Pomeroy touts bill

Literacy is a given for any student entering college. With the growing need to take out student loans, financial literacy is quickly becoming a requirement as well. "In 1990, 56 percent of the students at Dickinson (State University) took out loa...

Literacy is a given for any student entering college.

With the growing need to take out student loans, financial literacy is quickly becoming a requirement as well.

"In 1990, 56 percent of the students at Dickinson (State University) took out loans; today, over 70 percent do," Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said during a roundtable discussion on campus Thursday.

Pomeroy visited with DSU faculty and staff to tout the new College Cost Reduction Act passed in the U.S. Congress last week. He also came to learn what more can be done for students.

"Our students are graduating with some of the highest loan debt in the nation, and we have some of the most affordable schools in the nation, and that's terrifying," said Stephanie Suko, DSU student loan administrator.


Recognizing the crisis in college affordability, Congress added $20 billion to help subsidize federal loan programs, as well as reduce the interest rate. Pomeroy said initially, President Bush planned to veto the bill, but since said he would sign it.

"If you take the $20 billion additional investment, it's the most significant additional investment in the financing of college education since the GI Bill was passed," Pomeroy said. "That's all we got done for $20 billion. That shows you...we need to do more."

While DSU Director of Financial Aid Sandy Klein pointed out the bill only helps with the federal direct loans, Pomeroy said he'd work to ensure all federal subsidized loans benefit from the new act.

"I want to use the bully pulpit to say the state Legislature needs to be concerned about the rising tuition, and I think they ought to do more to support higher education," Pomeroy said.

Pomeroy said since the state runs the Bank of North Dakota, which gets its largest profit from the student loan department, it should look at creative ways of using loan money to help students.

"Let's have profits from students go back to students; it's pretty simple," Pomeroy said.

DSU President Dr. Lee Vickers agreed with Pomeroy, saying the state and federal governments need to do more to support students through grants and loans.

"More and more of our students are forced into taking out more and more loans because there aren't enough grants available, i.e. scholarships," Vickers said. "In many cases, they're forced to go to other states where they can make more money to pay their loans back."


Student voices

While the faculty and staff recognize the concerns with affordability, the students are feeling the crunch.

"I didn't get enough this year to cover my entire school year, but I got enough to get me by," said Bradley Auch, vice president of the DSU Student Senate. "It's just an issue of the fact that was stated before, costs are rising, but our maximum level that we can take out isn't."

Auch, however, considers himself one of the lucky ones, because his student loan payments aren't going to be excessively high.

He said his situation is helped by the fact he holds down three jobs outside campus.

Although Auch managed to stay involved on campus despite working three jobs, Eli Turnbough, Student Senate treasurer, said that's not true of all students.

"There's a lot of guys in the dorm...and a lot of them say, 'I don't know why I go to college anymore, because I can get a job in the oil field and make $60,000 a year," Turnbough said.

Student Senate President Lydia Johnson is seeing more examples of students choosing careers outside of their major field to make more money.


"Why would I want to work at Applebee's for another year or two to pay off my loan? That's not what I went to college for," Johnson said.

Auch agreed, saying students treat college more like an obligation to ensure they can get a job.

"Kids are here because they need that degree to tell somebody that they can do it," Auch said. "Every year, they're taking out more money because, 'I have to have this piece of paper.'"

Multicultural Affairs Director Thy Yang said the saddest thing about the financial crunch is students cease to see college as a transformative process.

Other issues

E Klein said students get enough aid to cover tuition, but not additional fees like room and board. Klein said students then take out alternative loans, which have much higher interest rates that are usually variable.

"If they're fixed, they're based on credit, so if a student doesn't have a co-signer and applies by themselves, they're at a 12 percent interest rate or higher," Suko said.

E Klein said students sometimes put tuition or other costs on credit cards. She said the debt some students have causes them to withdraw from school.


E Pomeroy also brought up concerns with work-study. Klein said the amount the school received is about $50,000 more than in years past, but more would help the university.

"Work-study isn't what it used to be," Vickers said. "It's getting more and more difficult to find students to work on campus, because we are not competitive as far as salary."

E Multicultural student support specialist Tracy Peterson said a concern he has with Native American and multicultural students is aid is available to them, but they don't know it.

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