Letters to the Editor week of 12-11-08

289

College affordability

Dear Editor:

On December 2nd, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education released Measuring Up: The National Report Card on Higher Education. We support the publication. Indeed, it is the only nation-wide report card for higher education, and provides us with a way to compare Indiana’s progress in key areas to that in other states. This report indicates that Indiana has made some progress over the last two years, particularly in Participation and Completion, as more of our students are going to college than ever and graduating. However, much attention is being paid to Indiana’s “F” grade in Affordability.

It is important to note that 49 states received an “F” in Affordability this year. While some may take issue with so many states receiving a failing grade, we believe this draws attention to an issue that the Commission is very concerned about: the rising cost of college.

 Due to rising college costs, we are seeing more students working and increasing their reliance on loans and credit cards to finance their education. A recent study indicates that 80 percent of undergraduates work while enrolled in college at an average rate of 30 hours per week. In addition, nearly two-thirds of students attending public four-year colleges financed a part of their education through loans in 2004, compared to less than one-half of students in 1993. Also, approximately 56 percent of dependent undergraduates owned at least one credit card, with one in four using credit cards to pay for college tuition.

Although the cost of college impacts all students and their families, it is especially challenging for low-income students. In 2004, students from the lowest family income quartile enrolled in college at half the rate of students from the highest income quartile. Even more disturbing are estimates indicating that only 12 percent of those college students from the bottom family income quartile will attain a Bachelor’s degree by age 24, compared to 72 percent of college students from the highest income quartile.

The Commission’s recently adopted plan, Reaching Higher: Strategic Initiatives for Higher Education in Indiana, proposes several initiatives that we think will help lower the cost of a college education for students. First, the 21st Century Scholars program has recently been expanded to provide eligible students in all middle-school grades with the opportunity to sign up. This program can provide a college education at an extremely reduced price to low-income students. We also support the Governor’s proposal for the Hoosier College Promise, which can cover the full cost of attending Ivy Tech Community College, and significantly lower the out-of-pocket cost for students attending a 4-year institution.

 The Commission also proposes expanding the eligibility for financial aid to more middle-income Hoosiers, who are often not eligible for other need-based financial aid.  In addition, Learn More Indiana is leading a statewide effort to make sure Hoosiers don’t miss out on money for college by failing to meet the March 10 FAFSA deadline for financial aid.

Our colleges and universities must do all they can to realize efficiencies, control costs, and realign institutional resources to support underrepresented students.  In spite of the difficult economic environment, the state must maintain its funding for public higher education.

 When it comes to affordable college education, we can’t afford to fail.

 Stan Jones

Indiana Commissioner

for Higher Education

Criminal act

To the Editor:

This letter is being sent to you due to a recent crime committed by an irresponsible juvenile in possession of a firearm that resulted in the death of a beloved family pet.

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I own property in Switzerland County, Indiana, and was visiting over the holiday weekend. My family was there Friday for the afternoon along with our dog. Our dog wandered into the woods of our property and was subsequently shot, along with another neighbor’s dog. They both died.

The shooter is a 15-year-old boy who was hunting on the adjacent property. He is being charged with two counts of animal cruelty due to the fact he admitted to the officer that he shot the dogs while he w as up in a deer stand near our property line and in no way were the dogs a threat to him, other than scaring off the deer. Because he is a juvenile, we are not permitted to attend the detention hearing even though it could very well be concluded without any input from us. The hearing was December 1st.

The first dog shot w as the Indiana neighbor’s dog. He died on the spot. Our dog was shot next, and suffered horribly. She stumbled out of the woods bleeding profusely. She died half an hour later in my 13-year-old son’s arms. Her name was “Buddie” because she was everyone’s buddy. She was a 50-pound Shepherd hound mix adopted from the Hamilton County SPCA a little over a year ago. She was still a puppy and has never caused trouble for anyone, much less pose a risk to a hunter up in a deer stand with a loaded rifle.

I can’t begin to relay the unspeakable brutality of this incident and the long lasting impact this will have on me and my entire family. I just thank God none of my kids were in the woods when this happened. It could have been one of them. It’s horrific enough that they had to witness first hand the stupidity and total lack of humanity and the unspeakable level of cruelty of another human being.

This kid shot those dogs with the intent and “thrill” of a kill. We heard the two rifle shots, spaced approximately six to seven seconds apart. He took his time in between shootings to be sure he didn’t miss.

Even after summoning the sheriff, it took quite a bit of persistence on our part to convince him that something needed to be done. Apparently incidents like this are shrugged off and not taken very seriously due to the fact Switzerland County is “hunter” friendly. No disrespect is meant to law enforcement as they were ultimately supportive and did press charges.

Thank you.

Denise Greve

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As a member of law enforcement for 30-plus years and a resident of Indiana I write this to express my total disbelief in the attitude of the Switzerland County Juvenile justice authorities. I am well aware that the mission of juvenile court is the consideration for the welfare of the juvenile offender. However, I should think this might to some degree be accomplished by sending a message as to what is and isn’t acceptable behavior within the community.

I would tend to believe that in must communities shooting up the dogs of two different families would be considered a most revolting savage act of senseless cruelty. At this point I have serious doubt as to this being the view of Switzerland County authorities. Since I have been following this matter closely I base this observation on the following: First: A general reluctance to treat the incident with the required seriousness due such a horrific act committed by a youthful member of society. Second: Only due to persistence of the victim’s family the rusted “wheels” of justice in Switzerland County began to slowly grind. Third: Due only to the pressure of others injecting their views and concerns of the matter, the “wheels” actually turned ever so slightly.

However, the ultimate issue that is absolutely mind blowing is the fact of the crime being committed with a firearm and the firearm not being ordered destroyed. As I understand, it will be handed right back to the offender’s family. What could possibly justify the return of a weapon to the offender when the crime was committed with the weapon? This kid deliberately used the firearm to kill, thus destroying the precious property of two families. Why would destroying the firearm even require a second thought? I should think even in the world of juvenile justice it might be recognized that atrocious actions are followed by certain consequences. If nothing else, common sense dictates that you do not place a weapon back in the hands of the law breaker.

In closing, I will point out to the citizens of Switzerland County that the juvenile authorities send a loud and clear message. The shooting of an innocent beloved family pet is just not much of a crime in this part of the country.

Sam Valone

Aurora