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Winning the USDLA Eagle Award requires more than just demonstrating leadership qualities
I’ve written many a blog over my career but admittedly, none ever about a US Senator. While I have some award information about Senator Brian Schatz’s contributions to the educational community, I truly wanted to meet him and pick his brain a bit on where he stands on Education. However, I’m not from Hawaii and don’t have his cell number; I lived in Connecticut most of my life and only recently moved to the sunshine state of Florida. Short of scoring a phone call (I did request one through his website) I began to research what I could find out on my own.
I quickly discovered that he was not only a leader but also a politician with a heart and understanding of the challenges faced by today’s college students. He is a strong supporter of tuition-free colleges; this year, Senator Schatz introduced an extremely bold plan to make college more affordable: a federal-state partnership that has a $95B price tag but would result in debt-free college for public universities.
I had to think about that for a bit; $95B is a lot of money and 30+ years ago I had to sacrifice and put myself through College with no outside financial support. My father was a small blue-collar business owner and sole supporter of the family so I had to bear the cost on my own, with one caveat; they let me live at home rent-free as long as I kept my grades up. This little fact is important as tuition is often only 45% of the total cost of a college degree and this is one of the main components of the Senator’s proposed plan.
Now, there have been a number of free education plans proposed in the past (Hilary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, etc.) but these have just been tuition-free, not debt-free plans. What’s more is that Brian is proposing something that is more than a hand out; it’s a hand up as it requires the students keep their grades up and also requires that states split the cost with the Federal Government.
Reversing the trend of state-level disinvestment is certainly not going to come easy, but his plan of having the feds put some money on the table in the form of a match should certainly help. I do agree with the senator that student debt is family problem as it impacts not only the students, but also parents and often grandparents that often try to offset the cost with personal savings.
Brian has been looking at education policy for five-plus years, and is skeptical of the for-profit universe, going as far as calling it scandalous. That’s a bold statement, but student loan interest rates, institutions that might not deserve accreditation and targeting specific student demographics to maximize revenue are all important issues to address in terms of financing and making college affordable, showing how Brian truly cares and has done his research before proposing a plan.
His understanding of the issue appears strong and hopefully he can put enough details together to get such a plan passed in the House and Senate. He truly demonstrates leadership qualities that we look for in our Eagle Award nominees, but he also has a heart and truly wants to make a difference in the country by making it easier for students to obtain a degree, a characteristic we’ll continue to look for in future Eagle Awards.
Learn more about USDLA and how you too can be a member by visiting www.usdla.org/membership. The association supports all core markets including Enterprise, Government, Telemedicine, Education and others.
Our Association is unique, not only for its historical commitment to distance learning, but also for engaging with a broad spectrum of distance learning professionals – K-12, higher education, corporate, government, military, telehealth, and home schooling. While more narrowly focused organizations have an important role, a powerful perspective emerges when bright minds serving diverse constituencies come together.
The USDLA was formed in 1987. At that time, companies like Yahoo and Google were still years away. “Power users” were boasting of their Intel 386 processors. In that context, DL was a concept well outside the educational mainstream. Granted, a few people knew something of the process but hands-on DL experience was rare. USDLA, then, provided a means for these pioneers to find one another.
Today, with more than one-third of college students taking an online class, it’s a far different world but USDLA remains a vital player. Our members continue to seek out other DL professionals. These practitioners still want to grow and want to offer students a strong education in a robust community of learning. Today’s USDLA stands out as a remarkable resource for teachers and administrators who want to enhance the learning experience.
The USDLA thanks our 2018 International Awards program sponsor, Lifesize.
Save the Dates
November 5th – 9th, 2018 – National Distance Learning Week (NDLW)
November 28th – 30th, 2018 – International Forum for Women in E-learning (IFWE) – San Antonio, Texas