Philip Wiseman

Student Government discusses the inability to inform students about the B-On-Time Loan at the general meeting Tuesday. According to federal law, SG is too closely affiliated with the University to recommend private loans.

Photo Credit: Fabian Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Student Government’s initial decision to inform students about the B-On-Time loan has been halted because, according to federal law, the organization is too closely affiliated to the University.

The B-On-Time program is a no-interest state loan that is fully forgiven if a student graduates on time with a GPA of at least 3.0. Currently, the University is not allowed to recommend private loans to students, including state loans, unless the student asks about the specific program.

In early April, SG Chief Justice Philip Wiseman and other SG members planned to raise awareness about the B-On-Time loan to make up for the University’s inability to recommend private loans. The SG members were later informed by Tom Melecki, student financial services director, that they would be unable to tell students about the loan because of the federal restriction.

“Under the federal law, SG is too closely affiliated as an institution-affiliated organization, and, as a result, any kinds of prohibitions that are placed on the University, by extension, are also placed on SG,” Wiseman said.

The University does have the option to promote these loans if they advertise a list of approved lenders to students, though the University does not use this method because it cannot guarantee the trustworthiness of independent lenders, according to Melecki.

According to Wiseman, a resolution in support of the bill, H.R. 3371, would provide students an opportunity to bring up the B-On-Time loans without SG recommending them.

The bill would amend the Higher Education Act so state institutions could provide information about state loans and allow universities to renew students’ loans without them having to reapply.

Wiseman said SG would begin a yearlong, strategic push to work with state representatives and raise awareness about the bill.

“We’re going to set the groundwork for something that could develop into a much larger, statewide campaign,” Wiseman said. “This is a minor setback at most.”

According to Melecki, there are currently more than 100 students on the waitlist for the B-On-Time program, and the University is obligated to reward the loan to students
who have already been in the program before giving it to students on the waitlist.

Melecki said students can also be informed about the program through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which sends out an email to students who need to renew their loan.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is a state agency that works with the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan program to promote the B-On-Time loan. Kristina Tirloni, Texas Guaranteed Student Loan program spokeswoman, said the agency may freely promote the B-On-Time loan, especially to high school students.

“It’s a great program because there’s a financial aid component, and there’s also the component of trying to advocate for the student to not only graduate on time, but with a pretty high GPA,” Tirloni said. “The benefit on the back end of the program is great for students.”

Internal and external Student Government positions were not officially sworn in by the SG Judicial Court on Tuesday night because of controversies surrounding external
appointments nominations.

All internal positions were confirmed by the assembly during Tuesday’s meeting but won’t be officially sworn in until the court issues a decision next week, according to SG Chief Justice Philip Wiseman. As of press time, no external positions were confirmed.

Andrew Wilson, outgoing president of the Liberal Arts Council, submitted a petition claiming three external positions did not have applications filed for them and asked that all interview notes be made public.

Originally, executive board members were nominated in three positions: SG President Kori Rady as the chair of the Spirit and Traditions Council, Internal Financial Director Rachel Miller as the chair of Faculty Council Student Life Committee and Vice President Taylor Strickland as Faculty Council Rec Sports Committee chair. 

According to Chris Jordan, SG chief of staff, using an executive board member in an unfilled position is not an uncommon practice and allows the position to be filled by the Faculty Council’s deadline, so the position can be opened up again in the summer.

Wilson’s petition requested the court issue an injunction on the confirmations of the external nominations. 

The SG Judicial Court voted 3-2 against issuing a preliminary injunction motion. Wiseman said a court hearing will be scheduled next week.

“Confirmation hearings tonight are not the last step,” Wiseman said. “Making those public rulings will ultimately determine if the process was legitimate and followed appropriately.”

Last week, the court issued an opinion advising that the executive board publicize applications and interview transcripts 48 hours before this week’s agenda was released to the assembly.

The SG internal rules state the chief of staff must make public all applications for all appointees. Jordan said he released all the applications, but did not do so before the set deadline. As a result, the names were not allowed to be put on the agenda.

“For transparency purposes, I didn’t have all the interviews done 48 hours before the meeting,” Jordan said. 

Wilson said, without interview notes, the assembly would not be able to effectively evaluate the appointments.

“You can increase the legitimacy of the representative nature of SG by reopening the applications to other students, and they can fill them out over the summer, rather than just filing students in those positions who didn’t even fill out an application or probably even do an interview,” Wilson said.

Jordan said although Wilson has raised these concerns, he has not received a request from any member of the assembly for interview notes.

“The feeling of the assembly is that it’s kind of irrelevant,” Jordan said. “The internal rules says all interview questions and answers shall be made public by the staff, but it does not mention transcripts.”

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

You approach a car dealership. Unable to finance a vehicle, you are turned away. Unfortunately, the dealer failed to mention a loan program that would have allowed you to afford your new car, and, in all 50 states, the dealer would have committed a criminal offense.

But this very same practice is being applied to a student’s investment in higher education every day — albeit, legally. Because of an unintended consequence of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act of 1965, universities are unable to give students and their families the full truth about how they can finance a college education. Outside of Federal Direct Lending, a U.S. Department of Education loan program, it is illegal for University advisers to refer students to loans from private companies or loans from state run entities, such as the Texas B-on-Time loan, which forgives student debt (to those who qualify) if you graduate in 4 years with more than a 3.0 GPA.

Luckily for students, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-TX Congressional District 15, has put into place efforts to fix the current loan predicament. Hinojosa has crafted proposed amendments which would allow schools the ability to inform students about all of the options available to them and lobbied for the legislation in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Student Government members, including me, are trying to raise awareness of the issue and assist legislative efforts in fixing this problem.

In their final months at the University, former SG Administrative Director Joshua Tang and Chief Justice Philip Wiseman are spearheading an effort to garner support for the proposed changes offered by Hinojosa’s office, an effort that I intend to continue after their graduation. Both Tang and Wiseman have traveled to D.C., done countless hours of research on the topic, stayed in close contact with Hinojosa’s office and, most importantly, begun to engage our campus on an issue that could truly impact students across the country. 

Students need to be made aware of as many options to finance their education as possible. Federally funded loans shouldn’t have a monopoly on the discussions between students and their advisers. Private loans and outside companies often provide services at affordable rates that would allow students to more feasibly pay for college. It is condemnable that students wouldn’t have access to knowledge about these options.

The proposed changes to HR 3371, which are set to be brought to the U.S. House floor in the upcoming legislative session, have tremendous bipartisan support. 

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle can get behind the bill, particularly since this specific fix wouldn’t impact federal taxpayers, as programs like the Texas B-On-Time loan and others that the University currently cannot make students aware of are funded by the state or private companies. 

“Our record number of teenagers must become our record number of high school and college graduates and our record number of teachers, scientists, doctors, lawyers and skilled professionals,” Hinojosa said. And his efforts are a significant step in that direction. Allowing college advisers to offer more financial options is a fantastic way to expand student resources without costing the federal government any money at all — particularly in the current fiscal climate.

As the school year draws to a close, it is easy to think of summer plans and not federal legislation. However, it is important to acknowledge that Hinojosa, Wiseman and Tang’s efforts are gaining steam. As someone who follows national and state politics, I find it rare to see efforts that directly impact the lives of students. But every student needs to get involved. That way, we can call upon the Texas delegation in Washington, D.C., to get behind H.R. 3371 and support giving students and their families all the options in paying for a college education.

Dimitroff is a government sophomore from Houston.

Students voted overwhelmingly to pass two Student Government referendums during campus-wide elections Thursday, even though the full details of the changes were not available on the ballot.

Philip Wiseman, chief justice for the SG Judicial Court, said the referendums would change the Student Government constitution. Some changes include adding specific protocols for transparency, establishing a method for apportioning college and school representation in the assembly and granting the president veto power over bills.

“At the end of the day, these reforms had several objectives, but it was to make SG more transparent, reinforce the checks and balances between branches and make sure we’re becoming in legal compliance with System rules and state and federal law,” Wiseman said.

Currently, colleges receive one representative for every 2,500 students enrolled. Some colleges include only undergraduates in this count while others include both graduate and undergraduate students. Wiseman said the change to this rule would apportion representation according to graduate and undergraduate populations within every college.

The amended constitution says the number of representatives will be “based upon the proportion of representation among the college and school representatives in the Assembly for the respective college or school as equal as possible to the proportion of the student body enrolled in the respective college or school.”

Wiseman said the amendment increases the assembly’s size and more proportionally represents each college. Andrew Houston, chair of rules and regulations, is the school of architecture representative and said he worked closely with Wiseman to improve representation.

“The school of architecture has 800 students including graduate students,” Houston said. “Graduate students make up a larger portion of the school, but those people did not count, and graduate students could not be served.”

Among the changes, the referendum also grants the SG president the power to veto bills. Before this amendment, the president only had the power to veto legislation. Wiseman said this would ensure that after the president submits the budget to the assembly, there would be a check and balance over any changes made.

“In reality, if the executive branch is the one carrying that out, there needs to be a check and balance between the legislative branch, and it just wasn’t there before,” Wiseman said.

Kori Rady, incoming Student Government president, said he does not see himself using the new power in the upcoming year.

“I think it’s definitely a last resort kind of deal,” Rady said. “You don’t want to use a veto unless you absolutely have to.”

According to Wiseman, SG passed amendments in 2011, which failed to garner any administrative approval, so Wiseman said SG continued operating outside jurisdiction of the UT System Board of Regents.

“This is something that hasn’t been accomplished since about 1995,” Wiseman said. “We’re not even sure those suggestions and amendments were formally and finally approved, so this could potentially be a process that hasn’t been done in over 50 years.”

In January, the amendments were passed through SG assemblies, and then passed as referendums during campus-wide elections last week. The referendums will move on to be signed off by the dean of students and the vice president of student affairs. Following this, President William Powers Jr. and the UT System Board of Regents must approve them.

Photo Credit: Letitia Smith | Daily Texan Staff

After past incidents of Student Government campaign impersonation, where students pretended to be affiliated with rivals’ campaigns to gather private information, some SG members proposed an amendmentTuesday night that would require candidates to disclose the names of all students working for their campaigns.

Philip Wiseman, chief justice for the SG Judicial Court, said the primary goal of the amendment is to redefine “campaign workers.” Additionally, all candidates will be required to disclose lists of their workers. 

Wiseman said candidates’ workers could be defined as anyone who supported a particular candidate in the original code. They will now be defined as people who directly collaborate with those who are running. Wiseman said this should not be difficult for candidates.

“It’s a practice that everyone already does or should do,” Wiseman said. “It would not burden candidates who are wanting to run this spring.”

According to the rewritten amendment, “each candidate and executive alliance shall be required to submit to the Election Supervisory Board an up-to-date list of all workers.”

In past years, candidates were not required to report workers. Wiseman said the lack of accountability created a problem because workers would impersonate members.

The amendment would also make advertising in The Daily Texan optional, Wiseman said. Currently, election code requires SG to advertise elections in the print edition of the paper.

“Rather than having to advertise in the student newspaper … that’s an option, but we can use other alternatives,” Wiseman said. “Once we print those ads it costs around $2,000, which leaves us with not a lot of money to do anything else.”

Going forward, Wiseman said he hopes to make changes to the SG constitution that would increase the number of college representative positions available to students. The changes would also more clearly define current positions. First year representatives would more exclusively be defined as freshman undergraduates or undergraduate transfer students.

In order for a new student constitution to take effect, it must go to a student referendum and be approved by the UT System Board of Regents, Wiseman said.

During its meeting, SG members also addressed plans to pass an extended Thanksgiving break.

“As an out-of-state student, I think this extra day of travel would be helpful,” liberal arts representative Courtney May said.

Kornel Rady, SG external financial director, said the change would allow students an extra day to travel and relax. If the extension is passed, 2015 would be the earliest it would go into effect.

“There’s a lot of faculty support with this,” Rady said.

Though legislation for a longer fall break was debated at Faculty Council meetings last year, the change fell through after many faculty members said the longer break would cut into necessary lab time.

The University is required to have 70 instructional days per semester, and Rady said the added day for Thanksgiving break would be made up for by having classes begin a day early.

SG members ended the meeting by appointing Zen Ren and Marisa Kent as co-directors of the Queer Students Alliance.

Kent said she hopes to bring SG and the alliance together during her semester as co-director.

A five-student team will represent UT in the first Up to Us competition that challenges nine other major universities to raise awareness of fiscal responsibility through creative campaigning. 

Competing schools aim to educate students on the effects of rising federal debt and inspire collective action. 

UT’s team leader Hamid Poorsafar has come to understand the importance of political participation through his work for the initiative.

“As a business student you’re taught to focus on getting a job and how much money you’ll make at that job,” said Poorsafar. “Getting people involved in public service is also important, and that kind of work can be really fulfilling.”

Poorsafar is the leader of UT’s team, which includes economics and mathematics senior Carter Pearson, statistics graduate student Novin Ghaffari, government senior Philip Wiseman and economics, philosophy and Chinese senior Grace Fu.

Wiseman says the competition functions as a reminder of his responsibilities to his generation.

“Previous generations have failed to look out for our future, and nobody else is going to do it for us,” Wiseman said. “We need to take control of the future of our nation, demand answers from our elected leaders, be smart in our borrowing in our own personal lives, understanding that it is in our hands to solve.”

In its campaign, UT’s team will host a jeopardy game Feb. 26 with topics that will test various UT organizations’ knowledge of the fiscal debt. The team will also hold a flash mob the evening of Feb. 28 on the south lawn. 

Up to Us is a collective project of sponsors Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative University and Net Impact, all organizations dedicated to fiscal sustainability.

Mary Tam, senior manager of the Up to Us campaign said, despite set criteria, the judging process will be difficult. 

“I’m incredibly impressed with the immense amount of work Up to Us teams are putting into the competition, despite their jobs, classwork, social lives and other commitments,” Tam said. “It’s also wonderful to see how each campus has tailored activities to their campus culture, and how team leaders have stayed in touch to support each other. This is an impressive group of students.”

The winning team will be awarded a $10,000 cash prize and be recognized by President Clinton at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University annual student meeting. 

Printed on Thursday, February 21, 2013 as: Fiscal responsibility taught via jeopardy