Summer aid needed

The hustle and bustle of condensed courses began last week for summer students. And although enrollment figures aren’t released until the end of the term, if the last two years’ attendance is any indication, approximately 16,000 students will be sacrificing lazy summer days for academic endeavors. Yet these figures might be much larger if financial aid for the summer were easier to get.

The federal government doesn’t provide Ford Federal Direct Loans, the standard federal aid, for students who have already borrowed the annual maximum during the spring and fall semesters, which in some cases is just enough to pay tuition and expenses. This leaves many students vying for limited grants and scholarships in hopes of funding their summer courses.

Although a national policy, it is felt particularly hard at the University, where many students are commuters who work part-time jobs yearlong, effectually limiting many students to nine to 12 credits per semester. Yet, these students, unlike their full-time counterparts, don’t usually leave for the summer and are able to continue working part-time while attending classes – if the funding is available.

When the funding isn’t available, it increases the time it takes students to finish school and certainly contributes to the University’s horrendous six-year graduation rate. Instead of strapping these students to the 13-credit minimum crux, officials would find an effective alternative for improving graduation rates if they worked to make summer funding more accessible. This approach would have none of the negative externalities that plague the 13-credit plan.

University officials perhaps need go no farther than St. Paul to find the funding for summer students. State legislators must be pressured to increase state grants for the summer term. Although funding has been tight due to budget shortfalls, legislators have shown willingness to support educators, but are often pinned down by Gov. Jesse Ventura, who is unsympathetic and frequently cut such funding. We should demand our next governor be much more insightful into the benefits of having an educated labor market, perhaps even electing someone with a college degree this time so as to ensure familiarity with the education process.

Washington, D.C., is a long way away, and the George W. Bush administration has proven to be no friend of financial aid funding, trying earlier in the year to cut loan consolidation that annually saves students millions. So students can’t realistically expect support from the feds any time soon. However, another avenue is the private sector. The University has one of the highest retention rates in the country, with many students finding jobs not far from where they graduated. It is clearly beneficial for local businesses to support the University, and if approached, some would surely be willing to hand out a few more tax write-offs.

The bottom line is that means for funding during the summer need to be found to aid students’ goals of being educated in a timely fashion that is compatible with their financial situations.