New federal regulations regarding student financial aid are not being kind to Eastern Michigan University. In a Jan. 23 article, The Eastern Echo mentioned, “students who were full-time during fall and winter semesters will no longer be eligible for Pell Grants during the upcoming summer semester.” Where students could once use two years worth of aid per year to speed along graduation, this option is no longer available.
Older regulations regarding university federal aid requirements contributed to EMU’s new trimester system, combining the spring and summer semesters into a single summer semester with half semester course options. As if registering for classes wasn’t difficult enough.
Either way, someone in Washington either really hates universities or is really desperate to save money by clamping down on aid dispersion. Not that that’s new; Michigan Governor Rick Snyder cut the budget to public university’s — like EMU — about two minutes after being sworn in. So, whether at the state or federal level, politicians are looking for ways to trim
costs, and education tends to take a hit when those politicians get desperate.
To be fair, a lot of money goes to federal aid, and while the loans at least generate revenue, the grants are gone for good minus whatever income tax you might have to pay. The reasoning behind the ideas to cut education costs is there. The problem is when those cuts affect education at a time when American education needs to be improved, not hampered.
Doing better with less is part of the American spirit, sure, but you still need educators to do the heavy lifting.
Ypsilanti’s school board is reducing class options and the number of teachers in an effort to just stay functioning. Heck, President Barack Obama himself said in his Tuesday State of the Union address how important affordable college education is, stating, “Higher education can’t be a luxury — it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
Anyone else getting mixed signals here? On one hand, we need affordable college education. On the other, getting education without resorting to student loans is getting trickier. Somewhere these two ideas need to come together. Education costs are a big expense, and while they are essential to this nation’s future, that does not give schools carte blanche to go crazy with government money.
That money is still taxpayer money, and as fellow current or future taxpayers we have a duty to make sure it is both not wasted and used efficiently. Squandering a resource, whether it is vegetable, mineral or financial is never good, cough U of M cough.
This is especially true of a school like EMU, where most of the students work part or full time and have families to take care of, in addition to trying to make a better life for themselves through education.
Somewhere between budget cuts and unchecked spending there is a middle ground, where universities and school systems won’t have to cut programs like music or art, where universities won’t have weird classes that make no sense and where politicians won’t look to education spending as a big pile of potential savings.
Hopefully that time will come soon because, at the rate we’re going, if we want to keep college affordable and accessible we’re going to have to find that middle ground and quickly.