Week XV

Final week!

I can’t believe it’s over! It still feels like I just started yesterday, the semester having flown by. Although, overall, I definitely don’t want to experience this semester as a whole again. It’s been a difficult one! But I do feel like I have learned quite a lot, especially about my study style and what works best for me. This internship has made me a better writer and more appreciative of history.

In general, most people seem to find history boring and full of reading. I have to admit, in some years at school, I felt the same way. While I love reading, we’d learn about the same topics over and over in school, and I don’t know if it was just me or the way the material was presented, I was never really interested. Taking a few history courses at Loyola, though, and especially this internship, have made me appreciate history and realize how it is connected to the present.

Take my research topic, for example. Several of us wonder why we have to pay so much for college, and we borrow loans at a set interest rate that’s threatened to double every July for the past few years. I am glad I took the next step and actually looked into where and how it started, because  understanding the origin of the problem can help you find a solution. As I’ve stated previously, and probably bored to death any and all readers–the Higher Education Act had some unintended consequences. The more money the government gave to colleges, the greedier they became, raising their tuition for they knew that students would still attend, and the government would still provide aid. Colleges have taken advantage of this fact, and tuition continues to rise, with no sign of rates dropping anytime soon.

My research showed that this all started back in 1965, and it is the reason the burden continues to be placed on students–because we’re the ones benefitting the most from higher education, and are willing to pay whatever price it takes. Personally, I was ready to attend even higher-costing universities if I would’ve been accepted, even though the price tags are unaffordable. As my high school guidance counselor told my dad and I in consolation–it’s an investment. That’s quite true, in many ways.

But it still is quite a burden to carry-I’m neither rich nor poor, and I personally don’t even have a job. But the truth is, I’m in debt. Yes, I don’t have to pay that money yet, but I’m a junior in college, and in a few years, I will be expected to have a job (in this economy) and to start paying off my student loans. Technically, I’m in debt. Yes, this will pay off in the future, and yes, this is a necessity. But this necessity that LBJ alluded to in 1965 and meant to make accessible for all–is now a luxury for many. Our Congressmen (and women) had good intentions, as did LBJ–but they did not think of the unintended consequences of their actions. And today, we’re paying for it.

Week XIV

And we have reached the end! Sort of.

I found myself smirking while wrapping up my paper today, mostly because of the big realization I made by the end–this whole time, I’ve wondered who to “blame” for the insane college tuition and which president is at fault.

But the big thing to note is that CONGRESS passes laws around these parts (aka the U.S). The president can propose whatever he wants in his campaign speech (well, not really, but you get the gist) but the lawmaking is going on in Congress. The imagery in my head after my discussion of my paper with Dr. Shermer last week is this: LBJ, Nixon, and Carter holding their heads in annoyance as Congress stubbornly passed legislation that is far from what they wanted. Nixon was especially upset, even though he signed the reauthorization of the HEA.

Even Reagan didn’t really get what he wanted–aid went up a bit instead of being cut down as proposed. But loans went up more than grants, which is where things got messier than they ever were. There has always been overwhelming bipartisan agreement on providing federal aid for higher education–it seems that Congress would get pretty excited about making college more accessible and kept increasing funding. I think colleges just started to expect it–they could raise their tuitions and provide for all the programs they were offering, because they knew that no matter what the executive branch promised, the legislative branch would make more funding possible for students.

Everything became sort of messy due to that, because while aid did increase, it continued to place the burden on students–plus, our economy has worsened in the past few years which makes it pretty hard to pay off massive student loans.

I’ve submitted a rough draft of my paper this week. I’m a little nervous about the conclusion, though. My original intention was to end with how medical students have been affected, but there is not much to say on that–medical students are just more likely to pay off loans, and since they were carrying out the most, the burden was falling on the government to pay for the subsidies on their loan interest. So, the government decided that they would stop providing subsidized loans to graduate students, and give only unsubsidized loans to them, but at the 6.8% interest rate that is the double the rate offered for undergraduates.

It’s a pretty messy situation, and seems unfair, but I actually do not see it changing much anytime soon. College costs are greater than family incomes right now, but the more aid the government has offered in the past, the worst it has all become.

Week XIII

Whoa, almost forgot about this week’s blogpost! It has been a super busy week. With finals fast approaching, I’m closer to all these deadlines. It feels like just yesterday when we were saying “oh we have all semester.” Time flies when you’re busy, I guess!

So it turns out all my freaking out last week was unnecessary.  Dr. Shermer really liked what I have so far and think I have plenty of time to wrap things up. My thesis will be modified a bit, but I am going to wait until I have a really good final draft of this paper before I modify. I’m also wrapping things up sooner than planned–instead of talking about Carter, Reagan, the Bushes, etc., I’m going to stop at Reagan. The current policies were best shaped during Nixon’s term, and Reagan’s term changed everything because he was known as the “antieducation president.” 

The following administrations just extended these programs, so it’s best to stop at Reagan and then relate it to current debates. I was hoping to have gotten a little farther by tonight, but unfortunately, I’ve had a super busy week and gotten sick this weekend, so I’m a tad behind. I should have the Reagan stuff wrapped up tomorrow. Then I’ll conclude. 

For now, I have to cut down on my historiography and change the tone a little. It’s funny how, when you’re almost 75% through a paper, you finally start shaping your argument and see where you’re going. What I’m noticing so far is that from LBJ onwards, its CONGRESS that’s not in control. Congress is choosing to take things beyond where the president intended to go, in each administration. I think sometimes we tend to forget that the lawmakers are in Congress, it’s not the president that’s making these laws. And that’s exactly what happening here. It’s very interesting and fun to make the connections in this case. 

I also have over a 100 entries in my bibliography, which, I find completely insane! But all these historical newspapers have valid arguments and I’m enjoying going through them. 

Week XII

I cannot believe Week 12 just ended and we’re heading towards Week 13. Technically this week’s supposed to be my “rough draft” week but there is A LOT of information out there. I still remember the first few weeks of research when I was practically pulling my hair out in agony over the fact that not much had been said about the topic I had to write my historiography one. Turns out, there’s a lot to be found on primary documents, which tell their own story.

I have spent a considerable amount of time on the original HEA and the Johnson administration. Last week I spent time on Kennedy, Eisenhower, and early aid programs. This week has been all about Nixon. To me, Nixon was the game changer. Some historians argue that his administration’s reamendment shaped the financial aid policy of today. Not Eisenhower or Johnson-Nixon!

I think things will get even more complicated with Reagan and deregulation. It’s a bit predictable, but I was surprised with some of the Nixon stuff–for some reason I didn’t associate Nixon with Pell Grants because, well. I guess in the back of my head I kept thinking “he’s conservative!” and that it meant he’d want students to work for their money instead of receiving direct grants. But I was wrong.

Technically this week’s supposed to be my rough draft week, but I’ve fallen behind. I still have Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and oh lord–all the recent stuff. I don’t want to put so much emphasis on everything else and just gloss over this stuff. This will make my life hard, and I’ll be spending a considerable amount of time going through these old newspapers this week. I don’t want to rush myself but deadlines! (I finally understand what authors are always complaining of.)

Final paper’s due December 5th. That’s the week after thanksgiving.

Crap.

#StillNervous

Also, my thesis is going to change just a teensy bit.

Week XI

I have started to write my actual paper. Have I already mentioned this? I don’t think I have!

I’m basically expanding on sections of my outline, which is usually how I write my papers anyway, so that’s pretty nice. Every time I remember that this is the actual paper, a first draft of the ACTUAL THING, I get super duper nervous. I don’t want to leave stuff out. I’m writing one section at a time, but it’s a little hard to stay on task.

I’m trying to go in chronological order and start with the GI Bill, to Eisenhower, to Kennedy and then Johnson. I feel like I glossed over some of this a bit, and really forced myself to write less about Johnson than I planned on initially. In fact, I think I’ve said more about the National Defense Education Loans than I have about the HEA, but that’s also because I talked about the HEA a lot in my historiography, which is at the beginning of my essay.

Today I realized that I have 82 entries in Zotero! That’s insane! I also have not been annotating as often as I should be, so I went back and worked on that. At this point I’m ready to move forward with my writing, especially my research which I feel that up until this point was mostly focused on the Johnson era. My thesis is saying that the reauthorizations that followed that–in the Nixon, Reagan and Bush eras, were more important. So I should look for more primary documents on that topic, and then see if it still fits into my thesis. At this point though, something I’m quickly realizing — Johnson wanted more loans than grants anyway. He didn’t say just give away federal money to college students. It’s Congress that gave out more grants than Johnson asked for, so maybe they are the ones to blame here.

Week X

So I am now at the actual writing part of the paper. I’ve had to expand my outline a bit, because I jumped straight to the Higher Education Act which I had spent so much time on, completely disregarding the fact that my intention was to start after WWII. Next, I am going to do a little more research on the GI Bill of Rights and That National Defense Education Act to have some background information.

A student loan program already existed, but programs were specifically for certain groups, such as soldiers returning from war. There was no program that applied to everyone. Also, the demographics were different at the time of the HEA–upper-class white males were going to college at this time.

This would change eventually, but even after the HEA, it would take a more years for minorities to attend college. There’s lots of debate about whether the HEA helped lower income families or only middle-income ones. I think it’s interesting how the loan program would eventually expand so that anyone could take out a loan. Should all that money go to someone whose family can actually afford their education?

The hardest part for me right now is to stay on track without going off on tangents about things that I came across. Some of these things are helpful and very relevant to my research, while others are just interesting but would lead to a huge tangent and cannot be included in my paper.

An interesting thing I’ve come across that’s relevant to my research, though, is an article in the NYTimes in 1968 about how expensive and unaffordable higher education is for families that haven’t saved up. It made me laugh, though, because I wonder how that journalist would feel if he were to see how unaffordable higher education is now, when parents are usually not able to save up to pay for their children’s college education.

My assignment for the upcoming week is to fix the problems in my outline (I didn’t include citations in there!) and to write a section of the paper. It’ll be my first draft! I’m starting with the debates going on over the original HEA, and why it turned out to include more than the administration suggested.

Week IX

This week has been crazy productive and exciting. I spent it looking through historical newspapers for information about the original HEA and why reauthorizations were required. A lot of the stuff I have found so far has been very useful and I am so glad for finally getting some of this stuff.

I think I am going to be modifying my original thesis a bit, which is scary. But it’s only because I have come across many more things that make me think that the blame for how everything turned out cannot be placed on the reauthorizers. It seems that the original purpose of the college aid program was to provide an alternative to the tuition tax credit proposal. The proposal in Congress for the loan program was meant to provide unsubsidized loans to students at a time when college enrollment was increasing.

But I am starting to see that if things had been done differently back then, we would not be where we are now, especially because the Graduate Student Loan program didn’t work out well. Subsidized loans had more students going to college, and they were not originally intended.

Also, at the time I do not think Congress could have predicted how much enrollment would increase, and the ups and downs of the economy.

Building on all this, I’ve developed a detailed outline of my paper. Hopefully I will be able to stay on track and not get distracted by specific things in the works that I am reading, which is actually very likely.

Next week I’ll start my first draft of the paper. I am both excited and nervous. Mostly i can’t wait to share everything that I’ve found so far, because pieces of the puzzle are starting to fit, and based on what I’ve learned in my history classes, I’ve been able to make lots of connections.

Wish me luck!