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June 21, 2012 at 5:34 PM

WSU president will go to D.C. for land-grant anniversary

Washington State University President Elson Floyd will join at least 70 other university presidents for a ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. , on Monday to celebrate the birth of the nation’s land-grant colleges.

Monday marks the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which established the land grant colleges that now form the backbone of the nation’s public university system.  The ceremony will take place at the Lincoln Memorial because the act was signed into law by President Lincoln. Floyd said Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is also expected to speak.

The university presidents are all being asked to wear their full academic regalia. “It’s going to be quite a show,” he said.

The celebration is being organized by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The corporation’s president, Vartan Gregorian, is also expected to call on the country’s leaders to drop partisan squabbling and do more to invest in higher education, according to a statement from the Carnegie Corporation.

One of the hot-button issues now being debated in Congress: Legislation that would preserve the low interest rate on federal student loans. Both Democrats and Republicans have advanced different proposals to keep interest rates low on subsidized Stafford loans; the interest rates will double in July, affecting 7.4 million undergraduates nationwide — 100,000 in Washington state.  The increase could add $1,000 to the cost of an average loan, which is available only to low- and middle-income students.

Floyd said he would use the trip to visit members of Washington’s congressional delegation, and to press for an agreement that would preserve the low interest rate on those loans.

Another issue is a proposal by President Obama that would tie colleges’ eligibility for certain federal aid programs to affordability and outcomes. That proposal “really does not acknowledge the relationship between state appropriations and the rising cost of tuition,” Floyd said. The Washington Legislature has cut state funding to higher education in half since 2008, a decision that has forced the state’s universities to raise tuition by double-digit amounts.

Comments | Topics: student loans, WSU

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