Board of Trustees: New Faces, New Goals, New Discussions to have

In addition to tuition increases, there were several developments during the Board of Trustees’ third quarterly meeting on Feb. 26.

The meeting began with Board Chair Molly Mahoney Matthews acknowledging the presence of several prospective Trustees.

The Board will be experiencing a 20 percent changeover, though the new members will still need to be appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley before the next Board meeting in May.

Faculty Senate President Bob Paul, in discussing the tuition increase and the sustainability of the academic program, pointed out that St. Mary’s professors’ salaries are at the median of those of the College’s peer and aspirant peer institutions.

This lack of competitive salaries causes difficulties in attracting prospective faculty members, though he thanked the Board for increasing salaries for Assistant Professors at the last Board meeting.

Paul also addressed the recent speculation concerning online courses, letting the Board know that faculty were concerned such “quick fixes” to the increasing budget “do not reflect what is best of the St. Mary’s.”

Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall, senior, introduced Alex Walls, sophomore, as the next academic year’s Student Trustee-in-training.

Among tuition concerns, Ruthenberg-Marshall acknowledged the worries some students have about free services gaining new charges, specifically the new fee for official transcripts.

He also conveyed the student population’s excitement towards the recent increased internet speeds and the opening of the campus pub later in the semester.

Michael P. O’Brien, ‘68, reported for the Community Relations Committee, announcing that work had been completed to ensure that the Governor’s Cup remains cost neutral.

He also discussed the concerns many have about SlackWater’s loss of funding, calling the journal “very popular” among the community members.

Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee Chair Neil Irwin, ‘00, reported that Director of the Peace Corps Aaron Williams will be unable to be the Commencement Speaker for 2011.

Williams was asked to travel abroad by President Barack Obama shortly before Commencement, meaning Deputy Director of the Peace Corps Carrie Hessler-Radelet will be speaking instead.

Cindy Broyles, ‘79, spoke for the Development Committee, announcing that there was 100 percent Board participation in donations to the College for this fiscal year, raising over $200,000.

Peg Duchesne, Co-Chair of the Inaugural Committee, announced that Governor O’Malley will be unable to attend the Maryland Day celebration and President Joseph Urgo’s inauguration.

However, she updated the Board on the several activities planned for the four-day long event.

In closing a meeting that Matthews said involved very “difficult discussions on tuition,” Executive Director of Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) Regina Fadden let the Board know that HSMC was voted as being the number one place to walk in the United States.

“We beat the Grand Canyon,” she pointed out.

The next Board of Trustees General Session will be held May 13 in Glendening Annex at 3 p.m. All General Sessions are open to the public and College community members are encouraged to attend.

 

Students should increase political awareness to vote for increased higher education spending

With a few exceptions, people don’t want to talk politics. For most of us the ideological, vitriolic tone of political discussion means we’d just rather be talking about something else.

Whether its the Grammys, Mumford & Sons, or how much books cost this semester, it always seems like politics is the best way to end a conversation– and that’s a shame.

As students, the government has so much to offer us, if only we would mobilize and organize.

The New York Times released a chart of the President’s budget proposal for the 2011 fiscal year.

As promised, he is pushing for major increases in education spending– but that push isn’t terribly meaningful when education only represents about three percent of the national budget, including his increases.

Social security represents around 20 percent of federal spending, education only 3 percent, and when we pay 125 billion dollars more a year on national debt interest than education; our priorities are clearly jumbled.

Not that I oppose non-education spending, but from an economic standpoint, social security spending has a limited ability to benefit the economy – one dollar of social security money yields one dollar in economic benefits.

However, every  one dollar of spending on education can yield in over $10 in economic benefit.

But all these numbers, claims and anger fall back into the usual political bull you can get by turning to CNN or Fox News – what does it mean to you?

Consider Britain. At first, it might seem abstract to talk about Britain, but for those of you worried about how to pay for tuition, room and board, books, or that next tattoo, Britain has a lot to teach us.

First of all, Britain sets a maximum that universities and colleges can charge students for tuition – for this year that cap was about $5200.

Sounds wonderful, considering Pacific Lutheran University’s (PLU) tuition is almost three times that – per semester.

If that seems a little steep, however, Britain’s government offers bursaries, basically grants that every student qualifies for.

Direct.gov.uk states that if your college or university charges the maximum tuition, you qualify for a minimum of a $520 grant.

Speaking of grants, Britain also offers grants based on income– not only for tuition, but also for cost of living expenses (America’s median income is about $44,000, in Britain, you are guaranteed the max grant if you make $40,000 or less).

Now, you might say that the U.S. and PLU are not Britain, but the tools to push a political agenda which students in Britain employ are absolutely available to us.

First off, young people vote more there. In the last election, 10 percent more of the 18-24 demographic voted in Britain than did in the U.S.

Second, those student voters are organized – Britain, along with other countries, has the NUS, or National Union for Students, which among other things, lobbies the government on behalf of students and advises students and student groups on how to do the same.

In the 2010 elections, 25 million Americans aged over 64 voted, while only 12 million Americans aged 18-24 voted.

It’s no wonder the federal government spends $1.3 trillion on medicare/medicaid/social security, while spending only $122 billion on education – they have to answer to the active and organized (think AARP) voters who benefit from that spending; how often do they answer to the students?

Democrats and Republicans alike ask you to “Get out and vote!” I, however, seek to hold you to a higher standard.

Vote, yes, but know what you are voting for, know your power as a voter. If you think college is WAY too expensive, tell politicians! And tell them with one voice.

 

Colleges should focus on providing an affordable education, not attracting the wealthy

I want it all.  An entirely vegan, organic menu in the dining hall, an apartment-quality living space, unlimited seats in art classes, Public Safety that doesn’t care if I drink, and a four year degree in two years.

Oh, yeah, and I don’t want to pay a dime for it. Yes, that’s my perfect college. Unfortunately it doesn’t exist, and it never will.

Even more unfortunate is that when prospective students are looking for colleges, they’re not undergoing a search for the one that would be best for them.

Very few, I think, could care about the nature of SMCM’s honors community.

The students are shopping for college. Their parents care about statistics: return on investment, employment prospects, and the like.

Students care about how pretty the campus is, how new the buildings are, and everything else – money be damned!

Or at least, the rich ones do. There is a giant economic disparity at our nation’s colleges nowadays as a result of this shopping mentality: if you can’t afford to buy the product, get out of the mall.

If you want a high-quality private school education, you can expect to pay $50,000 a year.  Why?  For the same reason, apparently, that St. Mary’s has to replace all of its dorms over the coming decade.

Colleges have to compete against one another for the best students.

Here’s the way I see it.  We have two choices: one, everyone in college starts voting.

Our generation gets onto its feet, starts screaming and shouting and yelling and marching on Capitol Hill about how ridiculous the government’s lack of education spending is.

While we’re at it we could even get more spending on secondary schooling. Choice two: reduce spending in college.

For that one, everyone in college right now has to get onto their feet and start screaming, shouting, yelling, and marching on their university’s administrative offices about ridiculous tuition hikes that, at St. Mary’s, are almost four times inflation.

I’m a college student and I think tuition is too high. In other news, the iPhone 4 is now on Verizon.  Can you hear me now?

Congress sure as hell can’t, and I feel like its unreasonable to expect a student uprising without, say, the Vietnam War or tuition tripling over 2 years (see England).

So let’s change the mentality.  Not of the world, and probably not of the nation. No, let’s start with ourselves.

We need to make it clear to our colleges that we don’t want to subscribe to the shopping mall mentality and we want to save on tuition because of that.

Congress has been talking about health care reform since the 70’s, the bill only passed in 2010. So who are we to expect tens of thousands of financial aid dollars to come raining down out of the sky onto us overnight (or even over a year)?

Nobody, because the American Association of Retired Persons and every other citizen’s advocate has been campaigning for better health benefits longer than most of us have been alive.

Do our colleges value the idea of rich prospective students over providing an affordable education?  Not as a nation, but at Pacific Lutheran University and St. Mary’s.

I’m not sure about St. Mary’s – we like being weird, here, and our financial aid philosophy is to give smaller grants to as many people as possible.  But PLU?  Dyson Airblades are supposedly eco-friendly and all, but it’s kind of obvious when they’re only at the bathrooms that touring students use.