Nominations Open for Nebraska Hall of Fame

Lincoln -- The state Hall of Fame Commission is taking nominations, until the end of 2016, to add a 26th member to Nebraska's officially recognized list of its most outstanding citizens. This link provides more information about the process.

To be eligible, nominees must have made great contributions to society and been deceased for at least thirty-five years. So who are some possible nominees this year?

• Howard Hanson died in 1981, making him eligible for the first time. The internationally famous composer and conductor was born in Wahoo of Swedish heritage. He won the Prix de Rome, a Pulitzer Prize, and was the director of the Eastman School of Music for forty years. His music, much of which was inspired by his upbringing in Nebraska, is still played in concert halls around the world. His boyhood home in Wahoo is now a museum on the National Register of Historic Places.

• Rachel Lloyd, who died in 1900, is the subject of a new book about her contributions to Nebraska, especially to agriculture. She was the first American woman to earn a Ph.D in chemistry and was on the University of Nebraska faculty from 1887 to 1894. Her laboratory work to establish Nebraska's sugar beet industry was untiring; she had a remarkable effect on her students and the university; she worked herself to a premature death on behalf of the state and must be considered a worthy nominee.

• Lawrence Bruner would make a good addition to the Hall of Fame. He was born in Cuming County and became a world-famous entomologist at the University of Nebraska. He undertook international missions on behalf of the federal government. His work in Argentina was appreciated so much that the country held a 50th anniversary celebration of his arrival to combat an insect plague. A governor's commission once named him Nebraska's most distinguished citizen.

Elizabeth Dolan was one of the country's greatest fresco artists and should be recognized with a nomination. Her works in two of the state's most noteworthy interior spaces, the State Library in the Capitol and Elephant Hall on the UNL campus, have inspired Nebraskans for decades. She studied art in Lincoln, Chicago, New York, and Paris, but spent most of her working career in Lincoln.

At least four previous nominees should be considered in this round.

• Two recent biographies of Louise Pound recount her remarkable career and accomplishments. Her selection to the Hall of Fame would recognize her leadership on behalf of women's athletics, as well as highlight her academic contributions to the American language.

• Leta Stetter Hollingworth is the subject of a 2002 biography, A Forgotten Voice. Selection of Dr. Hollingworth (who indeed has been much too forgotten since her honorary degree from NU in 1937) would recognize her pathfinding contributions to psychology.

Frederic Clements was the founder of the discipline of plant ecology and gave the world the Clementsian theory of nature. It is still the benchmark against which all other such theories are measured. Frederic Clements' contribution to theory is matched only by his heroic work, in spite of his failing health, to save the Great Plains from the Dust Bowl.

Edith Schwartz Clements was the wife and full professional partner of Frederic Clements. Their work is inseparable. She was the first woman to receive a Ph.D from the University of Nebraska. She was the force behind the Alpine Laboratory, where the Clementses trained Nebraska botanists and ecologists from 1900-1940.

A question inevitably arises about the fact that, so far, only twenty-five Nebraskans have been included in the state's Hall of Fame. Is Nebraska so lacking in people who have made notable contributions to society that only twenty-five – soon twenty-six – can be duly recognized? Surely not. One reason why deserving Nebraskans will never be sufficiently recognized by the Hall of Fame is that the governing state statute allows only one person to be inducted every five years.

In the last round, I nominated Edith and Frederic Clements as a team – indeed, they had once been called the greatest husband-and-wife scientists since the Curies. Of course they could not be considered under the existing statute, which should be changed. If nothing else, the statute should be amended to allow the Commission to select a small number of new honorees that have been overlooked.

Another solution would be to give more recognition to those who reach the "finalist" stage of consideration. The Commission appropriately winnows out nominees who do not meet the admittedly tough qualification standards, suggesting that those who make the final cut are, in its opinion, worthy of honor. The Commission already has a web page of honorees; it could also permanently maintain a web page of finalists, which would be an honor in itself.

This is already happening to some extent. A new Wikipedia web page on Edith Clements notes that she was nominated for the Nebraska Hall of Fame. This new web page employs and cites her nomination materials. I hope the Commission discusses a permanent finalist web page option during its upcoming deliberations, so more people can become acquainted with Nebraska's greatest citizens whether they are in the Hall of Fame or not.





Where is Grace Abbott When We Need Her

Lincoln -- With much loose talk these days about refugees and immigrants, it would be good for all of us to take a deep breath and reflect on the life and teachings of Grace Abbott. She is in the Nebraska Hall of Fame as a tireless worker in the cause of protecting refugees and immigrants, especially children. She was born in Grand Island, educated at the University of Nebraska (among other places), worked at the highest levels in the federal government and in many charitable organizations. She died in 1939 and is buried in Grand Island. She was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1976. Her papers, along with those of her sister Edith Abbott, are at the UNL library archives and special collections.

From 1915 to 1917, she headed the Immigrants' Protective League and from 1917 to 1921 worked in the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor. Thereafter she was the chief of the Bureau until 1934. In 1931, Good Housekeeping named her one of the twelve greatest living American women.

Grace Abbott was a Republican, she explained, because that was the party of most civil war veterans' families in Nebraska. Herbert Hoover considered her for nomination to be Secretary of Labor, which would have made her the first woman to be appointed to the cabinet. She had much bipartisan support for the position, but ultimately Hoover declined to nominate her, knowing of her outspokenness without regard for political party considerations. She endorsed Franklin Roosevelt for president in 1932 and went on to assist in writing the children's aid provisions of the Social Security Act of 1935.

Grace Abbott is a person we should remember for her courage in standing up for the defenseless throughout her career and for her political courage, even at the expense of becoming famous as the first woman to head a cabinet department. (Frances Perkins went on to be so honored.)

We should likewise be standing up for defenseless refugees in our own time; it is also incredibly counterproductive geopolitically not to do so.

If you are reading this in the vicinity of the Nebraska state capitol, drop in to pay your respects and gain courage with a visit to the Grace Abbott statue in the Hall of Fame. It's easy to find. If you are at the governor's office (or if you are the governor), exit left, turn right down the hallway, and find Grace Abbott for inspiration.




Public Policy Failures: A Personal Account

Washington -- Of success in higher education policy I've had my share; it's the failures over the years that still rankle. Did I do my best? Given the regrettable current state of higher education in America -- we have slipped far on many measures -- all of us should reflect on where we might have done better.

1. One failure of mine involved trying to encourage private non-profit colleges to serve more lower-income students as part of their missions (for which they are also given tax exemptions). Such students often have better chances for graduation at these colleges, for whatever reasons. By the 1980s, when I was a college association executive, much progress in this direction had already been made. Many private colleges, helped by federal and state student financial grant programs, were enrolling more students from lower-income families than were the public universities. The progress didn't last. The leadership of private colleges at the national association level came under the sway of those who valued elitism and prestige rankings above the charitable aspects of the institutions. Granted, there is much diversity among private colleges, and many do exemplary work, but the national associations in Washington have dug in their heels at every opportunity to prevent sharing of data publicly and to fight implementation of reasonable accountability measures. Worse, this behavior has been emulated by associations of public colleges and universities, undermining the effectiveness of virtually all the programs of the Higher Education Act. These once-admired associations have lost credibility, which has shifted to think tanks that are more honest about how rapidly American higher education opportunity has been slipping compared to other countries. It is no wonder that the nation now senses a crisis in college affordability on top of a student loan debt crisis, and that undesirable higher education gaps have been widening. I regret not engaging the associations more about their direction when I had the chance, both from inside and outside.

2. Another underachievement came in the late 1990s when I was in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the Department of Education. I was the only person in this small office (and one of the few in the Department) who had experience at both state and institutional levels of higher education and who appreciated the importance of federal funding incentives in influencing state and institutional behavior. I was a vocal advocate for matching programs and maintenance-of-effort provisions in federal programs such as the Campus-Based and State Student Incentive Grant programs. I even wrote a paper on how such "cooperative federalism" programs were superior to federal programs that did not work through states and institutions; it was published in Publius, The Journal of Federalism. The following year I had an ally for a time in Deputy Secretary Mike Smith, who pushed OMB to shift more funds to cooperative federalism programs in the budget. OMB went along with only half of the request. It was the last time the programs received any real attention (until recently, when the virtures of "skin in the game" have been rediscovered). Meanwhile, states and institutions have predictably diminished their support for college affordability.

3. A temporary success in which I played a part turned into failure in the misadventure of writing federal regulations for the GEAR UP program. This matching program was established by Congress in 1998 to give disadvantaged junior and senior high school students help in preparing for college. One component was a substantial college scholarship, the intent of which was to reduce the need for at-risk students to borrow heavily or work excessively long hours to pay for college. The Department of Education proposed regulations that required colleges to administer these scholarships accordingly, so that the participating students would have lighter debt and work burdens. National higher education associations uniformly opposed the rules, insisting that colleges had the right to take the federal money but reduce their own support for the students in question so as to leave these students no better off. Their argument was "equity." GEAR UP scholarship recipients, they said, should be no better off than counterpart students who were not in the GEAR UP program. The colleges wanted to take the money but essentially, through the process of displacement, spread it around according to the colleges' own priorities. The Department of Education argued that it would be impossible to evaluate the success of the program if the funds were subject to such manipulation. The night before a showdown over the issue, Deputy Secretary Frank Holleman came over to my office and said he saw no choice but to concede to the united front of six national higher education associations. We went over the issues and arguments. The next day, the deputy secretary and I met with the heads of the six associations. They said if they didn't get their way, they would refuse to take GEAR UP scholarships and would work through Congress to kill the program. Frank Holleman held his ground and sent them all packing, to his great credit, and the federal regulations as the Department had drafted them were promulgated. Several months later, in 2001, another administration came into office and quickly withdrew the GEAR UP scholarship regulations. To my knowledge, no GEAR UP scholarships have ever been awarded, and if they have, it would be very difficult to determine who received the benefits. Who really receives benefits from many federal student-aid programs, given their fungibility, is a problem that has bedeviled researchers for decades. Which is precisely the way the national associations want it.

4. Another disappointment occurred after I retired, when I communicated with the committees of jurisdiction drafting the new GI Bill, which became law in 2008. The way the legislation was being written would not work, I was convinced. I feared the VA had too little experience administering student financial aid and my fellow veterans would not get what they were promised. I saw great confusion ahead and veterans being taken advantage of, which is what happened. The mess has still not been straightened out. It even spilled over to the great disadvantage of non-veterans in that unscrupulous for-profit schools were allowed to count federal GI bill benefits as if they didn't come from federal taxpayers, so as to be able to remain in business under a law that requires these schools to get at least ten percent of their revenues from other than gullible Uncle Sam. This was a windfall to them and kept several of them in existence before state attorneys general and others finally started to catch up with their multiple violations of other laws. Taxpayers will pay dearly for these mistakes. Veterans have been soaked and many are deeply in debt.

I take these public policy failures personally. It's not that I was especially prescient about how these predicaments would evolve, or that my judgment was always better than others, but I had the experience and often the occasion to speak up and yell STOP! I look back and regret not trying to engage others to throw more sand into the gears of these public policy misfortunes as they were happening.

Food and Innovation

Berlin -- The fast-food chain McDonald's has put up billboards all over Berlin, trying to convince us that its food is really "bio" (organic). Or at least the meat is. The campaign is an effort to stem the closure of its franchises in the face of changing consumer preferences for fresh, healthy food. In my neighborhood there are few such franchises anyway, the result of an effort over the years, mostly successful, to keep chains out. The fast food of choice here is the Döner Kebap, sold out of hole-in-the-wall storefronts.

Meanwhile, the food processing giant ConAgra is leaving its Nebraska headquarters in favor of Chicago. It, too, is looking for a way to turn itself around in response to changing consumer demand. ConAgra is moving into the Merchandise Mart, the famous old riverfront warehouse where its employees can mix with innovators like The Good Food Business Accelerator, with connections to companies that have thrived on offering healthier food.

The ironies are head-shaking. ConAgra tore down the historic warehouses in Omaha's Jobbers Canyon. Now it moves into a giant warehouse. ConAgra partnered with the Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln seeking an atmosphere of food innovation. It remains in that partnership; perhaps it will send to Lincoln some of what it discovers about innovation in Chicago.

Nebraska state taxpayers spent tens of millions to keep ConAgra in Omaha and are putting millions into the NIC. That spending does not look so good in retrospect, although I believe support for NIC will eventually prove to be a wise investment. But the lesson to be drawn right now is that at least ConAgra doesn't think much of NIC for looking to the old, failing ConAgra as its innovation partner.

Unpleasant as all this is, it may be for the best. Our diets need a shake-up.



Twenty-fifth Anniversary of German Reunification

Berlin -- Twenty-five years ago, on October 3, 1990, Germany reunited. I was living then in southern Berlin at Zerbsterstrasse 42, working hard on a writing project. But the weather that historic day was splendid so I ventured over to the Brandenburg Gate and to the Palast der Republik. What a crowd. What a celebration.

Today, October 3, 2015, is another cloudless sky so I left Mariannenplatz, near the old Berlin Wall, and headed west to central Berlin to see anniversary festivities. Unter den Linden was full of tourists. Strasse der 17 Juni was full of carnival booths. The area is not the same. Couldn't be. Lots of people under twenty-five, for one thing, who could not remember.

This time, nearby Gendarmenmarkt was much different for me as I walked by the dome of the French church. A few weeks ago I discovered that my paternal grandmother's family has roots in northeastern France. They became part of the migration of Protestants out of France and Germany to British colonial America in the mid-18th Century. Other French refugee Protestants (Huguenots) migrated to Berlin. The French cathedral at Gendarmenmarkt dates from 1784. That's when my migrating ancestors, the Wimers, were acquiring land in Virginia, now West Virginia. The French migration to Berlin made up a third of the city's population at the beginning of the 18th Century and grew to twenty thousand. Likely there are common ancestors among my family and the Berliners of today of Huguenot extraction. This is also a reminder that Berlin has always been a destination for refugees, which helps explain the current welcoming attitude toward today's newcomers from the Middle East.

Today over at Potsdamer Platz, just a short walk from the American Embassy, there was a discordant note questioning the purpose of German reunification. A huge banner proclaimed that the border was lifted so that the countries could wage war together as one. ("Die Grenze wurde aufgehoben, damit wir gemeinsam wieder in den Krieg ziehen.") Pamphlets and posters identified the non-celebrants as former East Germans who still take the view that their country was annexed.

The biggest difference for me over twenty-five years is the new presence of the memorial to the Holocaust victims, which occupies acres of former no-man's-land stretching from the American Embassy almost to the site of Hitler's last bunker. It is like no other. My family and I looked out over the expanse in 1989 from a wood observation scaffold, never imagining what the future would hold.

Newcomers, Not Refugees

Berlin -- On several streets around my area of Kreuzberg I see welcoming signs stenciled onto sidewalks proclaiming "Willkommen!" and its equivalent in a language that looks to me like Arabic. But so far I have seen no refugees, at least none that I am aware of.

A usual place for refugees to gather is Oranienplatz, but it is empty. No new refugees are to be seen around the two neighborhood mosques, either, or around the U-Bahn stations Görlitzer Bahnhof or Kottbusser Tor. They are streaming into Berlin, I understand, but are sleeping on sidewalks around a processing center in another part of the city.

Der Tagesspiegel newspaper last weekend interviewed a few refugees during a welcoming picnic over in Tempelhof, the former airport famous as the destination of the 1948 Berlin Airlift. A huge building there, built by the Nazis, may be used to house them temporarily. The paper also gave op-ed space to a Syrian who has been in Berlin four months. The Syrian, who speaks English, suggests that the term for the new arrivals should be "Newcomers," not "Flüchtlinge" (refugees).

The term may catch on. Germany needs workers and does not need the unrest that sometimes comes with them. The term for the great in-migration of Turks four decades ago was "Gastarbeiter" (guest workers), a euphemism that nevertheless implied that at some point the guests would return to their homeland. The Turks are hardly guests anymore. Two hundred thousand live in Kreuzberg and have been here going on four generations.

Last Sunday I met my Turkish neighbor Osman, who lives two blocks away on what was once disputed property between East and West Berlin. He had stared down two opposing governments just to make the little plot into a productive garden. I have often given him a wave when walking by in recent years, but never met him. Sunday was his 90th birthday; a family celebration spilled out into the street and I was finally able to meet the old man personally. Sensing I knew no Turkish, he simply smiled, shook my hand, and pressed upon me his name, "Osman, Osman."

Despite their longevity here, many Turks have not assimilated, even those born here. The language of commerce is German, but the language and the dress in many of the streets is Turkish. Perhaps it will be different with this wave of Newcomers.


What to Look For in a New UNL Chancellor

Lincoln -- Those who are choosing the next chancellor of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln are probably not looking for the following qualifications and inclinations, but should be.

1. Academic research skills. UNL is the state's only public research university. It should be led by a scholar who has demonstrated research skills and an understanding of the research process.

Academic research in America is under justified suspicion from many quarters. According to a recent study published in Science, much social science research is not replicable, a sine qua non of the endeavor. And research findings in the natural sciences too often must be discounted as research for sale, being funded and conducted by those with conflicts of interest. UNL research is not immune from these problems.

UNL has been removed from the ranks of leading research institutions, having in 2011 been voted out of the Association of American Universities. The current chancellor was not able to convince his former AAU colleagues that UNL should remain in this select group. Suffice it to say the effort was badly bungled. The slap at UNL stings like no other in the once-proud history of the institution. Led by its natural sciences faculty, the university was among the first institutions admitted to the AAU over a century ago.

The new chancellor should make it a priority to regain AAU membership. A good first step would be to re-invigorate the UNL faculty with a set of research standards and ethics second to none in the nation, live by them, and earn back respect through such leadership. This can be done best by someone with research credentials himself or herself.

2. Athletics reformer. A former chancellor once told me the biggest surprise that awaited him in the office was how much time he had to spend on university athletics. The issues were never-ending and took his valuable time away from academic matters. Given that the next chancellor will have to spend time on athletics, let it be in the cause of reform. College football especially needs reforms. A chancellor who would help lead the effort nationally might even gain enough respect to earn admission back into the AAU.

A model of such a chancellor is my late, great friend Dr. Hans Brisch, a Nebraskan who became the chancellor of the University of Oklahoma system. He cleaned up the athletics program there and put it into proper perspective, despite considerable personal danger to himself, and put Oklahoma on the map for its statewide college preparation programs. I will never forget, and always appreciate, the support he gave our efforts at the national level to institute some of the same changes he made in Oklahoma.

3. Nebraska college friendly. The next chancellor should be a supporter of all Nebraska colleges, not just UNL. Enough with the divisiveness between the NU components and the attempt to grow UNL at the expense of other institutions. Nebraska needs healthy colleges throughout the state, not just in the capital city. State and private colleges have important roles in the smaller cities and towns where they are located; so do community colleges. If UNL can grow by legitimately attracting out-of-state students, foreign students, those who might not otherwise attend college, and those resulting from state population growth, good. But the higher education enterprise in Nebraska must be balanced and healthy as a whole, not viewed as a competition among and within its various systems. The next chancellor should give up the mantra of demanding that all UNL needs, real or imagined, must be met before resources are shared elsewhere. The next chancellor will be, after all, a state employee whose salary is paid by all Nebraska taxpayers, and must see himself or herself accountable to all of them.

The above qualifications are not likely to be on the list of those choosing the next chancellor. The unfortunate trend these days is to look for candidates with a background in administration of one sort or another and those who demonstate fund-raising prowess. Head hunters seek out candidates who will bring in research dollars, the quality and ethics of the research be damned. But such people are not what UNL really needs. Is it naive to look for another chancellor cut from the same cloth as Charles Bessey or James Canfield? Probably so, but one can always hope.

Prairie Pines

Lincoln -- Last month Prairie Pines held an open house to allow the public to see this 145 acre gem of trees and prairies a few miles east of Lincoln. It is the decades-old project of forestry professor Walt Bagley and his late wife, Virginia, who bought the property as a farm and turned it into an arboretum. Professor Bagley, age 97, still lives on the property and is active in directing and maintaining it.

Twenty-three years ago the Bagleys gave ownership of Prairie Pines to the University of Nebraska Foundation. The university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, where Walt Bagley once taught, manages it for the foundation. More recently, part of the site has become a project of Community Crops, a local non-profit that uses it for training up to eight would-be organic vegetable farmers, before they locate their own sites and strike out on their own.

Another non-profit organization, Prairie Pines Pals, works to preserve the property, give tours, and promote the site as a part of a greenbelt surrounding Lincoln. Prairie Pines, like all such sites, is threatened by urban development sprawl.

Prairie Pines is unique in that it seems to be the only example in which the university works with organizations such as Community Crops to encourage entrepreneurship in developing a local industry based on fresh, healthy foods. There are many others doing this on a strictly private basis; it is good to see the university lending a hand through this arrangement. May it lead to more assistance and cooperation in the Lincoln area.



Both Alexanders are Wrong

Washington -- The Washington Monthly magazine has published the best policy analysis yet in this cycle of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. In noteworthy reportage, New America writer Alex Holt incisively describes the shifting policy ground under both Democrats and Republicans and gives reason for hope that this cycle will result in urgently needed changes to the HEA. Current policy is clearly unsustainable; both political parties must back away from the orthodoxies that have undermined the worthy goals set forth in the HEA five decades ago.

Holt explores the issues by focusing on two of the more outspoken advocates in this cycle, F. King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University, and Lamar Alexander, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The two Alexanders (not related) are fundamentally opposed to each other on many counts. Allow me to point out where I think each is wrong.

Lamar Alexander is wrong in making federal over-regulation of higher education his bête noire. Indeed, there is federal overregulation, but much of it has come about because of faulty program designs that do not employ the tools of fiscal federalism to limit the need for regulation. For example, had states and institutions been required to match (the current fad is to say "have skin in the game") federal aid to students at for-profit schools, there most likely would have been no need for the Gainful Employment regulation. State legislatures would not have put up the funds for these shoddy and often corrupt colleges. Friends of these schools in Congress gave the country this costly fiasco; Lamar Alexander needs only to look in the mirror to see who is behind the impetus for the regulations.

Reporters at The Chronicle of Higher Education have also done an admirable job of unmasking a study of the cost of federal regulations in higher education. The study has been a centerpiece prop for Lamar Alexander's attack on regulations. It turns out the study did not show what Lamar Alexander said it did. Last time I checked, the authors of the study were so embarrassed by it they continued to refuse to share it fully with Chronicle reporters.

King Alexander, of LSU, may be right about the need for maintenance-of-effort requirements (a tool of fiscal federalism), but he is wrong about wanting to remove HEA aid to students at private, non-profit institutions. Reform the way aid is distributed, yes; eliminate it, no.

Private non-profit institutions are essential to the country. They educate, at less cost to taxpayers than public colleges, a significant share of students. Their faculties are diverse and not under the thumbs of public governing boards, which historically have demonstrated susceptibility to pressures of money and politics. Many of these institutions are in the small towns and cities of America and are a civilizing influence in their communities. For a higher education leader, King Alexander is remarkably wrong in his understanding of how American higher education serves the country and how both public and private institutions are necessary checks on each other.

Thanks are due The Washington Monthly and Alex Holt for the article that illuminates emerging policy issues and reveals the curious and wrongful thinking of the two Alexanders.









Ending Scholarship Displacement Is Long Overdue

Washington -- In the last post, I noted that there is incredibly wasteful federal higher education spending that could and should be redirected to decades-old programs that actually work, but are underfunded.

I'm thinking mostly of (1) wasteful spending on the tax expenditure side of the budget in the form of ineffective higher education tax credits and deductions, and (2) the not only wasteful but harmful spending on for-profit schools that demonstrably set students back in life with worthless degrees and unmanageable debt. We are talking tens of billions of annually wasted dollars that could be used more effectively in the array of cooperative federalism programs that work through campus-based and state-based matching efforts.

But there are also wasteful practices within otherwise good programs that need to be rooted out. Prime among them is the practice of scholarship displacement, as was recently pointed out in an op-ed by Michele Waxman Johnson, vice president of Central Scholarship. Displacement occurs when colleges take grant aid intended to help low income students and use it to reduce their own institutional aid rather than reducing students' loan and work burdens. This is akin to taking candy from a baby, because the process is often done behind closed doors, in the context of innocent-sounding "enrollment management." The awards appear in students' financial aid packages, but equivalent amounts are quietly taken out the back door, leaving the awards essentially worthless.

Displacement occurs with both private and public grant funds. It's most easily understood when viewed from the institution's standpoint. The goal of most colleges and universities is to enroll the greatest number of students at the least cost to the institution. That often means not applying outside money to reduce students' debt load, but to helping the institution's own bottom line. This is one reason why total student debt in the country is now $1.3 trillion. This is one reason why the federal Pell Grant program has never been able to hold down student borrowing as advertised.

The National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) has recommended a stop to displacement, which undermines their efforts. Displacement is also fundamentally deceitful, I would add. In her op-ed, Michele Waxman Johnson writes, "[W]e support the recommendations of NSPA, and ask the federal government to modify federal student aid policy to mirror the NSPA recommendations." Such a move would reduce student loan burdens on the low income by several billion dollars annually. It is long overdue.