Changes in Student Financial Aid

I still consider myself a financial aid guru despite the fact that I haven’t worked in the field of financial aid in four years. Prior to my disability, I worked on and off in financial aid as a data entry clerk, a financial aid administrator, and a financial aid director – giving me over 10 years’ experience. At any rate, I’ve learned a lot and helped a lot of students accomplish their dream of earning a certificate or degree.

This year, there were some significant changes in financial aid, especially for graduate students. I’ve always maintained that the government cares more about students earning their associates or bachelor’s degree or a vocational certificate. Students continuing on to pursue their masters or doctorate degree really don’t matter, even if salary can increase drastically with graduate and post-graduate schools. As the priority is for students to pursue post-secondary education, the government offers Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, State Need Grants, Worker Retraining Grants, etc. These same federal scholarships are not available to graduate or post-graduate students, which I will always maintain is a disservice to such students. The traditional student is dependent (according to the federal government) on their parents until the age of 23 or until he/she is married, has a child, earns a bachelor degree, is active military/veteran, or has been an orphan. Because these students are dependent upon their parents, their parents’ income is factored into the students’ need for federal financial aid. Conversely, students considered independent only have their income considered when determining financial aid.

What does this all mean? Well, dependent students having also their parents’ income possibly aren’t as needy as independent students who aren’t dependent upon parents’ income. Now, I say possibly as I acknowledge there are students who desperately need financial aid to achieve their dream of a college degree or certificate. Unfortunately, though, independent students pursuing a post-secondary education have to almost be poverty level before qualifying for government grants. Logically, then, one can understand why graduate students (defined as independent students) can have an even more difficult time financially completing their degrees. Well, now the government has made it even more difficult.

Up to this point, I have only mentioned federal grants. Many students, post-secondary, graduate, or post-graduate, also use federal loans to finance their education, and there are two types of loans – need-based, called subsidized loans; and non-need-based, called unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans allow students to borrow money and have those loans not earn any interest until six months after graduation or withdrawal. They are need-based similar to federal grants; however, students do not have to be as needy as those who qualify for federal grants. While the maximum amount of these loans is limited to a certain amount, the total limited amount is determined by how much a school costs. On the opposite side, unsubsidized loans are awarded to anyone who applies and is eligible for federal student loans; however, unsubsidized loans start earning interest immediately. They are not related to need, so students with any income can qualify. Both types of loans have relatively low interest rates (less than 7%), so they are valuable regardless of the type of loan, but of course the subsidized loan is much more desirable.

What has changed? Starting on July 1, 2012, graduate and post-graduate students are no longer eligible for subsidized loans. The reason for this change is to ensure undergraduate students can still receive Pell Grants. Really? Graduate and post-graduate students have to suffer so that undergraduates can get grants that graduate and post-graduate students have never been able to get? But the rules regulating subsidized loans have also changed. Remember how subsidized loans don’t start earning interest until six months after graduation or withdrawal? The six-month grace period is going away. Finally, the ability to receive Pell Grants has changed. Previously, students had up to nine years of undergraduate studies where they could be eligible for a Pell Grant. Now, students are only eligible for six years. How can the nine-year or now six-month eligibility happen when only undergraduate studies are eligible for Pell Grants? Consider the student who can’t make up his mind on what degree he wants and constantly changes majors or schools! Or, consider the student who takes longer than four years to graduate. There are other changes, but there are small and have very little effect on students – unlike these two aforementioned changes.

What can students do? I cannot stress enough that students should speak to their financial aid department at their school. These are knowledgeable individuals. They know how to counsel students on financing their school, where students should look for alternative financing, and the advantages/disadvantages of borrowing loans for school. And, one final note – fill out the FAFSA. It is the only way to be considered for federal financial aid, and it’s a free application.


Of Religion and US Politics

Disclaimer…  these are my thoughts and my opinions. Read at your own risk.

For those living in the United States, I’m sure you have seen how religion has impacted politics, especially lately with not only our current president but also with the republican presidential candidates.

First, there’s the controversy over insurance coverage for birth control, causing extreme concern with the Catholic church, and I’m sure other Christian churches. Of course, there has been a compromise asking only that institutions such as hospitals and colleges run by religious organizations be required to provide insurance that covers birth control, but the controversy and feelings of discontent still exist with not only church leaders but also select adherents of the curch.

Then, there are the presidential candidates trying to prove who is the more conservative – who is the Christian with whom the majority of Christians will identify. Santorum has gone so far as to state that the separation of Church and State ought not to be absolute. Others, believing that Mormonism is a cult, refuse to elect Romney because of his faith.

Should religion really be the basis upon which Americans elect their president? Further, should religion be the basis upon, for lack of a better word, hatred for our current president?

My opinion? I say no. First of all, not every Catholic (or every Christian in general) subscribe to the belief that birth control is a sin or that abortion as an absolute is a sin. Further, Mormons have proven themselves over and over again that they are no different from what is thought to be mainstream Christianity. Their unique beliefs are really no different than individual interpretations of baptism or the transubstantiation of the “body and blood of Christ”. Likewise, Christians of all denominations do not always subscribe to all tenets of their denomination. Mitt Romney, for one, holds a stance on immigration that is contrary to his Mormon faith.

More importantly, it seems the majority of Americans including politicians have forgotten the first amendment, ensuring all of our rights to freedom of religion (non-governmental interference in religion and the freedom to practice), which I, for one, hope is never taken away. I prefer to believe that societal good is more important than one’s specific religious beliefs of what is good.

Finally, I am proud that the United States has the first ammendment, protecting freedom of religion. My opinion is that I am grateful that I can believe what I believe (right or wrong) without someone physically persecuting me for those beliefs. Some countries aren’t as lucky as those in the United States. I wish our current politicians would realize that.

So, in closing, I want to share some quotes, I wish all Americans would consider when reflecting on politics:

  • Philosopher John Stuart Mill said, “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind”.
  • Thomas Jefferson said, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg”.
  • President Kennedy said, “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source — no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all”.
  • President Filmore said, “I am tolerant of all creeds. Yet if any sect suffered itself to be used for political objects I would meet it by political opposition. In my view church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact. Religion and politics should not be mingled”.
  • President Grant said, “Let us labor for the security of free thought, free speech, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and equal rights and privileges for all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion;…. leave the matter of religious teaching to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contribution. Keep church and state forever separate.”
  • Political theorist James Madison said, “There is not a shadow of right on the general goverment to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject tha I have warmly supported religious freedom”.
  • President Theodore Roosevelt said, “Discrimination against the holder of one faith means retaliatory discrimination against men of other faiths. The inevitable result of entering upon such a practise would be an abandonment of our real freedom of conscience and a reversion to the dreadful conditions of religious dissensions which in so many lands have proved fatal to true liberty, to true religion, and to all advance in civilization”.
  • William James Bryan, secretary of state under President Wilson, said, “If God himself was not willing to use coercion to force man to accept certain religious views, man, uninspired and liable to error, ought not to use the means that Jehovah would not employ.”

Greg Double Releases Ego Centric

Greg Double Releases Ego Centric


New Edition’s 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour Wows Fans

New Edition's 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour Wows Fans


Songwriters

What better way to start off 2012 than with a new passion I want to explore, songwriting.
While this article has been posted on multiple sites, true credit belongs to Songtrust for publishing the top songwriters of 2011.
I’ve listed the individuals in no particular order as I’m not interested in their ranking, only in their credentials.




Ester Dean

Katy Perry

Dr Luke

Benny Blane

Max Martin

Johan Karl Schuster

Ammo

Goonrock

Ammar-Malik

Adele

Adam Levine

Mikkel Storleer-Eriksen

Stefan Kendal Gordy

Phil Lawreence

Ari Levine

Tor Erik Hermansen

Bruno Mars

Pitbull

Sandy Vee

Peter Schroeder

One similarity I’ve noticed with all these songwriters is their ethnic heritage. Daniel Levitin explained that very few cognitive musicologists are from the United States. I wonder, are these songwriters also cognitive musicologists?


Fa La La La can Be Frustrating

Earlier today, I was directed to an article, written by Dan Levitin, speaking of the dissatisfaction shoppers have when listening to repetitive Christmas music. As a courtesy to those unfamiliar with his research on music, Levitin provides an in-depth introduction. Then he argues two seemingly contradictory constructs:

  • We have evolved from listening to music in community to listening to music individually via iPods, Mp3 players, etc.
  • Christmas music ought to be enjoyed within a communal setting.

Can both arguments exist? Initially I asked this question as seen in the article comments, but I believe I now understand his arguments and see this is no contradiction at all.

Repetitive Christmas Music
To understand the gist of this article, we must first understand Levitin’s definition of repetitive Christmas music and where people find it annoying.
Levitin explains he is referring specifically to those Christmas songs with which we are overly familiar: Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. To his definition, I would add store jingles written specifically for the Christmas season and played far too frequently through the loud speaker.
I worked at a discount retail chain from 1994 to 2000, and I still remember the store’s jingle:

  • Make it more magic. Add a little ho, ho, ho …

If as a store employee, I had heard the song as many times such that I remember the lyrics approximately 20 years later, I can only imagine how shoppers must have felt.
Secondly, Levitin argues it is only the repetitive Christmas songs heard within retail establishments that are annoying to people.

Evolution in Listening to Music
Levitin draws upon his previous research and explains how our early ancestors used music to communicate and celebrate important events. These people would listen and/or sing as a community, and they enjoyed doing so.
Today, we enjoy music within a solo environment. From the invention of the Walkman to today’s iPod and mp3 players, we have found that listening to our favorite songs is best accomplished through headphones and ear buds. Certainly, this private listening ensures that we aren’t offending those around us, but Levitin believes listening to music individually holds greater meaning.
It is an evolutionary step. I would liken it to our computer use. I was drilled on correct penmanship in elementary school, and I loved to write almost the same as I do now. I had no difficulty writing with a pen or pencil, but now, having used the computer for 20 years, it is extremely challenging to handwrite anything. My hand hurts immediately, and my penmanship is very poor compared to years ago. Is it, then fair to say that we have evolved in this one form of communication?
Through my understanding of this analogy, I can better appreciate Levitin’s theory in our evolution in listening to music. Further as we are now individual listeners of music rather than communal ones, it is logical that listening to music in a communal setting can be challenging or, as Levitin writes, annoying.

Christmas Music Enjoyed Communally
Wait a minute: in one paragraph, Levitin argues our music listening evolution logically explains why we don’t appreciate music in a communal setting. In the next paragraph, he argues that Christmas music can only be enjoyed in a communal setting. How can this second argument be true when we’ve already been lead to believe repetitive Christmas music in retail settings is annoying?
I am reminded of Levitin’s chapter 7 from “The World in Six Songs”: Religion, or People Get Ready. Music, like Christmas songs, can be used to celebrate or commemorate a holiday. When music is employed as a method of celebration, it is best done within a group setting. Levitin explains in his book,

  • Ceremonial music is almost always specific to place and/or time. Such music sung or played irreverently could be considered blasphemy.

It is therefore important that these songs be enjoyed and/or sung at the right place and at the right time.
Shoppers consumed by materialistic consumerism aren’t celebrating anything. We are obsessed with finding the perfect gift and will travel to multiple stores to find said gift. Television commercials and daily ads in the mailbox constantly remind us of how many shopping days remain until Christmas. Is it any surprise that we are stressed and frustrated before even entering a store? Certainly this is neither the appropriate place nor time for repetitive Christmas music.
We will find the Christmas spirit, but it will only come after we have lost that glazed obsession compelling us to buy gifts. And, when we have embraced the Christmas spirit, we can enjoy, rather than be annoyed by, Christmas songs whether with family, at a Christmas party, or at a house of worship.


I Am a Hip-Hop Collegian (Higher Education 12/21/2011)

When I first started thinking about my dissertation, I was considering one’s culture as the foundation; whether I was focusing on the massage practitioner, the kinesthetic learner, the foreign language learner, or the adolescent – I had to take under consideration the culture from which these individuals first learned how to engage.
Of course, the realization that culture was the common theme in my dissertation topic ideas wasn’t immediately clear. My goal was to find something that focused on learning theory; therefore I was concerned with the dependent variables rather than the independent ones.
Having recently read a preview of Emery Petchauer’s “Hip-hop culture in college students’ lives : elements, embodiment, and higher edutainment”, I find myself not only eager to read the book, but fascinated at my self-identification as a hip-hop collegian and thoughtful of future research studies started from this book.

Self-Identification
When I re-initiated my journey with journalism in 2009, I was offered a position as the Tacoma Hip-Hop Music Examiner. For some, that title meant I only liked hip-hop music. The truth, however, is I love all genres of music, and this assignment only served to force me to learn about the hip-hop scene in Tacoma. It has been an incredible learning experience as I have found new favorite music, networked with local indie musicians, and learned more than I ever imagined about the music industry.
As I further embraced my love of writing and sought other writing opportunities, I began to consider the implications of a career that integrated writing, music, research, and education. More networking possibilities emerged. I voraciously searched for anything that merged music and education (without being music education) and discovered authors Oliver Sacks, Anthony Storr, and Daniel Levitin who advocate for music cognition. In February I will attend a national music industry conference. In March, I’ll attend a music cognition conference. I am now aware of how my fields of interest do integrate and can make me uniquely qualified as not only a writer and researcher, but also as a musician’s advocate.
My soul-searching remains unfinished. As I have said I realized my interest lies in both learning theory and the culture one brings to learning. One essential factor I have emphasized in the past is the learner’s understanding of his learning style and temperament – collectively called a learning strategy. One assessment defined me as “personally ideational with kinesthetic preferences”: I love to learn ideas, but I do so best in environments where I feel in some kind of relationship with the instructor and where I am able to “do”, not just see or hear what I’m learning. It would appear from Petchauer’s book I could also be defined as a hip-hop collegian:

  • For hip-hop collegians, it is natural to sample from all different types of knowledge sources for class because this is precisely what they’ve been taught to do through hip-hop.
    Another example is the idea of feeling something, or what has been called “kinetic consumption.” Feeling or affect is a legitimate way to engage with the world, and it is a quintessentially hip-hop way to engage with the world. Hip-hop first and foremost is meant to be felt. Period. Sure, it may be interesting, evocative, or even offensive —but all of this comes after its feeling.

I have never walked away from a class feeling that I have thoroughly learned everything offered in that class. That might sound strange coming from a self-proclaimed learner, but for me, I never felt it was necessary to know everything. It has always been about quality of knowledge, not quantity. I was interested in finding things that connected, and the unimportant disconnected information was only worth studying when there was a test. I suppose you could also say I have “sampled” in my search for integration of music, writing, research, and education. I skipped chapters on health and music or what types of music a person liked and instead focused on how music affected the body and mind in general.
The idea of “feeling” education, in my opinion, is the definition of a learner who is “personal” and “kinesthetic”. Learning has to connect in some way to my passions: travel, languages, music, movies, writing, strategy, etc. And, in order for me to fully learn, I have to emotionally and physically understand the information – not just cognitively understand it. I’ve often found a disconnect between what I know cognitively and what I know emotionally and physically. Typically I will remember longer what I first felt rather than what I first heard. Therefore, I believe I will add hip-hop collegian next to scholar practitioner and perpetual learner.

Implications for Further Research
If there is such a thing as hip-hop culture and such a type of learner as a hip-hop collegian, could there be a pop culture or a country music culture, and what would those types of learners look like?
Having not yet read Petchauer’s book, I can only assume he limits his discussion to college students.
What about the hip-hop culture in high school, and is it the same or different than that in college? Is understanding the hip-hop learner any less important than studying the hip-hop collegian?
I am new to this field of study, so it’s very possible some of the above questions have been answered. Finding answers to these questions and more only further solidifies my understanding that my fields of interest do and should merge.

Recommended Reading
Petchauer introduced the concept of hip-hop collegians with his dissertation, “Welcome to the underground: Portraits of worldview and education among hip-hop collegians”, published by Regent University in 2007. He has since explored the hip-hop culture as it pertains to college education with African Americans. While “Hip-hop culture in college students’ lives : elements, embodiment, and higher edutainment” is Petchauer’s first book, he has lectured on the topic as recently as November 2010, urging his audience of education students to use hip-hop as a method of teaching and to use the concept of feeling knowledge rather than just knowing.
Looking at just the date when Petchauer earned his EdD in education pedagogy, I will assume that he is approximately the same age as I. I am intrigued by his field of study and envious of his success in publishing. If his book is as good as I believe it will be, I will have to add Petchauer to my list of influences. Certainly, he has set an example for me to follow – publishing a book four years after earning his doctorate! I wonder if I can do the same?

I have requested Petchauer’s book from my library through interlibrary loan. With any luck, I should be reading it by the end of January. Stay tuned. You may find a blog or two about it!