State, taxpayers need to step up to help students

To the editor:

As financial aid director for the largest college in the state, I have a front row seat to Las Vegas’ economic collapse and the effort being exerted by people trying to pull themselves out of the problems created by foreclosures, lay-offs and under-employment. University system Chancellor James Rogers has spent a year attempting to communicate the plight of Nevadans trying to improve their situation by seeking a college education.

Now evidence of his message is pouring into student services offices across the state.

For the academic year that begins in August, the College of Southern Nevada has received an 82 percent increase in financial aid applications.

The college is on pace to receive nearly 33,000 requests for aid in the upcoming cycle — or 22,000 more than last year.

I should add that all 16 full-time employees, including myself, in the CSN financial aid office are doing our best to keep up with the increase in demand for services.

I have proudly served the state since 1993 — first at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and since 2007 at the College of Southern Nevada — and I have never seen anything like this. At CSN, students typically work and attend school part time and are able to cover the cost of tuition and books without taking out loans. That trend is clearly changing as the economy dives and those jobs that support students as they make their way toward degrees are not there. Student enrollment has grown at a record pace since the beginning of this recession and the numbers make it clear, more students need more help — including more borrowing to finance their education.

Right now it is up to state lawmakers to answer how far in debt students will have to go and the degree of educational quality received for the investment. It is not about us and them — it’s about all of us.

I believe in personal freedom and small government; but I also believe government has an important role and that role is to provide opportunity where none exist — by making education affordable, funding research into new areas, and by protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

For those things we must be willing to support one another by sharing a small part of our personal treasure by paying taxes.

Peter M. Hurley

LAS VEGAS

THE WRITER IS DIRECTOR OF STUDENT FINANCIAL SERVICES AT THE COLLEGE OF SOUTHERN NEVADA.

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