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House Passes Controversial Dream Act

Dream Act to Create Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Students

December 9, 2010

House Passes Controversial Dream Act

by Suada Kolovic

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday to give undocumented students who’ve graduated from high school, completed two years of college or military service and have no criminal record a shot at citizenship. The bill, known as the Dream Act, passed by a 216-198 vote after heated debates stemming from the fact that said students would also be eligible for federal financial aid.

The legislation is backed by President Obama who, according to the Huffington Post, called it “an important step” toward comprehensive immigration reform. In a statement, Obama said, "This vote is not only the right thing to do for a group of talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own by continuing their education or serving in the military, but it is the right thing for the United States of America.” Republicans, on the other hand, have slammed the bill and repeatedly referred to the Dream Act as a “nightmare act.” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) described the bill as nothing more than “mass amnesty that will undoubtedly encourage millions more to illegally immigrate into our country.”

Today, the Senate is scheduled to vote on whether to begin debate on a slightly different version of the bill...though it’s unlikely Democrats can muster the 60 votes needed in the 100-memeber chamber to advance it.


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What Ever Happened to No Takesy Backsies?

Possible Pell Cuts Could Mean Revised Financial Aid Offers

April 6, 2011

What Ever Happened to No Takesy Backsies?

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a high school senior and have received your financial aid package from your dream school, listen up: Congress may cut the Pell Grant program’s budget this year and colleges may have to roll back a portion of the financial-aid offers they made to students for the coming academic year. Translation: You may receive a smaller financial-aid package than was originally offered.

According to the Chronicle, both parties acknowledge that some type of restructuring will be necessary to put the program on sound financial footing, but lawmakers disagree on the size and scope of the cuts. Some proposals suggest lowering the maximum award, ending the year-round program and changing the income requirements in order to reduce the number of people eligible for the grants.

At a news conference held by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a college administrator and student advocates agree that cuts in award levels this late in the admissions process would be particularly hurtful to the low-income families the program serves. "Families with the most unsteady income, or who don't have much financial flexibility ... need the most time to thoroughly plan out their expenses," said Misty Whelan, a Pennsylvania high school counselor. With most decision deadlines around the corner – May 1 at many colleges – how do you feel knowing these cuts could potentially dictate where you go? Do you think it’s fair for colleges to backtrack on their offers? What ever happened to no takesy backsies?


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Campus Safety, Are Guns the Answer?

7 States Considering Legislation to Allow Guns on College Campuses

April 7, 2011

Campus Safety, Are Guns the Answer?

by Suada Kolovic

What comes to mind when you think of guns on college campuses? If you’re like me, you think of the senseless tragedies at Northern Illinois, Virginia Tech, Pima Community College in Arizona and, most recently, Southern Union Community College in Alabama, where students lost their lives at the end of a loaded gun. And yet, despite those events, seven states across the country are considering loosening or changing laws when it comes to firearms on campus:

  • Arizona

    A bill that passed in the state Senate on March 14 would allow students, faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
  • Nebraska

    A bill proposed by Nebraska Sen. Mark Christensen would allow professors at public universities to have guns on campus.
  • Nevada

    Nevada legislators are considering a bill that would bar colleges from banning firearms on campus. Amanda Collins, a University of Nevada student who was sexually assaulted on campus in 2007 and testified in favor of passing the bill.
  • New Mexico

    New Mexico officials are considering a law which would allow those with a concealed carry gun license to have guns on public college campuses.
  • Oklahoma

    A bill which would allow those licensed to carry concealed weapons to do so on campus has passed the state Senate, and is now under consideration by the Oklahoma House Public Safety Committee.
  • Tennessee

    Tennessee legislators are considering a bill which would allow professors to have handguns on campus.
  • Texas

    A bill allowing students to carry guns on the campuses of state universities is predicted to be voted into law, to the dismay of a number of Texan students.

According to Armedcampuses.org, an anti-gun site which lists postsecondary institutions that allow firearms on campus, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) said, “There is...a real concern that campus police officers responding to a situation involving an active shooter may not be able to distinguish between the shooter and others with firearms” at colleges that allow guns on their premises. We’ve witnessed the tragic outcomes guns can have on campus, so how do you feel about gun rights activists pushing for legislation in the other direction? And when it comes to students’ safety on campus, do you think guns are the answer?


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Arizona Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Guns on Campus

by Suada Kolovic

The Arizona Republic reports Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would permit guns to be carried on “public rights of way” at public universities and college campuses. The bill, which would have applied to both concealed and openly carried weapons, originally required that weapons be permitted inside campus buildings, but it was eventually scaled back through the legislative process in the Senate.

Brewer, typically a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and gun rights, called the bill “poorly written” and said it lacked clarity. In her veto letter, she also questioned the use of “educational institution,” which she argued could be interpreted as applying to K-12 schools and would conflict with existing state and federal laws that do not permit weapons on those school grounds. "Bills impacting our Second Amendment rights have to be crystal clear so that gun owners don't become lawbreakers by accident," Brewer said.

With all the talk about allowing guns on campus and our constitutional right to bear arms, what do you think of Governor Brewer’s decision?


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DREAM Act Supporters to Obama: Quit Campaigning If You Won’t Deliver

by Suada Kolovic

Last week, national immigrant youth-led organization United We DREAM started a petition asking President Obama to remove discussions of the DREAM Act from his campaign literature and fundraising emails unless he is willing to use his executive power to block deportations for DREAM Act-eligible students. The petition is a result of President Obama repeatedly saying he supports the bill and that undocumented students are not the focus of his immigration enforcement plans, yet over 390,000 people were deported last year alone.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has denied that it could use its discretion to stop the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible students. "I am not going to stand here and say that there are whole categories that we will, by executive fiat, exempt from the current immigration system, as sympathetic as we feel towards them," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in April. "But I will say that group ... are not the priority [for deportation]."

As the deportations continue, DREAM Act supporters say it is disingenuous for President Obama to use his support for the bill to drum up support for his reelection. Let us know what you think.


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Ed Secretary Duncan: “DREAM Act Would Benefit Our Country”

by Suada Kolovic

From the get go, the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented college students, has faced an uphill battle. With it failing in the Senate last year and both sides expressing skepticism about the bill, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress yesterday that the Administration supports its passage.

According to Duncan, the students who could benefit if Congress approves the DREAM Act would fill 2.6 million jobs and would bring in $1.4 million more in revenue than it would cost over the next 10 years. Duncan also addressed several misconceptions about the DREAM Act: It does not create an amnesty program with an easy path to citizenship, it will not affect the availability of federal student loans or Pell Grants for citizens and it will not create incentives for an increase in undocumented immigration. “Simply put,” Duncan concluded, “educating the individuals who would be eligible under the DREAM Act would benefit our country.”

Keep in mind that in order for undocumented students to qualify for the DREAM Act, they must prove they came to the United States before the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years, graduated from high school or received a GED, possess good moral character and been admitted to an institution of higher education or serve in the military. Do you hope the DREAM Act becomes a reality? Let us know what you think.


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Department of Ed Demands Special Reports for Tuition Increases

by Alexis Mattera

Do you get a headache when thinking about rising college tuition and fees? You’re not alone...but your company may surprise you.

Yesterday morning, administrators at more than 500 colleges reached for metaphorical Advil bottles when the Department of Education decreed special reports detailing tuition and student fee increases must be submitted to the government for review. Schools cited include public institutions Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Alabama State University and roughly two-thirds of California State University's 23 campuses for tuition hikes of 38 percent, 46 percent, 43 percent and between 37 and 46 percent, respectively, over the last three years as well as for-profit colleges from DeVry University, Education Management and Corinthian Colleges. In addition to explaining why costs have gone up so dramatically, the schools must also discuss how they plan to address the rising prices.

Do you think these new measures will help students make more informed college choices?


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Debt-Ceiling Deal Spares Pell Grant Program

by Suada Kolovic

Unless you’ve taken residence under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve heard about the debt ceiling crisis. Thankfully, the White House and Congress have reached a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and shrink the federal deficit which avoids many of higher education’s worst-case scenarios, namely cuts to Pell Grants, the end of subsidized student loans or a government default that would leave student financial aid and other funding for colleges in limbo.

Here’s the breakdown: The agreement would cut $1 trillion right away and create a committee to reduce the deficit by another $1.5 trillion by November. If approved in Congress, it will avert default on the nation’s debts and ensure that the government has enough money for federal benefits, including student aid. In layman’s terms, the bill would provide $17 billion for the Pell Grant program but the measure would only be temporary. Because House conservatives oppose tax increases, it is likely that the committee charged with reducing the deficit will favor spending cuts over revenues increase, putting Pell Grants and other student aid programs at risk for cuts in the near future.

Do you think slashing funds for higher education is problematic? Let us know what you think.


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Debt Deal Not So for Graduate Students

by Suada Kolovic

If you’re a graduate student or considering graduate school, listen up: The debt deal reached by Congressional leaders and President Obama would make graduate school much more expensive.

According to the agreement, Congress would scrap subsidized federal loans for graduate students in an effort to trim the deficits. These loans don’t charge students any interest on the principal of student loans until six months after students have graduated; if they’re eliminated, some students will have to start paying back loans while they’re still in school. And if that isn’t bad enough, Congress will also ax a special credit for all students who make 12 months of on-time loan payments. The changes would take place July 1, 2012 and would save the government $21.6 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

For graduate students who do qualify for the maximum amount of subsidized loans, this new agreement could tack on thousands of dollars to the already staggering cost of going to school. The reason behind the changes is the theory that the money saved by the student loan cuts would help pay to keep Pell Grants, which so far are maintained at a maximum grant of $5,550 a year for some 8 million poor students. “Full funding for Pell Grants is absolutely essential to fulfilling the president's goal of the U.S. once again having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020," said Pauline Abernathy, vice president of the Institute for College Access & Success.

Those considering graduate school, will these changes affect your decision to attend?


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Pell Grants, the Debt Ceiling and You

by Kara Coleman

If you’re one of the more than nine million undergrads who depend on Pell Grants to pay for school, you have probably been pretty anxious over the past few weeks.

This past February, the United States House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution which would slice the federal budget drastically. One of the programs to be affected by the cut is the Pell Grant program. The maximum amount of funds available to college students would be lowered from $5,550 to $4,705 and the changes were set to take effect for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Students were able to breathe a sigh of relief when the Pell Grant program, which has long received bipartisan support from the Senate, was able to avoid major cuts after all. The debt-ceiling bill passed earlier this week will limit overall discretionary spending to $1.043 trillion in the 2012 fiscal year. Since that’s about $7 billion below the current level of spending, how will students be able to receive their maximum Pell Grants? Grad students will be the ones taking the hit. At the moment, graduate students with federally subsidized student loans don’t have to be concerned with interest until after graduation but under the new plan, interest on these loans will begin to accrue while they are still working towards their degrees.

National Economic Council director Gene Spurling says of the bill, “This is a compromise budget, but one that we believe makes the necessary room for the most important investments in winning the future in innovation and research and education.”

How do you feel about these changes? For those with dreams of advanced degrees, are you already researching alternate funding options for graduate school?

Kara Coleman lives in Gadsden, Alabama, where she attends Gadsden State Community College. She received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art.


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