Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Invest in education: A note from the president of Manchester College.

The following reflection on budget decisions at the state and federal levels, and their potential effect on college students, was shared by president Jo Young Switzer of Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind. It appeared March 1 as a reflection in her "Notes from the President":

"Budget decisions at the state and federal levels are dominating the news. The State of Indiana and the nation are struggling to bring their budgets under control, work that is long overdue. When I was responsible only for my own classes and students, I did not understand the powerful impact of budget policies on students’ access to college.

"My hope for this process is that our representatives and senators would a) cut areas that are overfunded or not central to our most important priorities and simultaneously b) invest in initiatives and programs that will spur economic recovery. How disappointing it is that both in Indianapolis and in Washington, D.C., the conversations moved quickly to reductions in aid for the financially neediest of college students.

"Manchester College receives no direct funding from the state. Our students, however, qualify for state and federal need-based grants. How disappointing that the legislators are choosing to increase funding for students at for-profit universities, several of which are under investigation for encouraging excessive student loan borrowing and for garnering 90 percent of their revenues from these student loans, many of which are in default. How disappointing that several public universities hired teams of lobbyists to persuade legislators to decrease scholarship levels for Indiana students at independent colleges and universities in the state.

"We will continue to advocate for financial aid for students whose families cannot carry their college expenses alone. We hope you will join us in that advocacy. At the same time, the college also has chosen to provide significant financial aid for our students. We cannot, however, continue to make up for such large decreases in state and national grants. State aid alone has decreased 38 percent over the last two years. Manchester has long welcomed students with modest means and we now find it harder and harder to provide enough scholarships to keep those students in school.

"In the end, the state and the nation must invest in education. Educated citizens bring the abilities to address complex problems, including reducing the national debt. Educated citizens have the skills and dispositions to overcome differences and find imaginative solutions to difficult problems. Education is an investment in the future. In the days ahead, I hope our politicians realize that."

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