page 1A
the name because it "had a nice
ring to it."

Mazor said he and other manag-
ers - who have been setting up the
store since Tuesday - will remain
in Ann Arbor until all the employ-
ees are hired and all the finishing
touches are made to the store.

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