Letters to the Editor

Readers write about election-race speeches, Huckabee and Evangelicals, and college tuition.

Typical election coverage keeps discourse shallow

Regarding Bob Katz's Feb. 1 Opinion piece, "Silver-tongued vs. eloquent: Do voters know the difference?": Mr. Katz bemoaned Americans' penchant for choosing style over substance in presidential races. However, the reason Americans are ill-equipped to separate style from ideas in verbal rhetoric is that the corporate media offer little of the latter.

As television and newspapers follow superficial issues and tally donation dollars, candidates are forced to squeak out policy ideas in 30-second sound bites that most citizens never hear. The process enables the media conglomerates (to which most of those donation dollars flow in order to ensure public access) to pick favorites, exclude dissent, caricature candidates, and render ideas permitted into the echo chamber of discourse safe for public consumption.

Entirely eliminating ideas minimizes content and maximizes conflict, transforming the democratic process into a sporting event or "American Idol"-style popularity contest. Those candidates who make it through the gantlet are much the same – unthreatening, corporate friendly, political conservatives with interchangeable ideas.

Consequently, speeches that reach the airwaves are those that say nothing. In short, Americans vote stupidly because the media keep them stupid.

Michael Sepesy

Huckabee supporters will not switch

In response to Brett Grainger's Feb. 4 Opinion piece, "Huckabee's evangelical twist": I think the author missed the point. Christians vote their conscience. So, if the GOP does not include Huckabee on the ticket, this means Christian voters will stay home. To conclude that they will vote for a Democrat is crazy.

To marginalize Huckabee as appealing only to Evangelicals is to make an incorrect analysis. He appeals to all moral voters. In our Huckabee Volunteer group we have atheists, Muslims, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, etc. They are value voters, and if no party represents their values, they will be staying home – not switching parties.

Elizabeth Sipfle
Commerce Twp, Mich.

Keep mandates away from colleges

Regarding your Jan. 30 editorial, "Rich colleges, poor students," concerning the Senate's interference with college endowments: Government was not created to interfere in business or our personal lives. Doing so is the beginning of making our democratic republic a socialist one. The United States government is not a police state. It is not a socialist organization. Congress must stop trying to make it both, and get out of our personal lives.

Government's purpose is to govern: lower taxes, cut waste, protect citizens, honor and abide by the Constitution, protect our borders, and enforce our laws.

Our government heavily taxes and meddles in business, which hurts our economy and limits jobs. It interferes with the finances of universities and the cost of education. It tries to run medical care. It gives our taxpayer money to illegal immigrants and to governments that ignore human rights. Congress needs to start governing and stop policing.

Senator Grassley's interference with university endowments begins the great horror of a free democratic republic: social engineering, the redistribution of personal wealth, and the destruction of capitalism. Private property is exactly that – not government property.

Americans should revolt against this.

Anne Marie Erskine
Avondale, Pa.

Colleges are filling the gaps left by Government

Regarding your recent editorial on college costs: Thank you for realizing that affordability and access is a much bigger question than the size of college endowments. The most recent cry from legislators about college wealth and a move to mandate endowment spending is based on a basic misunderstanding of the way endowments – and colleges – work.

Only a tiny percentage of schools have endowments of the size of the wealthiest cited. I agree that some of those sitting on billion-dollar-plus troves should explain why they charge the highest tuitions in the nation and spend less than 5 percent of their endowments – but in reality, there would not be much impact if they all began to spend 5 percent.

Most colleges struggle daily to hold the line on costs while providing a high-quality, personalized (and expensive) education. Being highly tuition dependent, like most of the smaller independent colleges in the Uniteed States, Albright's endowment provides only a small percentage of our operating revenues.

Institutional aid cuts the average "sticker price" tuition bill dramatically (at Albright, almost in half). In fact, we do draw down about 5 percent of our endowment every year – but five percent of a $50 million endowment is a far cry from 5 percent of a billion.

Colleges like Albright have been doing their part to increase access and affordability by dramatically discounting their tuitions in the form of "grants" to replace dollars that once were provided by state and federal governments. But the bigger problem with college costs is a precipitous decline in our government's historic investment in higher education. Since 1980, the ratio of federally subsidized loans to outright grants has shifted from 20:80 to 80:20. The predictable result is a dramatic increase in colleges providing "grants" that are "funded" by tuition discounting, and the correspondingly dramatic rise in graduates' debt load.

Given that a bachelor's degree is becoming an indispensable credential for success in our increasingly global economy, the public should be asking why we as a nation are not providing funding for capable young people who simply don't have the family resources to afford college.

This is the real issue that legislators need to address.

Lex O. McMillan III
Reading, Pa.

Albright College

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