Gas & Oil
Gas prices are on the rise! In some places it has already hit $3 a gallon! Find out what Bush is NOT doing about it.

Government Approved Pollution
Find out what the government is doing to make our pollution problems worse

Masked Discrimination
Introducing discriminating legislation and undermining civil rights, find how the Bush administration has been doing this.

Bush and Big Business
The truth about Bush’s special interest agenda, and the big businesses he serves

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As a concerned student, I am both troubled and appalled at the ambivalence with which the Bush Administration regards the rising costs of attending college. They currently claim success in education policy, citing an USA Today poll that claims the actual cost of attendance at a public university has gone down by one third from 1997-1998 to the 2002-2003 school year. However, these figures are far from telling the larger truth about college costs or providing Bush with any level of achievement in education, including his own. The Kerry campaign had a much more accurate portrayal of the current situation of public tuition costs that have risen 35% in the last three years, when they responded, "Tuition not a problem? What planet are they living on!"

The USA Today poll claims that students have been paying less primarily due to tax exemptions and decreased tax burdens for the families of college students. While it is true that these tax credits have been helpful to some families, perhaps the Bush Administration should not have taken credit for something they did not accomplish. According to another USA Today article, the two biggest tax credits assisting families, the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits, were created in 1997 with Bill Clinton as President. Furthermore, as Bush claims he is providing greater opportunities in educating America, he has frozen (or reduced) the value of a Pell Grant for the third year in a row. Pell Grants, government funded grants for low-income students, will again remain below Bush's promised (back in 2000!) $5,100 in 2005, falling further behind the rapidly increasing rise of tuition at both state and private schools alike. Noel-Levitz, the nation's largest higher education consulting service, stated in a presentation in early 2003 that "the lowest income families have suffered the most in recent years from federal, state and institutional aid policies."

The other area of supposed savings for students has come in the form of merit-based scholarships, aid based on the academic accomplishments of students. However, the shift to increased merit-based aid has assisted many families and students who do not need the discounted tuition costs while thousands of low-income students are left with measly tax credits and stagnated government grants. The increase of merit-based aid at the expense of need-based aid is only perpetuating the inaccessibility of college for so many low-income and disenfranchised students.

Beyond all the financial aid that is available, actual tuition prices are rapidly outpacing inflation at all types of universities including two-year public institutions. The College Board reported that students paid an increase of $231 to $1,114 more than last year, depending on the type of school. Increases continue throughout colleges in the country, even as some state universities cut back their services.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California essentially shut down nearly all of its' summer courses this year due to budgetary tightening, even as tuition continues to go up. The university, like all other California state campuses, faces an overall cut of 5% of their full-time students and found that cutting some basic services like summer classes will help to absolve the losses. Now many students who had hoped to graduate following the completion of a summer course, while increasing their financial burden, must remain in school for an additional semester. Budgetary constraints have also extended the average length of a students stay in college, further increasing the financial burden put upon college students under the current conditions.

The plight of low-income student continues to get worse. As I approach nearly $60,000 in financial debt over the course of my three and a half year career at Cornell, I continue to be shocked by Bush's empty promises and lack of concern for students like myself that continue to work part-time, and many full-time, throughout the course of their college career in order to help pay for the investment in their education. While I would enjoy staying for my last semester of college, the tax rebates that are supposedly lowering my expenses are failing to meet my financial obligation and creating too large of a burden for me to see the economic advantages of staying in school an additional semester. Of course, if I were one of my friends at Cal Poly, I likely would not have the choice to graduate early and avoid the additional financial burden due to the lack of summer school classes available.

So while the Bush Administration parades around and boasts of "their" great achievements in educational reform, my friends from Cal Poly and I will go back to our summer jobs and try to recover the missing finances of our diminishing Pell grants and supposed tax credits that have failed to help us pay for college.

M. Alex Pierson
School of Hotel Administration
Cornell University
Class of '04

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