From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Summer 2016

Another View on Debt

In his column “The Facts on Student Debt” [Spring 2016], President Eric Kaler asserts that the University is “defying the national narrative around student debt.”  The president also asserts that 40 percent of Twin Cities undergraduate students graduate with zero debt “from University sources.”

However, according to the October 2015 Minnesota Higher Education Report on Cumulative Student Loan Debt in Minnesota, if we consider student debt from all sources, we discover that 65 percent of U graduates in 2014 had student debt.  The median debt was $24,728. The cost of an undergraduate degree is not limited to the debt incurred. That debt is incurred only after students and their parents have exhausted their savings and student earnings.

Tone deaf remarks about student loan debt (“less than a new car”) by the president and the 2014 chair of the Board of Regents demonstrate a failure to acknowledge the overall cost of a college education and a remarkable lack of empathy for the students and parents struggling to pay that cost.

The president also asserts that there are few horror stories at the U of M about undergraduate students with $100,000 in student debt.  He fails to mention the unconscionable economic burden placed on students in the professional schools. In 2014, 88 percent of the graduates from those schools had student loan debt.  The median debt was $152,793.

The high tuition–high financial aid experiment has failed a vast majority of students and their parents notwithstanding the ballyhoo by the U of M administration about the Promise Scholarship program. This was a predictable result of the experiment as college administrators classify student loans as “financial aid.”

Just as the Wall Street bankers created a housing bubble using other people’s money, the senior administrators and the Regents have created a higher education bubble using student loan debt. When this budget balloon bursts, the senior administrators and the Regents will walk away unscathed just as the investment bankers did. The students and their parents will suffer harm from the student loan debt that inflated the balloon. They will be shackled with that debt for many years or even decades for many students in the professional schools.
    Michael McNabb (B.A. ’71, J.D. ’74), Burnsville

Clarification: In his column, President Kaler wrote accurately that 40 percent of Twin Cities campus students graduate without debt from University sources. Mr. McNabb’s reference to the 65 percent figure includes all of the system campuses, not just the Twin Cities.

Now That’s Extraordinary!

I found your commentary “Thoughts of an Area Woman” [Spring 2016] very good.  I proudly graduated from the then-five-year-old University of Minnesota Nursing BSN program in 1962. Even though I have not been “extraordinary,” or made “an earth-shattering discovery,” or [been] a “superstar,” I feel that my education at the U was certainly extraordinary. After mastering those years at the U I felt like a superstar. I worked in the presence of patients under my care who constantly were great teachers.

I cannot say that I feel ordinary—I would rather say that I feel blessed to have spent my educational years at the U, which influenced me in truly learning how to read, write, observe, review, think, work steadfastly, appreciate, surmise, and a whole lot of other action verbs. I can truly ask myself, had it not been for my U education would I have written for nursing journals as well as poetry works, published two nonfiction books, edited several newsletters, added “Memories of a Journey through Nursing School” on the nursing alumni website and besides had several wonderful professional nursing jobs?  I think not!  Because of my nursing education there has not been one day that I did not want to go to work as a nurse. And I truly thank the U School of Nursing for that!  I truly did “follow my heart.”

Lynn Soppeland Assimacopoulos (B.S.N. ’62), Litchfield Park, Arizona

I thought your response to the disgruntled alumnus [Spring 2016] was well said. If it is assumed that the qualities of “diligence,” “integrity,” and a “positive presence in the community” are those he attributes to himself, he should be pleased with his life, his contributions, and should live it without seeking or needing acclaim—we all should! Thank you.

Tonu Kiesel (M.D. ’65), Newcastle, Wyoming

Great Memories

Your delightful article about Max Shulman, the funniest person I will ever know, brought back memories big time. I met him at the U in 1941. He was a great person to know, as were his buddies in journalism, Tom Heggen and Geri Makieski. Thank you, Tim Brady. I never would have bothered to think about any of my great memories without your article. I DIG IT!

Dr. Robert Baker (D.D.S. ’45), Stillwater

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