Written by Hank Koebler (Columbia Missourian)
“Stories beget more stories.”
Columbia Missourian executive editor Tom Warhover repeated that mantra frequently at the beginning of the semester to encourage new reporters to volunteer for stories. Eight weeks into the semester, I have a better understanding of exactly what Tom meant.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about a speech Claire McCaskill gave at MU. During the speech, she made a point of highlighting her differences with Todd Akin on financial aid.
I thought the story was done when I published it, but instead, a reader’s comment sent me on a much longer investigation. The reader asked:
“Is there any way you can edit this article and include a graph showing the correlation of increase tuition costs with the availability of govt student loans?”
This required going to the office of financial aid to get data about the number of student loans people took out. While the answer to the reader’s question was fairly simple – yes, more students took out loans and the loans being taken out increased in size as tuition increased – a different set of numbers jumped out at me when I looked at the data with McCaskill’s speech in mind: Pell Grants.
In essence, Pell Grant funding has become the battleground for Akin and McCaskill’s dueling philosophies on education. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which Akin wants to repeal, helped create funding to keep the Pell Grants from getting cut.
Whether that’s good or bad depends on the reader’s personal point of view, namely the belief of how much money the government should spend to help students afford college. But what can’t be disputed is that the numbers show SAFRA kept the Pell Grant program afloat.
For more information, you can check out the Missourian story here.
And here’s an excerpt from a KBIA report of last month’s Missouri Press Association debate, discussing McCaskill and Akin’s stance on education:
The debate turned to other issues such as health care, the state’s budget, and higher education. McCaskill said she wants to keep the Pell Grant program, and keep tuition down by raising the cigarette tax. Akin, on the other hand, said the government’s involvement in higher education will only make things worse for students.
“So, we’re putting people in an incredible vice by the government using more and more money to do things, killing jobs, and then facing kids with an impossible choice do you want an education but can’t pay for it,” Akin said.