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Volume 71, Issue 149, Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Opinion

Independence smeared by aid

Christian Palmer
Opinion Columnist 

Last week, we celebrated our beloved country's birth. However, we are reminded of the irony in the name of our day: Independence Day. 

The word "independent" is particularly fitting, seeing as Americans are viewed as proud and individualistic. 

We don't take flak from anyone, and we don't want help if we can avoid it -- unless it comes in the form of dollars, and even then, the offer of financial aid can be an insult. 

Wait, did someone say financial aid?

Last month, CNN reported that a national commission on higher education released a draft report that calls for several things, including the abolition of FAFSA as we know it and a request for public universities to monitor students' progress, possibly via something akin to a standardized test.

Those concerned are a bit iffy about subjecting college students to the kind of test one would administer to younger students. 

The idea is highly paternalistic and in direct conflict with what America's about. So much for American independence.

The demand for accountability by colleges seems reasonable, but there is something to be said for the notion that you get what you put in. 

There is no reason universities should aim for 100 percent passing rates by any means. 

It should be up to the student whether he or she passes, which should be determined by perpetual efforts not the results of one ambitious exam.

The other part of this draft calls for the replacement of the "increasingly dysfunctional, inefficient and inadequate" federal financial aid system with a completely fresh application geared at giving attention to those students with families that earn less than $34,000 per year. 

This group has been increasingly ignored in favor of students in the top 25 percent income-wise, whose financial aid packages have increased three-fold since 1980.

If I were to criticize FAFSA, I'd be a hypocrite. I'm just not strong-willed enough to turn it away, even though I see the blaring contradiction. 

Financial aid takes away our independence. 

It is 'positive' discrimination as it acknowledges the lack of equality of opportunity that we hold so dear. It is a poisonous crutch of hypocrisy, but what's more American than getting our hands on every extra cent? 

Financial aid is just Americans doing what we do best: having our cake and eating it, too.

Palmer, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
can be reached at pogsandjello@gmail.com.

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