Monday, December 19, 2011

Students who don't want debt should occupy desk at MC

Mary Braselton
Director, Associate of Arts in Teaching Program
Midland College

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been troubling me for a while now. In the beginning of the demonstrations, I heard that a few demonstrators were angry because they had such exorbitant school loans to repay at the end of their university educations and didn't have jobs. Then the media gave some exorbitant dollar amounts of college costs of unnamed institutions located mostly in the eastern states. Since it seems no one can do anything about unemployment, this article is about college debt.

At the onset of the occupy movement, it occurred to me that if those students don't like enormous debt why don't they attend Midland College? Not only does MC provide a quality education at minimal cost, students who do depend on loans can graduate with minimal loan repayment obligations.

The proof of those statements is in concrete data found on the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) website (accessed Dec. 1). Midland College costs are compared to state averages, and they are on par. At Midland College, tuition and fees are $864 for 72 credit hours; statewide it's $868. (Source: )

Harvard University in comparison, lists the cost for attending their school for one year at $56,000 to $60,200, plus the cost of required health insurance -- which is $1,834 unless the student's family policy is in effect.

That comparative example demonstrates the need for families to inform themselves about the enormous differences in college costs by comparing apples to apples. The breakdown of scholastic credit hour at Harvard comes to approximately $1,000 more per credit hour than MC. While credit hours are the same whether at a community college or a university, parents must decide whether the quality of an Ivy League education translates into that much more graduation collateral. Those occupying Wall Street seem to think so, except they do not have jobs.

Back to incurring college debt. When a family discusses the cost of a college education, apples must be compared to apples. Go to the source to get understanding of what any college's fees represent; do not believe everything you read on the Internet, and do not be afraid to ask questions. Many websites provide charts with inaccurate costs; for example, one chart I researched shows higher dorm fees at MC, while Howard College fees for room and board are quite low. Not apples. MC's dorms are new and still have bonds out while the 50-year-old dorms at Howard have long since been paid for.

Today's dorms reflect the relative affluence today's students have grown up with. A few years ago, universities created recruitment plans to upgrade dorms to residences to satisfy students who do not want to share bathrooms or rooms with other students. Residences connote a homey living environment, which translates into high cost. Now, colleges build apartments (Odessa College; Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi) to accommodate the desires of the current student -- meeting the market demand. Upgrades cost money, which students' parents will pay or which students will undertake loans to pay for. Let me hasten to add that I would not wish a few of my dorm rooms on anyone -- namely the 1932 Doak Hall at Texas Tech University.

The actual amount of money a student contributes toward his/her own education provides a surprising statistic. In 1994, during a Finance of Higher Education course, I learned that the actual money a student contributed toward his college education was 16 percent. Today, some 17 years later, most Texas students contribute 29 percent toward the total cost of their higher education. Hold on though -- because of the generosity of so many folks in this town and outside sources, MC students pay approximately 20 percent of the cost of their education. Hard to believe, but true. MC is not running with the pack.

Now I understand that there is some mythological (OK, not entirely) view out there that a degree from an Ivy League school is superior to a local education (the term is value-added to account for the boost one may get from having a prestigious degree) but think about it. One can go to a community college for a fraction of the cost of a big university, then transfer to a big school and graduate with most folks being none the wiser. Students alsocan CLEP out of all those subjects aced in high school and get college credit for a fraction of the cost of tuition.

Oddly, the television remote may indicate that a community college education is equal to an eastern education. Recently, a Ph.D. engineer from MIT who was interviewed on CNBC said he wasn't smart enough to read the engineering language necessary to program his remote for his television. So there you have it -- the great educational equalizer: the television remote.

Finally, the truth is that college is a culture all its own. It always has been, and it takes time for most youngsters to adjust to the new freedom and its corollary: responsibility. Additionally, it takes time to adjust to college advising, to figure out the college catalog, to master time and money management and to write something more than a five-paragraph essay. Some students do not succeed at first. As a former associate director for Admissions at West Texas A&M University and as a professor for 20 years, I see (and have seen) many transcripts of students who have wasted several semesters of time and money just learning the college culture of responsibility. Those students invariably were and are embarrassed by their non-achievement, but my response to those failures is encouragement to get it right in the do-over. Meanwhile, college debt is piling up.

The serious part of this article is really about getting a reality check about debt and education. It is true that college costs have gone up, so maybe it is time to rethink educational goals that are in line with the economic reality of education in 2011. Homework is involved. So the message is simply this: plan for college by comparing costs (apples to apples) of housing, of tuition and fees. Seriously consider CLEPping hours and start thinking positively about the benefits of transferring from a student-friendly college to a bigger institution.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I heard this funny bit of wisdom. "A man was calmly holding his cat in his lap and stroking it from the tail forward toward his head. A visitor noted that the cat would be happier if the man stroked the cat from its head to its tail -- the way the fur naturally grows. The man continued stroking the cat back to front and said, 'If the cat doesn't like it, he can turn around,'"

If you don't want the debt, be smart; join the 13 million students already in community colleges nationwide. Occupy a desk at Midland College, your college.

This column first appeared in the December 12, 2011 edition of the Midland Reporter-Telegram, and appears here, in its entirety, with the MRT's permission.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A little bit of West Texas in Austin

“Sunsets and Cactus" painted by
MC art student Bonnie Johnson
By Rebecca Bell
MC Dean of Community Relations & Special Events

For the second year in a row Representative Tom Craddick asked, Midland College art student, Bonnie Johnson, to paint the House District 82 ornament for the Lone Star Celebration Christmas Tree in the Texas House of Representatives Chamber at the State Capitol in Austin. Craddick asked Johnson to create the ornament in a way that showcases the unique character of the district that includes Crane, Dawson, Martin, Midland and Upton counties. The ornament, entitled “Sunsets and Cactus,” illustrates the natural beauty of House District 82 and West Texas, including the colorful sunsets and cacti for which the region is known.

“I was delighted to do it,” stated Johnson. I am honored that Representative Craddick considered calling me again to paint something representing the wonderful West Texas region.”

"Bonnie did a fantastic job capturing the colors that illuminate our West Texas skyline, and I am proud that a Midland College art student's ornament will be on display for all visitors to the Texas Capitol to see," Craddick said. "With 150 House Districts throughout the state, an artistic rendition of the unique characteristics that make up each district is an excellent way to demonstrate our state and area's pride. I commend Bonnie for the time and effort she put into highlighting the best aspects of our West Texas area."

Since 2009, members of the Texas House have had the opportunity to create a tangible symbol of the state's invincible spirit through the district ornament project. Speaker Joe Straus (San Antonio) and his wife Julie invite each House member to provide a decorated ornament for the Lone Star Celebration Christmas Tree in the Chamber of the Texas House of Representatives.
The Texas-sized tree was displayed from December 2, 2011, through January 6, 2012, and the story of each ornament is displayed in an album for House Chamber visitors to view. The album may also be viewed online at

Monday, December 12, 2011

Announcing extended evening hours for Student Services at Your College

By Rebecca Bell
MC Dean of Community Relations & Special Events

In an effort to continue to provide accommodating services to the Midland community and our students, Midland College will be open on Tuesday evenings until 8:00 p.m. beginning January 3, 2012.

Services that will be accessible on Tuesday evenings include the Midland College Testing Center, Admissions, Registrar, Student Advising and Financial Aid. These services are located in the Scharbauer Student Center on the main campus, 3600 N. Garfield.

Extended evening hours are in addition to our regular office hours of 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chap Basketball Shows Support for Blindness Prevention

By Forrest Allen
MC Athletic Director

MIDLAND, TEXAS - In the first of three possible events, the MC basketball team showed their support for blindness prevention and the defeat of diseases that contribute to the loss of sight for Texans. The Chaparrals and Prevent Blindness Texas joined forces to help increase awareness of eye diseases, eye safety and chronic diseases that can rob people of their vision.

Prevent Blindness Texas is the local chapter of Prevent Blindness America. Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness America is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness America touches the lives of millions of people each year.

Linda Hook of the Midland Chapter of Prevent Blindness along with their volunteers and members of the medical community turned out for the evening. Prevent Blindness Texas promotes overall eye health and safety, vision screening and other programs.

Midland College Athletics and Prevent Blindness Texas will join up next semester for events at a future Chap baseball game and perhaps an MC golf tournament.

The Chaps are proud of their association with Prevent Blindness Texas where our motto is "Together We Share a Vision."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lady Chaps win 2011 WJCAC Pre-Conference Tournament

By Forrest Allen
MC Athletic Director

HOBBS, NEW MEXICO - The Lady Chaps basketball team sent a message to the rest of the WJCAC when they won their second consecutive WJCAC Pre-Conference Tournament. The Ladies won this year's edition in Hobbs, NM and among the three teams that succumbed to Midland College were the host NMJC Lady T-Birds.

On Thursday Midland College (11-3) opened play against #16 New Mexico JC (12-2) at the Caster Activity Center on the NMJC campus and defeated the Lady Thunderbirds 65-60. Friday's semifinal game pitted the Lady Chaps against an always-tough Howard College Lady Hawks team. MC defeated HC by a score of 56-51 to advance into Saturday night's championship game with Western Texas College. WTC advanced to the finals with wins over South Plains College (58-56) and Odessa College (66-55).

In the championship game MC employed a tenacious variety of defense to smother WTC. Midland College led the contest 37-16 at the halftime break and ultimately cruised to a 74-42 victory over the Lady Westerners. In addition to its offensive output and defensive presence the Lady Chaps dominated on the boards leading in that category 67-44. Midland College freshman Achiri Ade led all players with 11 rebounds in the game. Midland College was led offensively by Nety Sousa's 13 points followed by Danesha Long with 12 and Alexis Kelley's 11 points.

The Lady Chaps will travel to Weatherford College on Wednesday, December 7th @ 6:00 p.m. for a match up of two of Region 5's best teams. The Lady Coyotes are currently 10-0 this season and are ranked 10th nationally. Weatherford previously played Western Texas College twice this season winning both games; 94-55 on November 1st and 68-57 on November 23rd.

Wedensday's game at Weatherford is the final game of the semester for Midland College.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

#18 Chaps Ganan Juego Internacional de Balconcesto Contra Los Dorados

By Forrest Allen
MC Athletic Director

The Midland College Chap basketball team successfully defended their home court in an international match up with the Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua (UAC) Saturday afternoon at the Chap Center. MC 7-2 on the season are currently ranked 18th nationally. The game was the third leg of a three game circuit for the Dorados who played South Plains College and Odessa College prior to their arrival in Midland.

The outcome of the 86-40 Chap win was never in doubt as MC's athleticism and defensive ability quickly seized control of the game. Despite the final margin of victory the Dorados showed tremendous offensive discipline and stuck to their game plan no matter the scoring margin.

Midland College was led by Majok Majok's 21 point, eight rebound, one blocked shot performance. Majok was followed by redshirt guard Colan Weasby's 15 points, four rebounds, two blocks and two steals. In all four Chaps scored in double-figures and the team outrebounded the Dorados 42-21.

The Chaparrals will travel to Weatherford College on Thursday, December 8th and will conclude play in the fall semester with a two-game trip to Arizona on December 16-17.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lessons learned through community service

By Rebecca Bell
MC Dean of Community Relations & Special Events

MIDLAND, TEXAS - “Midland College acknowledges that not all learning takes place in the classroom. There are also important life lessons that can be gained through experiences outside of traditional learning environments,” noted Midland College President Dr. Steve Thomas at the Fall Midland Legacy Essay Scholarship Luncheon on Tuesday, November 29.

Each semester students attend Midland College on Legacy Scholarships sponsored by the Abell-Hanger Foundation, the Helen Greathouse Charitable Trust and the Chaparral Foundation. In return for the scholarship that pays their tuition and fees, students contribute 40 hours of community service.

The community service component is the basis for the Legacy Essay Contest, sponsored by the Abell-Hanger Foundation. The purpose of the contest is to honor students’ community service and to let the students tell their stories of how community service has enriched their lives. This year, five of those students—Michael Anderson, Kelsie Rasure, Elisa Saenz, Louis Smith and Natalie Tolbert—received additional $500 scholarships for essays written about that community service.

During the November 29 luncheon honoring the students, Abell-Hanger Foundation Executive Director David Smith said, “One of the best things about the Legacy Scholarship is the community service requirement. This was the brainchild of former Abell-Hanger Foundation Board member John Younger. I think John suspected that students would gain as much from this experience as those whom they help, and this has definitely proven to be true.”

All five of the students noted the value of the life lessons they learned while fulfilling their community service requirements. Michael Anderson delivered meals for Meals on Wheels, a program administered by Community and Senior Services. In his essay Michael wrote, “In communities around the globe people underestimate the power and effect community service has on a person who receives the service or deed done. Community service can affect the volunteer in many ways that seem unimaginable until one actually experiences the feeling received from performing community service.”

Perhaps the thoughts of the students were best summarized by Elisa Saenz, who volunteered with Habitat for Humanity: “I learned to give of myself in a way that couldn’t be more satisfying. From picking up trash to painting, not a single hour was wasted, and the time spent with other volunteers made my experience even better. I believe that I was given more from the people involved than what I gave through the entire service. I’m truly grateful to be living in a community that continues to give back at every chance.”

CLICK HERE to read the Fall 2011 Legacy Scholarship Essays

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Basketball, burgers and brisket at Chap Center this weekend

By Forrest Allen
MC Athletic Director

On Saturday, December 3, the #18 Midland College Chap basketball team will host the University of Chihuahua in a game with an international appeal. Also on Saturday the Wink Volunteer Fire Department will be holding a fundraising cookout in the Chap Center parking lot beginning at 12:00 p.m. The cookout proceeds will go to the MC Lady Chap volleyball team. The volleyball team will also make a donation of part of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society.

The day's festivities will begin at 12:00 p.m. with the cookout/fundraiser. The WVFD will be selling hamburgers, cheeseburgers, double-meat hamburgers and brisket sandwiches. Each meal comes with a bag of chips and a tea or lemonade. The cost of the meals are as follows: $5.00 Hamburger, $6.00 Cheeseburger, $7.00 Double-Meat Burger and $6.00 for a brisket sandwich.

Then at 3:00 p.m. the Chaps will tip-off against the University of Chihuahua. As always Midland College employees and students are admitted, free of charge with their ID. For Saturday's game, anyone purchasing a meal from the Wink Volunteer FD will receive a ticket that will get you into the game for free.

Come out, bring your family, get some great food and see our basketball team in action!