Jul 2nd, 2007 @ 10:10 am | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
As you may recall, my appearance on these pages has been and will be unpredictable for awhile due to our need to deal with the final stages of my mother's courageous battle with ovarian cancer. So after two weeks of wonderful contributions to this spot by VCSU's Doug Anderson, here I am again. There's no telling who you'll see here from week to week for awhile, but there will be someone. We treasure the generosity of the Times-Record in providing this space, and we would not want to let them get used to something else!

We are beginning to understand the dynamics of my mother's current condition – she has a cycle of good days that become bad days, leading to a procedure that gives her some relief and more good days. During my two trips in June, we experienced both good days and bad days. Those of you who have experienced this process with loved ones will understand when I say that I treasure all of the days and find even the bad days to be surprisingly rewarding. Like many mothers, mine is unaccustomed to being the care-receiver, and we find that learning to deal with the new roles deepens our relationship.

My two brothers who live in the area are very involved, too, but all of us have competing demands on our time. So I will continue to travel to the Chicago area frequently, and I greatly appreciate the university-based support that makes it possible.

Also during June, we had an event that brought the new Chancellor, Bill Goetz, to town with his wife Marion. He shared some of his ideas about priorities for the university system, and they were very consistent with the priorities of Valley City State University.

Chancellor Goetz made a point of commenting on the great need for additional funding for student financial aid, and it was good to hear that. North Dakota is no longer a low-tuition state, but we remain a very low student-aid state. Most states provide far more funding for student financial aid than we do. When I started in this position, every student who wanted to attend was able to work out the finances so that he or she could attend. That has changed. We now know of students who simply cannot find the resources to go to college.

The situation students face is this: tuition is much higher than it was; state aid remains very low; federal aid is barely adequate and relies heavily on loans rather than grants; students' earning power has remained low due to the unchanging minimum wage rate; and the average North Dakota family earns less than the national average. Students work much more now than they did, which means they often require five or more years to complete the program. The longer they take, the longer they must delay the earning power that their college degree will give them. The average debt of a 2005 graduate of VCSU was $18,340.

Little wonder, then, that all of us at the university are deeply grateful for the generous support of our community and alumni. You are changing the course of people's lives. And we will support the Chancellor's efforts to increase other forms of financial aid. The future for all of us depends on having a well-educated population.