- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2009

Protesting hikes

California students staged sit-ins at campuses across the state over the weekend to protest a planned 32 percent tuition increase for University of California schools.

The regent’s board voted for the hike on Thursday, and students began demonstrating at campuses in Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz, saying they were being “tuition gouged.” The increases will add $2,500 to undergraduate fees, beginning in the fall 2010 semester.

Students who occupied a campus building at UCLA left peacefully on Thursday evening. At UC-Davis, however, the protests didn’t end so quietly. Fifty-two arrests were made Thursday. And 41 UC-Berkeley students were arrested on Friday. The last holdouts were students at Santa Cruz, where students occupied campus buildings for three nights. At press time on Sunday, police were expected to come and remove them that day.

Most of the arrested students were charged with trespass and then released.

Paying the bills

Students in California aren’t the only ones struggling to pay tuition fees. The listed “sticker prices” are going up at all college campuses, and so are the loans that students are taking out to pay for the increases.

The listed costs of tuition and fees, not including board, at public four-year colleges have increased 20 percent over the past five years, according to the College Board’s latest report on tuition costs. The average published cost for in-state students at a public, four-year college is $7,020.

Colleges often try to downplay the cost increases by emphasizing the amount of student aid available to students to pay for tuition but that includes loans students have to pay off, not freebie grants and scholarships.

The College Board found education borrowing increased by about $4 billion, or 5 percent, in the last year. The average undergraduate student took out $4,585 per year in federal loans to pay for college. Graduate students, on average, received $14,598 in federal loans per year. Federal Stafford loans issued from 2006 to 2008 carried a 6.8 percent interest rate.

Among 2007-09 bachelor’s degree recipients, 10 percent had borrowed $40,000 or more to pay for their degree.

Blogging it out

Frustrated with the so-called “smears” posed by Republicans about their health care expansion plans and the effectiveness of the president’s $787 billion stimulus package, White House officials have used their official blog to issue biting “reality checks.”

After many reports were published last week about the billions in stimulus funding being allocated by the administration’s own spending trackers to non-existent congressional districts, Recovery Act Communications Director Liz Oxhorn pushed back with a Thursday blog posting. “Three months ago, the critics denied that the Recovery Act was making any jobs,” she wrote. “Today, everyone - including the critics - can see those jobs for themselves on Recovery.gov. Now that the evidence has proven them wrong, they are left to cast doubts about just how many jobs were made and where.

“The errors you are seeing are simply typos or basic human error,” she added.

When Republicans started raising questions about health care rationing, listing recent recommendations by a government-funded panel that women young than 50 not seek breast cancer screenings, it was White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer’s turn. “When people use arguments they know are bogus, it’s probably because they know they don’t have any valid arguments at their disposal,” he said.

On Friday, Mr. Pfeiffer wrote that “some opponents of reform seem too obsessed with the length of the Senate health insurance reform bill,” which is a whopping 2,074 pages. During the Senate’s health care debate on Saturday, Mr. Pfeiffer again took to the White House blog. In that post, he attempted to embarrass the Republican Party by highlighting the fact that the 2003 legislation to expand Medicare Part D benefits was 1,044 pages.

Leaked Levi

Levi Johnston’s photo spread with Playgirl magazine is now making its way around the Internet.

Several gossip blogs published the photos that showcase the young father of Sarah Palin’s grandchild soaping his body in the shower and looking longingly into the camera over the weekend. Although he had previously suggested that there would be frontal nudity in the photos, a strategically placed towel conceals his most private areas in the revealing photos. Many photos show his buttocks, some of them in extreme close-up.

Meanwhile …

Mr. Johnston’s mother, Sherry, was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday for one count of possession of the prescription painkiller OxyContin with intent to deliver.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] washingtontimes.com

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