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Celesta's Digital Literacy

INTS 249

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Debt by Degree

We are all told to work hard in high school, make good grades, get involved in extracurricular activities – all that, so we can get accepted into the college of our dreams. Unfortunately what holds many families back from fulfilling their child’s dream, or individuals paying on their own, is affording that long-anticipated higher education. The problem is that many people aren’t aware of the many education opportunities available abroad as well as solutions for dealing with loans post-graduation.

College tuition has seen an astonishing 296% increase since the year of 1995, and 757% since 1980. (Debt.org) George Mason University’s tuition surpasses the average tuition cost in the US, according to TopUniversities. The average in-state cost of attendance (living expenses are factored in) for a public 4-year university is $20,090 (Bridgestock); out-of-state, naturally towering over in-state, is $35,370. GMU’s tuition for in-state students is approximately $26,912, and for out-of-state the cost is around $48,194. On February 15th, GMU held a Tuition Tell All event that was hosted by the Mason Student Government and featured J.J. Davis, Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance, and Rose Pascarell, Vice President of University Life. The talk shed a lot of light onto what the tuition goes to and why is it rapidly increasing. As explained by Davis, the institution is receiving less funding from the government and is essentially being asked to act as a private university. With constrained resources and poor economy, J.J. Davis, referring to the students, said “and you’re feeling the burden.”

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Photographed are J.J. Davis, Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance, and Rose Pascarell, Vice President of University Life, discussing the breakdown of tuition and its growth rates at the Tuition Tell at George Mason University, on February 15th, 2017.

As the cost of college tuition is rising, the wages that pay for them are not. Wages over the same time period discussed above (1995-2015) have actually declined, once adjusted for inflation. For perspective, if pay rates had increased at the same rate that tuition has, the average American would now earn $77,000 a year in 2008, according to CNN Money. In reality, the average American earns closer to $33,000, or $400 less than 20 years earlier when accounting for inflation. While U.S. productivity increased by 80 percent between 1979 and 2009, the hourly wage of the median worker went up by 10.1 percent. The country’s high unemployment rate, currently at 9.1 percent, has only intensified that downward pressure on wages.

Rising Tuition Rate of Colleges and Stagnant U.S. Median Income

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American incomes can’t keep up with tuition hikes. Retrieved from CNNmoney.com.

 

With tuition figures steadily increasing, college debt levels are astronomical. It is 2017 and US students are drowning in student loans now more than ever. As of April 2017, the total US student loan debt is $1.4 trillion, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. This is the second highest level of consumer debt behind only mortgages. (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) This number is accrued by $3,000 every second. The average class of 2016 graduate is burdened by $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from the year before. (Student Loan Hero) One in four student loan borrowers are either in delinquency or default according the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Data collected by CollegeFactual states that 43% of all undergraduate students (including freshman) at GMU take out federal student loans to help cover their college education, averaging $7,300 per year. (CollegeFactual) This is merely the average – some students will borrow much more than this. It has been shown that incoming students are offered more financial aid by Universities while returning students receive less as they are expected to take out more loans to continue their college education.  

College students with loans dream of the day they will be debt free. Luckily, there are four primary programs to get federal student loan forgiveness that will cancel or reduce the amount of money a student owes.

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Popular website, Student Loan Hero, detailing the various loan forgiveness programs

 

First there is Public Service Loan Forgiveness. (McGurran) Your remaining federal student loan balance will be forgiven if you are employed full-time by a nonprofit or the government for at least 10 years and have made all the required 120 payments. You are not required to work at the same public service job for 10 consecutive years, contingent that all your jobs are in the public service sector then you will be qualified. The only loans that are eligible for this type of forgiveness are federal direct loans. Currently, there is no limit on the amount forgiven under Public Service Loan Forgiveness. In other words, the full amount of your federal student loans is eligible for forgiveness. (McGurran) The application for this student loan forgiveness program will be available in October 2017. 

The second program is called Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Teachers play an indispensable role is our society. But it’s no secret that teachers are underpaid, which can affect how teachers pay back their student loans. Teachers who work full time for five consecutive years can have up to $17,500 in direct or Stafford loans forgiven. However, not all teachers are eligible: only teachers at low-income schools can be considered for this program. The Teacher Cancellation Low Income online directory provides a list of schools and educational service agencies with eligibility. Teachers that are considered ‘highly qualified’ and teach math, science, or work in special education are eligible for up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness. ‘Highly qualified’ means obtaining state certification and holding a license in the state you teach in. You are eligible to apply for this loan forgiveness program only after your five consecutive years of teaching. 

Then there is Perkins loan cancellation. If you have a Federal Perkins Loan and are interested in pursuing education, you are in luck. You can have up to 100% of your loans forgiven, in a short amount of time. Full-time teachers at low-income public or nonprofit elementary or secondary schools, or those that specialize in certain subjects, like math, science, and special education, are considered eligible. Teachers must work full-time for a full academic year to apply for this loan cancellation. Qualified teachers are eligible to have:

  • 15 percent of their loans cancelled for the first and second years of service
  • 20 percent of their loans cancelled for the third and fourth years of service
  • 30 percent of their loans cancelled for the fifth year of service

Therefore, after five years of service, qualified teachers with Federal Perkins Loans can have 100 percent of the loans cancelled.

Finally, there is income-driven repayment. The federal government offers four main income-driven repayment plans, which requires the borrower to pay a percentage of their monthly income toward their loans. The four plans are: Income-Based Repayment, Income-Contingent Repayment, Pay As You Earn, Revised Pay As You Earn. Depending on the plan, after 20-25 years of making payments, all of these programs automatically forgive your remaining loan balance. What’s imperative to realize is that financial aid is completely dependent on the federal budget which fluctuates with the political climate and therefore, changes to the terms of forgiveness for these programs could happen at any time. Borrowers should stay organized and informed about their options.

While the US college student population is struggling with the costs of attending school at home, countries in Europe, like Germany for example, are offering “free” college education. Debt-free college in US has been discussed among several previous national democratic contenders. Hillary Clinton, as part of her 2016 presidential campaign, presented an optimistic education plan that would eliminate tuition costs at public universities for households earning up to $125,000. This proposition would reinstitute Ronald Reagan-era cuts on itemized tax deductions for high-income families. (Douglas-Gabrielle) The $450 billion education plan, dubbed the New College Impact, would have offered thousands of families across the country the opportunity for their child to receive a higher education. Another political figure that was a proponent of tuition and debt free college was Bernie Sanders. Sanders introduced his College For All Act which mirrored Clinton’s New College Impact education plan. It too aimed to eliminate tuition and fees at public four-year universities for students from families that make up to $125,000 per year (Zornick). The act would require the government to pay 67% of tuition fees while the remaining third would be covered by state and tribal governments. Both of the education plans introduced by Clinton and Sanders received many sponsors and was the driving force of their respective 2016 presidential campaigns.

Germany is a notorious leader in debt-free college education – open to both German and international students alike – and many U.S. students are taking advantage of this incredible opportunity. There are currently more than 9,000 enrolled American students in German institutions, a 20% increase over the last three years. At the Technical University of Munich (TUM), one of the most highly regarded universities in all of Europe, students pay a semester fee of €111 ($120). (Strasser) Included in that fee is public transportation which enable students to travel freely around Munich. Health insurance for students in Germany is €80 ($87) a month, much less than what parents would have had to pay in the US to add their child to their plan. An American student, Hunter Bliss, is studying physics at TUM and his parents are paying the aforementioned fees. His parents send him between $6,000-7,000 per year to cover rent, health insurance, and other expenses. If Hunter were to go to the nearest university back home, the University of South Carolina, his parents would easily have to spend three times that per year. (Jackson) Housing, books, and other expenses would make that number go even higher.

College degrees have never been more necessary to compete in today’s job market. The irony is that while tuition is notably increasing, American wages have remained stagnant. Students are going to school with less money and end up drowning in student debt by the end of their undergraduate years. It is essential that college students today are aware of all the options they have to receive a higher education and remain well-informed of ways to prevent the burden of student debt.  

Who To Trust

It’s so unsettling to hear that people ruling our country, the individuals we elected to protect our rights and freedoms, lie. These lies are announced to media outlets that we established trust in, and eventually these lies become the only “truth” we know. What’s even worse is when those very media outlets that have published false information, neglect their duty to deliver the unbiased truth and refuse to replace that false information with corrected facts. With this deliberately compromised flow of information, society’s trust in democracy and media could continue to diminish

In my opinion, Glenn Greenwald embodies journalism. He is honest, aggressive, persistent and shrewd. His adversarial BBC interview was fun to watch as well as very eye opening in regards to the relationship between journalists and the government. Greenwald emphasizes in several of his responses how common it is that the government makes false statements to journalists and media in general. When asked about a police report that made some unreasonable claims about his partner, Greenwald reminded BBC host Kirsty Wark that simply because the government makes a claim, especially when they’re in the middle of a lawsuit while they’re being sued for violating the law, one should not go around assuming that claim to be factually true. Simply the fact in general of the government’s denial of mass surveillance even after Snowden’s reveal of NSA information, should trigger many people and make them question their trust to their very own government.

In his article for The Intercept, Greenwald builds on the topic of mistrust but this time focusing on the media outlets side which we instinctively expect to deliver the truth for us. Sometimes the facts initially presented could shortly after publication be proven false – it happens. In the words of Greenwald, “the minimal requirement for journalistic credibility and integrity is acknowledging and fixing mistakes.” (Greenwald) He refers directly to Yahoo, the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, and Slate, some of the most credible and highly-recognized new outlets, for their blatant refusal to retract statements that have been disproven. Moreover, some of these outlets (intentionally) let the factually false information remain online and be recirculated for more people to see. This is “deliberate deceit, journalistic fraud.” (Greenwald) The acts of a few media institutions diminishes journalism’s credibility as a whole. Greenwald also touches on Trump’s Fake News debate that has proliferated over the last several months. Greenwald attributes the expansion of the idea of Fake News to the staggering level of existing distrust in the media, and that kind of makes sense.

“A vibrant and powerful fact-checking media is supposed to be one of the great safeguards against demagoguing authoritarians and assaults on democratic institutions. That only works if they earn the trust that they need to fulfill that function.” (Greenwald)

I have a newfound respect for journalism after learning about Glenn Greenwald and everything he has done to ensure that journalism serves its fundamental purpose as a check on the people in power. As a country that is founded on civil liberties, specifically freedom of press in this context, journalism is now more important than ever. Our country, our world in fact, is experiencing some crazy stuff right now and as an average citizen, learning that even media outlets (sources we rely on to tell us the lies of our government) can’t all be trusted either, makes me feel more uneasy than ever. In my opinion, we need more Glenn Greenwalds in this world ASAP.
(Disclaimer: I’m sure there are a plethora of amazing journalists out there that do with integrity their job of informing the democracy of what its government is doing – Glenn Greenwald is just the only one I’m somewhat familiar with.)

 

Works Cited

Glenn Greenwald Full Interview on Snowden, NSA, GCHQ and Spying – Newsnight. Perf. Kirsty Wark and Glenn Greenwald. BBC Newsnight. N.p., 3 Oct. 2013. Web.

Greenwald, Glenn. “Why Has Trust in Media Collapsed? Look at Actions of WSJ, Yahoo, Business Insider and Slate.” The Intercept. N.p., 30 Mar. 2017. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Research Post 5

This article was written by Daniel Douglas-Gabrielle for the Washington Post. Hillary Clinton, as part of her 2016 presidential campaign, presented an optimistic education plan that would eliminate tuition costs at public universities for households earning up to $125,000. This proposition would re-institute Ronald Reagan-era cuts on itemized tax deductions for high-income families. (Douglas-Gabrielle) The $450 billion education plan, dubbed the New College Impact, would have offered thousands of families across the country the opportunity for their child to receive a higher education. Another political figure that was a proponent of tuition and debt free college was Bernie Sanders. Sanders introduced his College For All Act which mirrored Clinton’s New College Impact education plan. It too aimed to eliminate tuition and fees at public four-year universities for students from families that make up to $125,000 per year (Zornick). The act would require the government to pay 67% of tuition fees while the other third will be covered by by state and tribal governments. Both of the education plans introduced by Clinton and Sanders received many sponsors and drove their 2016 presidential campaigns.

While discussing how the German government has implemented “free” college education, I will present this information to show the attempts/propositions of the U.S. government to offer the same opportunity.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2016/live-updates/general-election/real-time-fact-checking-and-analysis-of-the-final-2016-presidential-debate/clinton-touts-debt-free-college-plan-heres-how-shed-pay-for-it/?utm_term=.6f6a8e224a10

Research Post 4

This is an article from NerdWallet written by Brianna McGurran. It describes four primary programs to get federal student loan forgiveness that will cancel or reduce the amount of money a student owes. First there is Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Your remaining federal student loan balance with be forgiven if you are employed full-time by a nonprofit or the government for at least 10 years. The only loans that are eligible for this type of forgiveness are federal direct loans. The application for this student loan forgiveness will be available in October 2017.  The second program is called Teacher Loan Forgiveness. Teachers who work full time for five consecutive years can have up to $17,500 in direct or Stafford loans forgiven. Then there is Perkins loan cancellation. With this option, borrowers with federal Perkins loans only can have up to 100% of their loans cancelled if they work in public service jobs. Finally, there is income-driven repayment. The federal government offers four main income-driven repayment plans, which requires the borrower to pay a percentage of their monthly income toward their loans. The four plans are: Income-Based Repayment, Income-Contingent Repayment, Pay As You Earn, Revised Pay As You Earn. Depending on the plan, after 20-25 years of making payments, all of these programs automatically forgive your remaining loan balance.

I will incorporate this into my article when presenting the opportunities to reducing the burden of loans.

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/student-loans/student-loan-forgiveness/

To Filter or Not To Filter

Editing photographs to get a desired image is pretty cool with the various technologies available nowadays. Instagram with its plethora of filters can reveal to you that your bad side isn’t actually that bad if you apply the Valencia filter, tweak the saturation, readjust the shadows to -7, add a vignette, maximize the highlights to +100, and lower the warmth by 13. I failed to realize that editing photos in a similar manner was being performed way before the App Store became a thing. Paschalidis and Borges-Rey both note that though photo-altering has been around since the darkroom days, the innovative technologies of today and the future actually pose a huge threat to the very “authenticity” that photographs aim to capture.

We want to assume that a photograph tells more of the truth than a painting does because a camera will give us an objective and unbiased depiction of whatever we want to look at. The crisis of photojournalism in the 1980s, as described by Paschalidis in his “Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds”, was when it became evident that photographs can be altered in a concealed way to change that truth that we are confident to find in a photograph rather than a painting. At the dawn of the personal computer era, photographs were beginning to be converted to electronic data files that anyone with a decent computer could take a shot at manipulating. Paschalidis quotes Fred Ritchin:

“The newly created potential for a computer-assisted seamless manipulation of photographs … would undermine photography’s long-established perception as a generally trustworthy unbiased transcriber of reality and shake public trust in the traditionally prized accuracy and veracity of journalistic and documentary photographs.”

Paschalidis also notes that many other commentators talked about fearing how future photo-altering technologies will change the entire experience of capturing photos.

In a section of “News Images on Instagram”, Borges-Rey discusses that shoot-and-share technologies like Instagram change the entire photographic experience because of the multitude of editing capabilities it offers. When capturing an image, the photo-taking apparatus is what wields the power in the situation. Technologies like Instagram introduce ways that can “give power back” to the photographer to alter the shot into what they desire – whether what they desire is indeed a depiction of the truth or their own interpretation, we’ll probably never know. Instagram gives users the opportunity to play around with lighting and color and sharpness and other small tweaking capabilities that can evoke a completely new feeling from the audience. Advanced photo-editing technologies that are held in a higher regard like Photoshop allows users to go way beyond any subtle filters Instagram offers. Independent images, after being run through numerous edits, can be merged into one single entity that now presents a completely fabricated scene that to an average person’s eye looks very realistic and plausible.

I agree with Borges-Rey and Paschalidis on that photo-altering, whether it be a subtle Insta filter or a drastic part-reorganization by Photoshop, threatens the authenticity of the subject matter of a photograph. In an ideal world, photographers should disclose any changes made to the original piece being viewed, but this isn’t an ideal world and we all like to add filters to our selfies without having to explain why. As an informed audience, we should just be more cognizant of the existing various photo-editing tools out there and their powers if we want to be able to find the truth out for ourselves.

 

References

Borges-Rey, E. (2015). News Images on Instagram. Digital Journalism,3(4), 571-593. doi:10.1080/21670811.2015.1034526

Paschalidis, G. (2015). Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds. Digital Journalism,3(4), 634-652. doi:10.1080/21670811.2015.1034529

Research Post 3

This short article was written by Travis Mitchell, a staff writer for U.S. News. In this article, Mitchell discusses the increasing rates of college tuition, both public and private, from 1995 to 2015. In that 20 year time period, in-state tuition and fees at public National Universities grew by a staggering 296 percent and the out-of-state tuition and fees grew by 226 percent since 1995. These figures are also displayed in several graphs which give a visual representation of the drastic rise in what it costs to attend college.

I will be comparing these figures to George Mason University’s increasing tuition and fees since its founding.

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2015/07/29/chart-see-20-years-of-tuition-growth-at-national-universities

Research Post 2

This article was written by Abby Jackson, a member of Business Insider’s education team, and can be found on the Business Insider website in their Education section. Jackson postulates that yes, debt-free college is great and all but one must understand the financial/economic technicalities that make it possible. “Tax payers absorb that cost”, explains Jackson as she provides extensive research on the differing taxes among large nations which can sustain “free” college education even for incoming foreign students. Jackson also points out the drastic difference in the amount of college (referred to as tertiary school) attendees in different countries. For example, United States and Finland are tied at the top with 94% enrollment whereas Germany, a country that does offer debt-free college, has an enrollment rate of only 62%.

Information from this article, as well as the article referred to in my first research post, will be cited when I explain in more detail the debt-free college plan in Germany.

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-do-european-countries-afford-free-college-2015-6

Research Post 1

This article was written by Franz Strasser, a reporter and video journalist with BBC News in Washington, D.C. Strasser describes the stark contrast between the cost of college education in the U.S. and that of Germany. Germany is a notorious leader in debt-free college education – open to both German and international students alike – and many U.S. students are taking advantage of this incredible opportunity. Strasser provides valuable statistics including: the current amount of enrolled American students in German institutions, the various small fees of German universities, how much Germany spends on foreign students, the total student debt in the U.S. and other statistics that really lend you a perspective of what it would be like to get a college degree abroad (or in this case at least Germany). The article also briefly documents the stories of 3 American students who chose to pursue a college education in Germany.

My individual topic is to investigate the breakdown of George Mason University’s tuition. I am also fascinated with the tuition structure of other universities both locally and globally. This BBC article along with the Business Insider article (Research Post 2) will serve as research for my reporting on an international college ‘s tuition in comparison to ours.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32821678

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