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Should Student Loan Interest Rates Be Fixed?

We’ve talked numerous times about student loans and the debt assumed by college-aged adults in this country. These discussions centered around the poor decision-making of 18 year olds and their co-signers to enter into contracts with loan providers for an education which can cost a ton and provide little return benefit depending on a student’s major and choice of institution.

Recently student loan debt has been in the news again, this time because politicians want to tie student loan interest rates to market-based interest rates allowing them to fluctuate (within a capped limit) as the economy improves or worsens.

According to this opinion piece from Rep. John Kline, the United States should force loan borrowers into a market-based interest rate for student loans to allow savings to those borrowers:

But we need to move away from a system that allows Washington politicians to use student loan interest rates as bargaining chips, creating uncertainty and confusion for borrowers.

[...]

With the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (HR 1911), which passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support on May 23, we upheld that promise. This responsible legislation simply moves all federal student loans — except Perkins loans — to a market-based interest rate and builds upon a proposal put forth by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

Just like the president’s plan, our legislation will apply a market-based interest rate to all Stafford and PLUS loans, ensuring borrowers will be able to take advantage of today’s low rates. But unlike President Obama’s proposal, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act takes an additional step to protect borrowers against higher interest rates by imposing a fair and reasonable cap. Based on current market conditions, HR 1911 could lead interest rates to drop by as much as 2 percent for millions of Stafford and PLUS loan borrowers this summer.

Additionally, the legislation maintains students’ ability to consolidate their loans upon graduation and lock in a low fixed interest rate for the life of the loan. And students still can take advantage of existing federal repayment and debt management initiatives, such as the generous income-based repayment programs, numerous loan forgiveness programs and opportunities for deferment or forbearance.

As someone who now has a student loan (about $5000) to pay off the remainder of my graduate schooling (most of it was paid for by my employer at the time and it should be paid off within a year), I made a conscious effort to reduce how much I had to pay for my education and I have little sympathy for those who make poor choices and rack up unending amounts of debt. However, this particular bill is not something which we should back because it tacks on large hidden penalties because legislators, the same ones who say they shouldn’t be fixing interest rates because they don’t understand the system, are legislation without understanding the system. The irony is typical but still disappointing.

What do you think about this one? Do you think that Kline’s bill is a worthy plan or do you agree that the government should be loaning out dollars to students to help build a useful workforce instead of making money on the enterprise? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Should We Continue to Teach Kids Cursive?


Week 48: Cursive originally uploaded by Greg Williams

This morning I came across this article in Inside Higher Ed, a site I’ve been following since my days working at Century College long ago. While I no longer work in higher ed and as of the day before yesterday I no longer have any more schoolwork to do until The Rooster and The Koala bring it home, I just haven’t yet removed the feed from my soon to be dead RSS reader (RIP Google Reader). The topic of the article was on how college professors should object to schools no longer teaching cursive writing and why.

From the article:

Many public schools no longer teach cursive writing; 46 states no longer mandate that districts must teach cursive in their language arts core curriculum. This comes from the mistaken logic that our keyboard-happy society has made cursive a relic of the past that students no longer need. Numerous public schools now teach only printing, and some don’t even bother with lower and upper case – just block letters. Roman Catholic schools still demand cursive, and good for them. For the foreseeable future, kids who don’t have cursive will be at a competitive disadvantage. I’m surprised parents aren’t on the pitchfork-and-torch brigade over this, but I’d like to suggest that college professors should be (especially if they have kids).

The author’s reasoning comes down to a few major points:

    1. Handwritten note-taking and essay testing is faster in cursive and the argument that typing is faster is negated by the Blue Book essays.

    2. Technological failures.

    3. Good listening skills are negated by using technology.

    4. The claim that writing is MUCH faster than typing.

    5. Technology is a classroom distraction.

As someone who has learned cursive, is a big tech person, and who can type well in excess of 100 WPM, I take great offense to this entire article. Not because I don’t agree with many of the author’s assertions in a vacuum but when looked at overall, it’s a bunch of hooey:

    1. What’s the difference if writing now takes longer? Split the essay test up over two days. I had tests like that all the time in Undergrad History courses.

    2. People lose pens, paper, etc all the time. Technology failure is not limited to devices that plug in.

    3. Doodling, drooling over the opposite sex, sleeping, and simple daydreaming all do the same exact thing.

    4. You can probably write faster than I can type but I have some big added benefits such as the writing being legible and it being easily transferrable and stored.

    5. See #3.

When I was in school learning about the contents of cells, my father noted to me that when he was in school they learned of the nucleus and the cell well, that’s it. By the time I was in school there were like 30 different things we needed to memorize. This is just one example but it shows the amount of learning required of students in school. Do we really have time to waste with them learning an antiquated and basically useless handwriting scheme just because historians won’t be able to easily read the cursive of old in archives? Personally, as a previous student and a parent of soon-to-be students, I say let cursive die the death it’s meant to die–one with just as little dignity as I had with Mrs. Reade yelling at me for not tracking the dotted lines on her purple smeared mimeographed sheets.

What do you think about this one? Do you pine for cursive lessons in school and believes students of the future would feel the same way? Can you type faster than you can write especially over longer times? Is this really the death of society or just another bump in the road as we move on and leave relics of the past behind? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What Are Your 2013 Goals?

Last year, reader Tearitup asked what your 2012 goals were figuring that most people don’t do very well with resolutions but would probably do much better meeting their “goals” instead. After looking back over the list this year, I have to admit that I did much better than I usually do, but still didn’t make everything I wished I had.

Last year’s list for me was: more pleasure reading; smaller portions, more salad, less beer, and healthier meals; and have more date nights with The Wife. Well, I didn’t always make the more specific goal of reading one book a month for pleasure during school and two while not, but I did read quite a few books in 2012 nonetheless. While I drank less beer (I haven’t had many at all since May (I can count them on one hand), I can’t say I did very well with smaller portions, more salad, or healthier meals. Finally, The Wife and I (thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Sank as well as our wonderful regular babysitter) did get out to more date nights! I consider those wins compared to my usual list failures so I am doing it again this year:

    1. Take better care of myself.

    Eat less and workout more. This year was extremely busy with a new job and acceleration of my graduate program. With graduation in mid-March and only one course during that time, I have no excuses.

    2. Hug my kids more and be a better dad.

    Recent national events have made me realize I need to hug my kids even more than I already do. I also need to be less testy with them (more The Rooster than The Koala but she’s getting old enough to drive me crazy soon enough).

    3. Better prioritize my time and how I spend it.

    Less time spent on work, school, and Lazy Lightning and more time on The Wife, The Rooster, and The Koala. This has been a long-running argument between The Wife and I, especially after 2010. I thought I had done a much better job managing my time but she disagrees. In 2013 I promise to strike a better balance and make my family (i.e. The Wife) happy.

A bunch of readers responded to last year’s post with some really interesting goals including “being nicer to people”, “bike 2000 miles”, and “get a blog up and running.” I really wonder how many of those reader faired in meeting their goals for 2012 and what they plan to do for 2013. So go ahead and comment on below as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Felony Trip Down Memory Lane for ISD191 Alumni

According to this Dakota County Criminal Complaint two alumni of a Burnsville school decided to “take a trip down memory lane” and vandalize the building after a few drinks. They later attempted to flee after police responded to an alarm at the school.

From the complaint:

On or about August 9, 2012 at approximately 1:00 a.m. officers with the Burnsville Police Department were dispatched to a school located on the 400 block of 134th Street located in the City of Burnsville, County of Dakota, State of Minnesota on the report of an alarm.

Upon arrival, officers set up a perimeter around the building. An officer on the north side of the building heard what sounded like a door opening and shined his flashlight at the door. Upon doing so, the officer observed two males inside of the school. The officer advised the males to lie on the ground and indicated that they were under arrest. The suspects shut the door and ran back into the school. A few seconds later, an officer positioned in the front of the school advised that two males had just run out of the front door of the school and across 134th Street. Officer located a microwave lying on the floor of the staff lounge and mustard all over the refrigerator. In addition to the damage in the staff lounge area, officers observed damage to the steel door located on the roof.

A K9 officer was called in to assist in locating the suspects. The first suspect was apprehended in a residential area hiding in a childrens playhouse. The suspect was identified as JUSTIN SCOTT MCGUIRE, date of birth 9/10/90. Paramedics were called due to the canine apprehension and an officer stayed with McGuire at the hospital.

McGuire was read his Miranda warning and agreed to speak with the officer. McGuire reported that he had been inside of the school and did not have permission to be inside of the school. McGuire reported that he and his friend Zach had met for a couple drinks and then decided to “take a stroll down memory lane” and entered the school through a door on the roof of the building. McGuire admitted that he dumped out a couple cans of pop in the staff lounge and emptied a bottle of mustard all over the refrigerator in the staff lounge. McGuire admitted that he had fled from the police stating it was either “flight or fight” and he didn’t want to fight the officers.

The actions of these two are ridiculous but I want to know why it was so easy for two drunken idiots to break into the school in the first place. While there were no details of how the entry occurred, if they broke a window it would seem as if it would be mentioned in the report considering the heavy emphasis on the overturned microwave and other damage caused by soda and condiments. So was a door simply left unlocked or a window left open by someone working in the summer to get the school ready for the year? Is this a common occurrence?

What do you think about this one? Do you wonder if our schools are left unlocked by those who utilize them throughout the year and thus left vulnerable to theft and vandalism? How about the use of the K9 unit when the mayor and the rest of the council has decided those public safety resources are not important enough to fund appropriately? Are you surprised by the preliminary voting results for Burnsville’s mayoral race with Willenburg trailing Kautz (instead of the other way around as it was four years ago)? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on below!