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Issue of the Week: The higher education bill


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Illustration by Holly Randall
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
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On Oct. 30, 2003, Rep. Phil English of Pennsylvania introduced the Higher Education Affordability and Equity Act to Congress. This act, if passed into law, would help students afford undergraduate and graduate educations. On Oct. 20, graduate students across the country wrote letters to Congress in order for this bill to be passed.

In response to this the issue of the week is whether or not the HEAEA should be passed and, additionally, are students entitled to such benefits as proposed in this act?

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Ryan Johnson
columnist

Not all graduate degrees created equally

If I count correctly, I had four teachers named "Doctor" in high school. And while each one was a fine teacher, those three little letters after their names meant little more to me than "overqualified."

No, they weren't retired physicians trying a more relaxing career. They were part of an oversupply of people who spend four years of their lives working toward a degree that may not be worth it in terms of costs to benefits.

You see, graduate school costs include lost wages, which is by far the greatest cost of going to graduate school. And those lost wages are already of the after-college-graduation variety. So, in other words, if a graduate degree doesn't add substantial value, and it's already coming on the heels of subsidies (because, for example, graduate students get disproportionate attention relative to undergraduates), it may not be a socially optimal use of resources.

An analysis of the value of graduate degrees shows that some degrees do add enough value. Others don't. Degrees that don't are degrees like sociology and political science. If there's not enough demand for those skills, why should we subsidize them further?

And while it was cool to take AP English from a Steinbeckian scholar, I'm sure he could have taught the class just as well without a Ph.D.

This issue is obviously much more complex than simply, "should we further subsidize graduate education?" A good start would to look at each graduate program individually.

Ryan Johnson is an international studies and economics junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Moe Naqvi
columnist

Bill must pass to make education affordable

As time progresses, the general horizon of job seekers expands and an individual's main chance of breaking through into the job market lies only on the fact if they have a sufficient amount of education and degrees.

Unfortunately for the younger generations, the cost of college undergraduate and graduate tuitions is rising faster than Bob Dole on Viagra. To retaliate against escalating prices, graduate students across the country are pushing for a bill in Congress called the Higher Education Affordability and Equity Act, which would make graduate school cheaper. The HEAEA will aid in reducing debt from student loans and make scholarships tax deductible.

My dad always told me that money didn't grow on trees, but it does grow in the pockets of those who are already wealthy. The large economic gap between social classes in America is proving that the wealthy are getting richer and that the poor are getting poorer. It is easier for those of a wealthy class to receive an education compared to those of a lower class, simply for the fact that those who have money do not have to worry about applying for financial aid, maintaining scholarships, and choosing schools with the lowest tuition.

It is necessary for graduates to have the HEAEA passed because it will allow those of lower classes to continue their education past the undergraduate level and be seriously considered for management positions. America is a land founded from people of many classes, not just the wealthy. It is essential to give all level of social classes a plausible opportunity to obtain a higher education, otherwise the United States will be left with broke, debt-ridden college graduates who have nowhere to turn but the underworld of street drugs.

Moe Naqvi is a physiological sciences freshman. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Laura Keslar
columnist

Education not guaranteed by state

Education is not a right and, as such, taxpayers shouldn't be paying for someone else's education, whether at elementary, secondary, or post-secondary levels.

But the graduate students at the University of Arizona and other colleges nationwide aren't asking that the federal government give them more money from someone else's pocketbook. All they are asking for is a tax exemption.

And I say, let's give it to them. After all, where is the harm in all of it?

The bill merely gives grad students control over the money they have already been granted in the form of scholarships and loans. They aren't getting any more money than what they have already been granted.

Let's just think of the bill as allowing students to directly put their taxes where they think it would benefit society the best-on themselves.

And grad students are entitled to this tax deduction. The federal government (and whoever else helps pay for their tuition and stipends) already thinks they deserve it, as evidenced by the fact that students receive the money in the first place.

So why not put your support behind this bill? After all, even Rep. Ron Paul, that crazy Republican from Texas who is all gung-ho about low taxes and free markets, supports it.

Laura Keslar is a pre-pharmacy junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Brett Berry
columnist

HEAEA's goals are reasonable

The goals of the HEAEA that is being promoted by the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) really aren't anything too unreasonable. This isn't like, say, asking for free tuition for graduate students who are TAs (as some lobbied for at UA last year). This bill simply asks for a few simple things to make graduate school more financially feasible for students wishing to further their education.

The requests aren't that radical. Why shouldn't graduate scholarships be tax-exempt? They used to be, and they still are for undergraduate scholarships.

Why not expand the student loan interest deduction for grad students? I mean, if our government views home ownership as being so valuable to our society that mortgages deserve huge tax deductions on the interest, then why not give a big deduction for interest on grad students' loans? Increasing the educational attainment of our country's workforce would be beneficial to all.

Neither of these changes would be akin to giving grad students free money; they still have to pay for plenty. The HEAEA would only help make sure that smart, qualified students can afford to pursue their academic interests. And helping willing and capable students attend graduate school benefits us all. After all, providing for more research performed by grad students helps advance our society, and producing more educated students entering the workforce helps our economy. It's win-win.

Brett Berry is a regional development senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Susan Bonicillo
opinions editor

More needs to be done to help students

In 1986, Congress voted to overturn the Internal Revenue Code. Though this congressional act was passed when most of the student body was learning how to count to five, we, now as fully functional college students, are feeling the effects of it.

Basically, this code prevents graduate and professional students from claiming tax exemption for scholarships they've received.

For those of use who are willing to stick themselves in school even after getting their bachelor's degree (myself included), this presents a serious economic hardship.

Though in 2001, the Economic Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act attempted to help students in their pursuit of education, the effects were of a more fleeting nature.

Enter the Higher Education Affordability and Equity Act of 2003. In this act it would effectively overturn the 1986 congressional decision regarding the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, it would allow interests from student loans and more scholarships to be tax-deductible among other means to reduce student debt.

It's an honorable action to help students in their goals. However, the crisis that higher education is in now shows a severe lack of consideration given by our representatives. Take for example the 10-year-old loophole that gave millions of government subsidies to loan companies when it should have been given directly towards student aid.

Or perhaps we could also observe the No Child Left Behind Act focuses on rewarding schools that pass their standardized tests while punishes failing schools, the very schools which need the most help.

Education should be a bigger priority than it is. However, the state and federal officials should make it their practice to prevent education crises, rather than provide remedy to a problem that should have been averted in the first place.

Funny how education should suddenly find itself in the spotlight come election time.

Susan Bonicillo is a junior majoring in English.She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Lauren Peckler
columnist

Student debt burden would drop

So, did anyone else know that last Wednesday was the NAGPS National Day of Student Action? I sure didn't have a clue. Well, that's probably because I'm not a graduate, and rarely on campus do we hear about graduates, even though they make up 23 percent of the UA. Unfortunately, we need to be aware early on of the factors associated with being a graduate. With job scarcity, I'm sure many of us will be dealing with graduate school in the future.

The big factor, of course, is money. For those of us obsessed with money, it might be important to realize that before you start bringing the dough as a hotshot doctor or lawyer, you have to pay your dues.

Wouldn't it be amazing if all of us who painstakingly survived law or med school came out with a smile, ready to change the world? As opposed to what actually happens: We come out looking for the one job that will pay off our student loans in the shortest amount of time. Furthermore, as a result of young professionals spending their first years out of grad school trying to pay off loans, they steer clear of jobs that are more needed, like those pertaining to public policy or non-profit.

Section 2 of H.R.3412 (HEAEA) aids professional students by removing the cap on student loan interest deductions and raising the income threshold that allows deductions to $115,000. This way, professionals their first years out of graduate school have more efficient ways of paying off their loans, thereby not deterring themselves from jobs that may be more beneficial to themselves and their community.

Lauren Peckler is a sophomore majoring in English and sociology. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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