Governor gets reacquainted with campus life
Gov. Mitch Daniels doesn’t take the reins as president of Purdue University until January, but that’s not keeping Boiler No. 1 from campus.
Daniels was in West Lafayette last week to welcome the freshman class. He appeared at a pep rally dressed in a gold Purdue T-shirt and black-and-gold baseball cap.
I’m your classmate, he told the students, challenging the freshman class as a whole to outperform Purdue athletes overall in academics. The overall campus GPA is slightly below the athletes’ average 3.0 GPA.
The Indianapolis Star reports that Daniels has made several trips to West Lafayette since his appointment was announced. He has attended briefings to understand how the university works and met informally with deans, staff, senior researchers and junior faculty.
Not all Purdue constituents have been as welcoming, however. A group calling itself the Society for an Open, Accountable Purdue continues to challenge the board of trustees on its decision to select the governor, who appointed eight of the 10 trustees who hired him. SOAP plans an Aug. 31 informational session aimed at students and in June held a day-long protest on campus that attracted about 100 people.
Indiana shows poorly in two national rankings
Fat and dirty is the description of Indiana from two recent national studies.
Indiana ranks eighth in the nation for obesity, according to a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.
Indiana ranks fourth in the nation for toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to a study from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Coal-fired power plants in Indiana emitted more than 26.2 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air in 2010. Pollution from the power plants was 65 percent of the total air pollution in the state.
Indiana ranks fifth in the nation for mercury air pollution. Hoosier power plants emitted more than 3,170 pounds of mercury in 2010.
Nationally, there was a 19 percent decrease in air toxin emissions when compared to 2009 levels.
The study’s author points to two factors in the decrease; an increase in the use of cleaner-burning natural gas at power plants and the installation of improved technology at power plants in anticipation of new Environmental Protection Agency air pollution standards.
For the record, both Indiana Sens. Richard Lugar and Dan Coats voted in favor of the efforts of Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma to repeal the healthy air standards.
Social Security feeling effects of financial aid bubble’s burst
A 1996 law allows the federal government to withhold portions of Social Security checks for unpaid student loan debt. By 2000, the government withheld money from a grand total of six – yes, six – people.
By 2007, though, the number of defaulters whose benefits were taken was 60,000. Since Jan. 1, the number has nearly doubled to 115,000.
No, these aren’t graduates of the class of ’67 who have owed forever. Many are retired parents who took the loans out for their children.
Social Security is generally off-limits to creditors – but apparently not when the creditor is the federal government. The law does allow each recipient to keep at least $750 a month.
Some economists and analysts are predicting a student loan bubble, similar to the housing bubble. They note similarities to the subprime mortgage disaster that has battered the economy: The government guaranteed loans made by private lenders who may have been less than aggressive in scrutinizing ability to pay, and without a lot of oversight, the loan debt swelled into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
About 30 percent of the debtors have a double whammy – they never obtained a degree but still owe the money. And federal law prohibits student loans from being discharged in bankruptcy.