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COMMENTARY: COLLEGE GRADS OVERWHELMED WITH DEBT by TOM PAUKEN
by Tom Pauken    Mon, Nov 7, 2005, 01:34 PM

A story in the November 14, 2005 issue of Business Week highlights a problem that has been building for some years – college grads are being saddled with high levels of student loan and credit card debt that may take them decades to pay off. The article profiles a number of graduates who are stuck with financial obligations from their college years.

William Love has a current debt of $111,000 as he tries to finish his MBA while working in a "temporary, full-time job as a financial analyst at Constellation Brands." Texan Cristina Garcia Gamboa and her husband Manuel Gamboa have student loan debts amounting to $116,000. Manuel is now getting an MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. When he finishes, "they will have accumulated an additional $100,000 in debt."

In the Pauken family, five of our children got through college through a combination of financial assistance from us, part time work, partial scholarships, and student loans. However, none of them started out after college with anything near the levels of debt obligation cited in the Business Week article.

One major factor contributing to this growing problem is the huge increase in the cost of higher education. When I went to Georgetown University in the 1960s, tuition, room and board were $2,000 per year. Now, the cost of a Georgetown education is around $40,000 per year. What this does is make it difficult for children of middle class families to afford a university like Georgetown without the parents and/or children incurring a substantial financial obligation. The Business Week article points out that the cost of higher education has gone "up by 63% at public schools and 47% at private" schools over the past decade and a half. Here in Texas, tuition at our public colleges has gone up dramatically since the Legislature allowed the university system to set their own tuition levels a few years ago. Do we run the risk of freezing the middle class kids out of the higher education system by what we are doing at our public institutions in Texas? Or, loading them up with debt that will take years to repay? And, are degrees from expensive private colleges worth having to take out loans in excess of $100,000? Somehow, the cost of higher education has gotten out of whack in America. Higher costs do not necessarily correlate with a better education.

On our site, we began a series Sunday called "Choosing the Right College" from the 2006 Edition of that college guide. This series will focus on some of the best colleges in Texas. The Business Week article entitled "Thirty & Broke" is an important addition to read alongside the latest College Guide. The link to the Business Week article is here: www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_46/b3959107.htm

 

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WRIGHT AMENDMENT CHATTER
by Carolyn Barta    Mon, Nov 7, 2005, 12:04 PM

Our sources in the nation’s capital think changes in the Wright Amendment could come in 2007 as part of the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. If everything moves along in an orderly fashion, the FAA bill would be the likely place to attach changes to Wright.

That’s not to say that some senator from Nevada or Missouri or some other state might get frustrated with the process and try to attachment an amendment to some other bill -- if they want to get flights from their state direct into Love Field. But making Love Field access part of the FAA reauthorization makes the most sense.

Eventually, some changes are expected, according to correspondents who cover this story. But they point out that there are many steps that could be taken between full repeal and doing nothing. They expect some compromise that will be short of full repeal.

Various pieces of legislation already have been introduced, and the Senate Science and Transportation Committee will hold hearing this month to gather information and start the public debate. Both Texas senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, have reservations about repealing Wright and will have to be convinced that DFW Airport is not hurt by whatever action is taken.

In the House, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton is a player in this debate. He’s American Airlines’ protector and will do whatever he can to keep the repeal of Wright from happening.

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MARRIAGE AMENDMENT GENERATES CONTROVERSY AND CASH
by William Lutz    Sun, Nov 6, 2005, 04:30 PM

Most of this election's headlines surround Proposition 2 - the ban on same-sex marriages.  The reports for the "Save Texas Marriage" campaign confirm what conservatives have long suspected:  it is a front group for former Rep. Glen Maxey's (D-Austin) Non Nonsense in November campaign.

The auto-dial phone messages that have drawn considerable media coverage  are listed in the Save Texas Marriage reports as in-kind contributions from No Nonsense in November and No Nonsense in 2006.  (The messages asserted that poorly written language in the amendment could nullify all marriages)

The No November Nonsense campaign did surprisingly well with small donors.  Its 8-day report showed $147,595 raised and $138,380 spent.  The vast majority of this amount comes from donations of $100 or less.  The vast majority of the contributions came from Texas.

The campaign for traditional marriage, by contrast, focused on large donations.  The Texas Marriage Alliance consists of a website with legislators and Gov. Rick Perry promoting traditional marriage and Prop 2.  It was funded with a $10,000 contribution from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry. 

Additionally, Texans for Marriage has done direct mail and auto dial campaigns for Prop 2, including a spot from Attorney General Greg Abbott responding to the "Save Texas marriage" auto dial message.  Texans for Marriage raised $224,042 and spent $80,683 on the eight day report.  The bulk of this money came in the form of $100,000 check from Bob Perry and Vaquillas, LLC.

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RAILROAD AMENDMENT CREATES UNEXPECTED HEAT
by William Lutz    Sun, Nov 6, 2005, 04:11 PM

Compared with 2003, the 2005 constitutional amendment campaign is a low-budget affair.  In 2003, tort reform and trial lawyer groups spent more than $10 million fighting over damage caps in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Surprisingly, early vote turnout in 2005 exceeds the 2003 level.  And although the amount spent is in the thousands, rather than the millions, the contributions and expenditures reports still have a story to tell.  The eight day reports reflect campaign spending up to October 31st.  The period between 30-days and eight days reports is generally the time frame when a large portion of campaign budgets is raised and spent.

A YES committee has been formed for Prop 1, which would create a rail relocation and improvement fund.  The YES committee touts endorsements from several metropolitan chambers of commerce, city mayors and country judges, Gov. Rick Perry and US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson.

The committee's cash cones mainly from construction and engineering firms.  It also reports and in-kind contribution from Texans for Rick Perry. (The campaign sent out an email to it list on behalf of Prop 1).

No PAC has been formed to oppose Prop 1.  However, most of the groups that oppose toll roads also oppose Prop 1. Most of the rhetoric on Prop 1 revolves around whether it is appropriate for the government to assist in financing the relocation of railroads away from urban centers.  However, the anti-toll groups do not like Rick Perry, and his vocal support for the initiative likely played a role in attracting opposition.

YES on ! spokesman Ray Sullivan says Prop 1 is not about toll roads or Perry' Tans-Texas Corridor proposal.  "Prop 1 is separate and independent  from the Trans-Texas Corridor," he said.  "One could make public policy and safety and transportation argument for aligning the coordinating modes of transportation, whether it's airports, rail, ports or roads.  But Prop 1 will help solve a real safety and congestion and transportation problem in a lot of cities - places like Dallas, San Antonio and Houston - which have been really hammered by rail safety and congestion problems."  Sullivan also said Prop 1 is not about using road tolls for railroads.

The amendment creates a rail relocation and improvement fund, but does not specify how that fund will get funded.  The Legislature would determine that at a later date. 

The surprise on the report is that no railroads have contributed to the YES on 1 campaign.

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ON AIR WITH DALLAS BLOGGERS
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Sun, Nov 6, 2005, 03:19 PM

Every Sunday at 4 pm three Dallas Bloggers (John Collins, Guillermo Galindo and Tom Pauken) appear on KFCD 990AM's Sunday Afternoon Politics show.  They offer a diversity of views on a wide range of ideas and issues.  That is from 4 to 5 every Sunday on KFCD 990AM.

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PART ONE BAYLOR: CHOOSING THE RIGHT COLLEGE … IN TEXAS By John Zmirak
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Sun, Nov 6, 2005, 12:36 AM

“I believe that children are the future….” So goes one of the 1990s most cloying, yet irritatingly catchy songs. “Teach them well, and let them find the way….” I’ll bet the treacle melody is already running through your head right now. Hard to get out, isn’t it? Try slapping a classical CD into your PC—Mozart, maybe. Let good music drive out the bad.

Still, the sentiment is sound. And like most clichés (such as “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”) it’s anchored in the truth. Such simple realities, which are easily obscured by ideology, don’t go away just because we hide our eyes.

Careful parents know that the help they give their children in choosing a college will make a profound difference in how they turn out—in the development of their souls as well as their scholarship or success. That’s why millions of dollars are spent every year on tutors, SAT preps, campus visits, expensive applications, and 1000-page college guides. But too few of these resources address what is really the central question of college education—what does a given school teach, how well, and why? That is what we try to do in Choosing the Right College, a regular publication of Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Serious high school students also want to know what College best fits their interests.

In the current edition of Choosing the Right College, which I edit, over 130 schools are covered in greater depth than you’ll find anywhere else. Here is what we have to say about Texas schools which are covered. They are in alphabetical order:

Baylor University

Baylor.jpgAt Baylor, academic standards have remained comparatively strong. And the Baptist tradition continues to permeate its academic programs and the social life of its students. As one professor told us, “If you want to be an insider at Baylor, you can’t just be from Texas —you have to be a Texas Baptist.” Indeed, recent attempts by the administration to broaden the school’s appeal to other Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics—for instance, by hiring them—provoked a major controversy on campus among board members, faculty and alumni who feared that the school was watering down its Baptist identity, and led to several high-level resignations. The school’s future direction is something of an open question.

Of the schools in this guide, Baylor has one of the most solid curricula, though it isn’t quite a traditional core. Indeed, as the school’s Web site justifiably boasts, “according to a study on general education requirements conducted in April by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, Baylor is the only school that meets [ACTA’s] highest criteria.” Baylor’s general education requirements dictate more than half of a student’s coursework; for instance the English study required of all students in Arts and Sciences is more structured than the requirements for English majors at many other schools. With such a foundation, students are well-prepared to pursue further work in their chosen majors.

Baylor’s combination of religious commitment and academic rigor makes it a unique and robust institution. Its attempt to strengthen that combination while becoming a major research university is “an audacious undertaking in the face of historic trends in church and society,” in the words of the Christian Century. Let us hope that it succeeds without tearing itself apart.

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KTVT SCORES WITH HODGE STORY
by Scott Bennett    Sat, Nov 5, 2005, 01:08 PM

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Rep. Terri Hodge
KTVT-TV Channel 11 had a remarkable report on last night's news about Dallas State Representative Terry Hodge.  The report by the station's investigative reporter Todd Bensman holds that Hodge received rent breaks from a subsidized housing developer  for whom she had done political favors.  According to Channel 11 Hodge helped gain approval of four projects for developer Brian Potashnick's Southwest Housing.

This is the kind of reporting that made another Dallas station, Belo's Channel 8 the dominant force in the Dallas market for decades and a national innovator.  Now the tide is shifting to CBS's KTVT Channel 11.  Thank goodness we are not a one TV station town.

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Mama, are they shooting at us?
by Bill DeOre    Sat, Nov 5, 2005, 12:55 PM

Rove cartoon.jpg

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UT AUSTIN JOINS THE PRESIDENTIAL PARADE
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Sat, Nov 5, 2005, 01:13 AM

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UT President in waiting William Powers
It seems to have been a day for naming new University Presidents in Texas.  Following in the footsteps of Baylor University the University of Texas at Austin named the current Dean of its Law School, William C. Powers, as new President.  Well, almost.  Under Texas law 21-days must pass before the appointment can become official. 

The University Chancellor Mark Yudof, Dean Powers' predecessor as Law School Dean, praised Powers as a visionary and consensus builder.  UT Board of Regents Chairman James Huffines said that "we looked nationwide and realized the right person was just down the street."  Mr. Huffines was unconcerned that Powers held a JD and not a PhD considered by many faculty as a prerequisite for a major University Presidency.  Huffines noted that several major universities had lawyers as presidents.

Powers is well regarded by the campus's faculty and is expected to move easily into the new job.

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DR. JOHN LILLEY ACCEPTS CHALLENGE TO UNITE BAYLOR AS NEW PRESIDENT
by Scott Bennett    Fri, Nov 4, 2005, 11:59 PM

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New Baylor President Dr. John Lilley
Today the Regents of Baylor University named a new President and prayed their decision would end several years of acrimony and division arising from the actions of immediate past President Robert Sloan. Their choice is a Baylor alumni and music major John Lilley current President of the University of Nevada at Reno. The son of a Louisiana Baptist Minister, Lilley will become Baylor’s 13th President in its 160 year history.

At an age when most University Presidents are ready to retire to their study (66) Dr. Lilley will face a school deeply divided over curriculum, Dr. Sloan’s Baylor 2012 program and its attendant building program, faculty demands, and financial instability. Dr. Lilley also comes as the Selection Committee’s second or third choice. Earlier in the year a Regent appointed advisory committee to the Selection Committee voted 8 to 1 to recommend Linda Livingstone, Dean of the Management School at Pepperdine University, but the Selection Committee itself sharply divided on a 6 to 5 vote to recommend interim President Bill Underwood. Underwood later withdrew from consideration.

Dr. Lilley has an impressive record as a University builder. Lilley spent 21 years at Penn State University at Erie where he eventually was made President. He guided that school through a doubling of its student body, a sharp rise in standards, and substantial success in fund raising. He moved to Reno to become that school’s 14th President in 2001 and had recently been handed a lucrative contract extension. “I would never have Reno for any other school than my alma mater,” said Lilley. While Nevada Regents universally praised Lilley some in that schools faculty had been critical of Lilley’s tenure.

Baylor is of course to Southern Baptists what Notre Dame is to Catholics. Yet, the school has indeed suffered from the denominational battles between moderates and conservatives within the denomination as had the denomination itself. All parties clearly want Baylor to achieve heavyweight status, but each faction has its own path to greatness. Dr. Lilley has his work cut out for him.

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