Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Columnist James Carroll's War Memories Strikes A Chord At Marymount
By Aimee La Fountain

“It’s quite clear that the chaos in Iraq is going to play out no matter what. I believe the chaos would be less damaging if we leave,” said James Carroll, Op-Ed Columnist of The Boston Globe.

Carroll was the guest speaker at Marymount Manhattan College’s annual Rudin Distinguished Visiting Scholars Lecture on March 8. In his opening comments, Carroll noted Marymount’s place in the peace movement during Vietnam War. “Marymount’s [role in the movement] is precious,” he said.

Carroll is promoting his new book, “1945-2007: America And Its Wars”. He dedicated much of the lecture to discussing America’s participation in international affairs throughout history. Carroll said, “We need to unpack and dismantle the attitudes that caused this war [on terror].” Carroll added that this sentiment is the focus of his new book.

Senate Democrats are currently pushing legislation that demands the return of troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008, while the House is deliberating an Iraq spending bill with conditions for a withdrawal timetable. Republicans in the Senate will make effort to block such legislation and President Bush has said that he will veto it.

Carroll said that besides revoking troops, America needs to acknowledge its responsibilities and fallibilities concerning the war, along with other nations. He said, “Our intentions [in Iraq] are questioned with good reason.” Carroll added, “The denial that America will someday not exist is dangerous.”

Carroll also discussed how the media has handled the War on Terror. He said, “War was the word [used] to refer to what Al Queda did. The word was crime. We made a mistake in calling this war instead of a case of law.” Carroll noted that that the media is part of how news develops and he criticized the media’s coverage of the war. “The media isn’t giving us the information we need or helping us understand,” Carroll said.

Carroll also stressed the importance of nuclear responsibility. “Our addiction to nuclear weapons is even worse than this war itself,” he said. Carroll made reference to the Cold War and said, “My life is still defined by nuclear dread.”

Carroll addressed an audience of mostly college students. He asked people to list their majors of study and joked, “A range of subjects and areas. I of course know about all of them.”

Carroll was well received by the audience. Freshman Amy Meador said, “I liked his point [that] America [should know] its place and when the best time is to help other countries. And I agreed with him that we should have never gotten involved in Iraq in the first place".

Carroll’s Op-Ed column has been running weekly in The Boston Globe since 1992. His previous books include, “Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War,” and “House of War: The Pentagon And The Disastrous Rise Of American Power.”

Sunday, March 11, 2007

College Life

By Parisa Esmaili

Meet Casey, a 20 year-old, golden blonde college student. With little curls at the tips of his hair, and blue eyes that often change to a green tarnish, he smiles and greets me with pleasure. He has a boyish charm that makes anyone who dares to look at him turn a “tickle-me-pink” color in the cheeks. For respect to an individual’s privacy, those introduced will be kept on a first name basis, because Casey is a sophomore in college and already is $25,000 in debt. Nevertheless, he says he could not imagine himself anywhere else.

The U.S. Department of Education says more than 30% of college students’ leave after the first year, and almost 50% never graduate. According to the Student Financing of Undergraduates report, more than one-half of all entering freshman received some type of financial aid from federal, state, institutional, or other sources to meet their educational expenses, receiving on average $6,200.

According to the report, one-fifth of those who borrow drop out and those who drop out are twice as likely to be unemployed as borrowers to those who received a degree. The average student seeking a four-year degree takes on significant debt, totaling more than $15,000 to $20,000 by the time they graduate.

Surviving becomes a balancing act: school, work, interning. For the most part, though, everything revolves around the work factor and the consequences of money. Some begin to think life at home might not have been as bad as it seemed. But, ask those students who feel like they are “barely getting by”; and almost all of them accepted these risks, and stressors by choice.

Academically, Casey goes to Marymount Manhattan College as a BFA Actor, currently taking18 credits. He also juggles 35 hours a week working three jobs: a waiter, assistant, and an usher at the Met Opera House. “My school schedule is Monday through Thursday; Monday and Wednesday all day, Tuesday in the afternoon, and Thursday early morning through mid-afternoon. Whenever I’m not at school, I’m working” Casey said.

With a schedule such as Casey’s, time demands to be of the essence, and as he is familiar, anxiety becomes one’s new best friend. “My financial situation rests solely on me; school, rent, bills, groceries, and “extra” spending money, if any. All me. So if I miss a day of work, I do feel like it could set me back considerably,” Casey said.

Including rent and bills, Casey spends close to a thousand dollars a month. “I really try hard not to stress about money. I came to New York, and chose Marymount because of their excellent acting program, and it had the best financial aid package. I’m also living in New York. My ideal plan after college is fulfilling my career in acting, whether on stage, TV, or film and I think that I’m slowly getting there. I'm focused on my goal, so the financial situations are just obstacles I have to deal with. I’m very happy with where I am and couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.”

Isabella, another college student whose financial situation rests primarily on her own, agrees. “I know I have to pay for what I have, but I remember that I want it. I choose to have these things, so, I don’t mind doing what I have to do.” Isabella is in her second year of college, but technically stands on junior credits. The 19 year-old, with an elongated dancer’s body and soft curly brown hair, is an International Business, Economic and Finance major who says it is important to keep track of every dollar she spends and every dollar she earns. “I have a large financial responsibility that I make sure I have enough money to pay for all of my bills.”

Including rent and bills, Isabella spends close to $2,000 a month.

New York City tends to operate on a larger-than-life scale, and money is always an absolute factor in “reasons to not move to the city”. An average apartment in the city alone costs $1,600, literally giving someone living alone just four walls and a toilet. Utilities average $189 per month. It is no surprise many New Yorkers have roommates well into their fifties because it is practically unfeasible to live alone. According to the realtors and landlords of New York City, one must make at least 40X the amount of the rent. As a student, or minimum wage worker, no one can handle all these finances alone. However, thousands of people move to the city each year bringing the same idea of a dream, opportunity, change, and a new start.

“I could have gone to a state school on large scholarships. My parents would have helped me pay for more expenses if I chose something “easier”. Would it have been worth it, to take an “easier route” to avoid my financial stipulations? I can’t say for sure, but I really love the place I am in this very moment, and I wouldn’t change anything,” Isabella said gracefully confident.

College students struggling are aware of what awaits them after school and they handle it with dignity. It is just another part of life that has to be dealt with. Everyone who has it acknowledges debt after college. Constantly scrutinizing what is ahead prevents students from enjoying the years they are in now. It discourages the basic principle of going to school, learning. College and “growing up” require feeling the headaches of anxiety and aggravation. The value and experience we receive, some would argue though, is well worth it.

(Note: Students' first names were used throughout this article to protect their identities)

College Life

Private Vs. Public College: A Debate About Prestige, Opportunity, And Debt

By Mark Moran

With the average college student's post-graduation debt on the rise, what is causing some students to choose to get their degrees at private schools that are more expensive? According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, half of college graduates have some sort of student loans. The average loan, according to the study, is about $10,000.

While a majority of students will be starting out their adult life with a debt of around $10,000, some students will be entering the work world in an even deeper financial hole. These students with the heaviest of financial burdens are likely to have taken out loans for a private college university. Although the average tuition for a public school is a startling $13,000 a year, the average $28,000 a year tuition for a private school is enough to make any parent or student's jaw drop.

Despite the findings of articles like “The Debt Explosion Among College Graduates” in which author Heather Boushy found that debt has risen 55% in the last decade among private college graduates, students are still taking out loans to enroll in private colleges universities.

Students like Jason Muise, a sophomore at the private Marymount Manhattan College. Muise, a Boston native from a middle class family, loves the Red Sox and singing, is on the Dean's list at Marymount, and his college debt is reaching the $20,000 dollar mark with two more years of tuition to go. “I'm glad I chose Marymount. I don't feel like I made a mistake,” says Muise. He pauses, shifting his eyes up, and then back down towards the question at hand, “well most of the time.”

He elaborates, “The tuition is pretty high and because of my parents' income, I barely get any financial aide.” Finances aside, Muise feels like he is getting something more for his money than he would at a public school. “At a public college I would most likely be in huge lecture hall and being talked at in every class. My professor probably wouldn't even know my name.” After another contemplative pause, Muise continues, “I guess the higher tuition allows Marymount to stay small. Because of the small environment, I feel more connected to my professors and peers.”

A more intimate learning environment is one of the benefits of a small private college, and some are willing to pay for it. However, private universities colleges would not be receiving half the number of applications for enrollment if the sole differentiation from their public counterparts were a small-scale student to teacher ratio. So many students seem to take out loans to attend these private schools for one main reason: the school's elite connotation.

St. Joseph's University sophomore Kelly Brown thinks just that. “What I am paying extra for is an education that is perceived by employers as better. I want to go to graduate school, I don't mind paying a little extra to get my foot in the door.” Muise is no exception to this common justification, “If I ever decide to apply to grad school, I think I'm more likely to get accepted if I graduated from a more prestigious private school.”

Muise’s outlook has the support of common assumptions and some researchers. According to the article published in Economics of Education Review, “Does it Pay to Attend an Elite Private College?” author Eric Eide's research claims a private college gives a student a leg up getting into graduate school. “Private college significantly increases the probability of attending graduate school, and more specifically, graduate school at a major research institution,” writes Eide and his colleagues of their research.

Although private schools like Harvard and Princeton still top the lists of “America's Best Colleges” by publications like Time and US News & World Report, the formula for success does not necessarily have to include hefty private school tuition.

Mary Cox, a sophomore and fine arts major at the public Virginia Commonwealth University doesn't think so. “For what I'm majoring in, VCU is one of the best schools in the country.” She is not wrong; VCU's art program sits at the top of U.S. News' list of “Best Schools of Art”. Another benefit of Cox’s choice to go the public school path is she is getting the biggest bang for her buck. VCU's yearly tuition is $5,819 for instate residents. Cox cites the cost as one of the deciding factors in choosing VCU, “It's just so much more inexpensive than a private art school.”

If Muise and Cox were to pay for school entirely with student loans, excluding the cost of meal plans and dorms, their debt when they graduate will be very different. Four years of schooling would cost Cox a total of $23,276. A large amount of money, but nothing compared to the $74,992 Muise will owe when he receives his diploma. Which is a better mindset to approach higher education, cost-effectiveness or prestige? The answer to that question is merely a matter of opinion. These two students both feel confident when they say, “I made the right choice”, but when thrown into the “real world” who will be singing the same tune.

College Life

Making Ends Meet: Finding The True Joys of College Debt
By Leigh Baker

Why is it that some college students have greater financial struggles than others? What can students learn from their fiscal difficulties, especially the ones that they have no control over? College debt is one issue that dominates the thoughts of those who face it.

Unforeseen circumstances, sudden financial change, loss of scholarships and loans, and many other unexpected conditions can cause great stress and drama in the lives of college students in the United States. Without the help of parents, the government, or the institution attended, there is little that can be done to avoid these states of unrest in the minds of students. Those who do not have to worry about education finances are often considered the “lucky ones,” but many times, those who had to pay their own way through college are much more appreciative in the end for what they worked so hard to give themselves.

As Jessica Wegrzyn, a student who was only able to complete her first year of college due to unavailable finances, states, “You have to be reasonable with yourself.” If taking out a $40,000 loan to attend a private school is going to set you back in the long run, there is no need. Because most students attending liberal arts schools in New York City are studying the arts, it may be realistic to assume that their wages outside of college will not permit quick, easy repayment of loans.

In Wegrzyn’s situation, a private college was costing her nearly $20,000 per year for full time tuition, not including books, supplies, or room and board. By transferring to a SUNY school, State University of New York, she is saving approximately $14,000 per year in tuition costs. There are plenty of schools around the nation with costs similar to these, which are well acclaimed for certain programs of study and offer a plethora of financial aid options to assist the students with rising higher education costs. In this case, a $10,000 loan will do the trick for Wegrzyn.

So why, then, do students put the pressure on themselves to continue at their initial institution if they simply do not have the money? Many incoming freshman feel that once they’ve chosen an institution and even a major, it must be their final decision. Wegrzyn continued by reminding us that, “Technically, you could transfer to a different college every single semester, and no one can tell you not to. “As long as you find something that brings you enjoyment and is affordable, you’re allowed to go wherever you want to.”

College debt is typically associated with a younger crowd, but nearly 100,000 adults ranging in age from 35 to 54 years are returning to college each year. One continuing education student, Barb Scott, says that she will probably be receiving bills for loans she took out almost four years ago for at least the next ten years. That could be nearing retirement for some folks. A college such as Grand Valley State University, the state school Scott attended, doesn’t cost much more than $7,000 per year excluding books and supplies; however, with little time to further your career, it’s difficult to get the loan payments out of your mailbox before the age of 50.

Some would regard that as a frightening thought, especially considering that the average amount of federal aid given to students 30 years and over who used a loan system received approximately $7,600, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That equates to nearly an entire four-year education that must be pay off. Scott says that she really enjoyed her return to school despite the financial hardships because, not only did it give her a pleasant break from the working world, but, “You appreciate it more as you get older.” With the nursing degree that she pursued, she has held a solid job that requires a wide range of knowledge. She still refers to her old textbooks to refresh her memory.

Both Wegrzyn and Scott are members of the middle class. Wegrzyn’s family works for the money earned, and they use some of it to finance her current situation. Scott is in the process of getting rid of the loans that she currently has which financed her return to college. Does the middle class face a great struggle? Wegrzyn notes that, while they are able to put food on the table, “They may have two, three, or four kids to put through college while still surviving, themselves.” According to The Education Statistics Quarterly, 65% of middle-class college students, like Wegrzyn, planning to attend a liberal arts college, will not have their educational financial needs met.

Darla Wright, who attended Central Michigan University directly after her graduation from high school in the early 1980s, says that these traumas can be considered insignificant because the gratification she received after paying her own way was justification enough. To many students like her, sending off the final loan payment is a tremendous feeling.

So, in fact, we could conclude that the “lucky ones” who hardly pay a dollar throughout their four years at college are not so lucky after all. Wegrzyn actually sees her situation in a positive light. “This has made me realize what I want. It’s affected the rest of my college experience.” She says that regardless of the destitution she’s faced thus far, she has a better grasp on her desires, and she now knows what it is that makes her as strong as she has become.

College Life

The Truth About Financial Aid: Who Gets It?
By Laura Matteri

Millions of college students apply for financial aid each year. Weeks later, a financial package may come in the mail stating the amount of money that the government is giving to them. Thousands of students raise the question of, “What decides how much we get?”

Marymount Manhattan College student, Melissa Markowich, said that she feels students still pay more than they should for school, despite financial aid. When asked about how she feels about financial aid distribution, she replied, “A lot of people don’t understand it. It’s really unfair. Some people get it who shouldn’t and there are a lot of kids who need financial aid and don’t get it.”

Markowich joins the hundreds of students at Marymount receiving financial aid, but she still feels uneasy about the process. She is the only child in her family enrolled in college right now. However, when she attends a school that costs $30,000 per year to attend, she, as well as many others, wishes the selection process would be revised.

The first step to applying for financial aid is filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In this application, the applicant answers a series of questions regarding the students’ and the parents’ information regarding school history, family history, work history, as well as any other helpful records.

The FAFSA application goes through the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is what the government decides that the family can contribute towards education based on the state of residence, household size, number in college, and student and parent income.

These figures are sent to each school to which the student is applying. The school then establishes the Cost of Attendance (COA). This includes tuition, room and board, fees, and estimated expenses (books and personal supplies). The school then determines the financial aid that the student will receive.

In the financial aid packet, if a student is eligible, they will receive work-study. The student will apply for a job within the school and receive a paycheck. The student is expected to save the paycheck and put the money towards paying for their tuition. The student is granted a certain amount of work-study, measured in dollar amounts, per semester.

University of Vermont student, Jennifer Swain, doesn’t believe the money is distributed fairly. “It’s not. Period. If it were fair, I would be getting a full ride.” She went on to describe the hardships that her family has gone through in the last year, including her father filing for bankruptcy, her parents’ divorce, and her mother’s unemployment.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, of the students enrolled in the 2003-2004 school year, 63% of all undergraduates received some form of financial aid. Fifty-one percent of undergraduates received grants, and 35% took out loans. Federal grants were the most likely grants to be distributed, rather than institutional grants and state grants.

Then there are students like Casey Polcari. She doesn’t receive any financial aid, and that may be due in part to her family income. However, she is one of four children in her family enrolled in college. This includes her twin brother who attends Penn State. Is it fair that her family receives no financial aid for any of their children? With no work-study and no financial aid in any way, Polcari is frustrated with the system. How is her family expected to pay for four children’s tuition costs at once? Not to mention Polcari has one more sibling who still has a few years left until college.

“It makes me feel bad because that’s a lot of money to pay with no financial aid. Pretty much all of my mom’s money that she makes from her own business goes to college payments,” Polcari said.

Financial aid is meant to help families pay for college. However, it still creates problems for many families. The government doesn’t see the underlying costs that a family has. Debts and personal commitments do not factor into the distribution of monetary assistance. Perhaps the much-awaited response from colleges can take its time, after all.

College Life

The Financial Aid Reality
By Jennifer Rozansky

“Debt is reality,” said Christina Bennett, the director of financial aid at Marymount Manhattan College. Bennett previously worked at St. John’s University for 18 years and has now been with Marymount for 16 months. College debt can be the biggest stress in a college student’s life, bigger than the schoolwork or living situations.

According to Bennett, financial aid and grants are given to students who on paper demonstrate basic financial need. But, what may that consider? Different students have different situations.

Te U.S. Department of Education will provide more than $78 billion this year, about 60 percent of all student aid, to help millions of students and families pay for postsecondary education. So, it comes down to the fact of who is at most need for this money.

Theresa Lupia is a current student at Hunter College who receives full financial aid based on her single mother’s income. She says, “although many things are covered by my financial aid, it is still a stress to wonder if I am going to receive money because, neither my job, nor my mother’s job will cover half of my financial needs for school.”

This statement went along with what Bennett said when asked about some stresses she has seen with students who receive financial aid. “Students who receive financial aid have to meet deadlines, fill out forms, and if they are allowed a work study program, they have to find a job that fits their schedule.”

A big problem the school may have as well is that they send a lot of material to the student that will not always give the information to the parents, and then the parents are left out of the loop. When the parents are left out, the situation then becomes stressful on everyone.

Patti and Eddie Franke are parents of a child who receives financial aid and they say it is nice to know that their daughter is receiving her full education, although she is a parent herself, they say that is nice she can still get her education and be able to take care of her daughter at the same time.

Diana DiPonio is a college graduate who received no financial aid because of her father’s income. Unfortunately, in her situation, every time it came time to pay for her college tuition and her bills were due, her brother would need financial help so her father would help her brother and not her, leaving her to pay her own way up front with no time to apply for loans. She said, “because of my situation it made me work harder on my grades and all around just to prove myself.”

Bennett said that the stresses she sees in students who do not receive financial aid are the need to apply for loans, and if you’re denied a loan, then there are even more problems. In DiPonio’s case, it was almost the same situation, she just did not have enough time to apply, which was much more stressful.

“A lot of students assume that they are receiving free money.” Bennett stated describing some of the misconceptions about financial aid and went on saying, “With financial aid it is not always free money the student has to apply for grants, scholarships, work study, and other types of loans.” She also made a point to discuss how students always comment on how they “need money” which all students will most likely “need money” at some point it is just a matter of how much which is what the FASFA looks at.

Thomas and Joanne Rozansky are parents of a student who does not receive financial aid. They state that, “although sometimes it might be a struggle, it is nice to help our daughter in anyway needed as possible.”

As parents, it is sometimes just as stressful on them as it is on the student, and the student just has to realize that and step back and maybe not get as angry at the parent because it is not as easy as it may seem. No matter what either side of the spectrum may say or assume about the other side college debt is real and stressful on everyone. Hopefully, in time, there might be easier ways to earn scholarships and more helpful ways students can learn how to cope with debt.

Bennett concluded that, “students have to realize education is and investment in themselves like a car or the hottest new clothing they buy,” adding that although students may need money and financial aid, but they need to learn how to save and spend their money wisely. Lupia agrees, “although I do receive financial aid, I have learned to spend and save my money better than I have in the past.”