Taxpayers get a lesson in Greed 101 | Dec. 25, editorial
Criticism of colleges misses mark
The Times missed crucial elements in its Dec. 25 criticism of career colleges. It's all of higher education that's on the chopping block as the federal government questions its value in relation to rising student debt and the ability of graduates to repay their loans.
Much attention in this regard is unfairly focused on private career colleges. Our association represents Florida's 900 licensed, private career schools and colleges, serving 370,000 students annually.
Most career college students are working moms and dads with children who need flexibility and found the traditional college path wasn't for them. The so-called gainful employment rule proposed to curb student debt would harm students like these, the very ones it purports to help: low-income individuals seeking to improve their lives.
Financial aid goes to the student, not the school. Pundits, regulators and educators pursuing their own agendas point to career college students as having higher loan default rates. They cleverly ignore that when student debt is analyzed based on the student's income level and other risk factors, as it should be, the default rate is substantially the same across all types of colleges.
The gainful employment rule is based on what the association considers a flawed report issued by the Government Accountability Office. Several members of Congress have also criticized the report for its carelessness. Even so, the report is the basis for attacks against all career colleges, including those in Florida, which are highly regulated. The rule would negatively impact any institution's program where indebted graduates' first salaries fall below that defined by an arbitrary formula set by the U.S. Education Department.
It's time for structural changes to student loan programs, but let's make sure the rules are played fairly across the board.
Kathy Mizereck, executive director, Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges
Carter's legacy of service Jan. 2, Bill Maxwell column
Ahead of his time
Like Bill Maxwell, I admire and appreciate Jimmy Carter, the man and the former president. Unfortunately, most Americans do not understand or remember Carter's accomplishments in the White House.
One notable achievement omitted in the column was the implementation of higher mileage standards, which gave incentive to auto manufacturers to build higher-mileage cars. Of course, once the price of gasoline came down, Americans returned to their profligate ways with sport utility vehicles, and now we await the next big oil price crunch.
Jeff Radley, Lithia
Estonia switches to euro | Jan. 1
I and my fellow members of the Central Florida Estonian-American Association were disappointed that the Times, in its news article "Ex-Soviet republic Estonia switches to euro," perpetuates Josef Stalin's Soviet-era propaganda that the Republic of Estonia was a Soviet republic. The independent Republic of Estonia was unfortunately forcibly invaded by Stalin's Red Army and had to suffer under Soviet occupation for 50 years. However, its incorporation into the Soviet Union was never recognized by the United States and most other Western democracies. It was always Soviet-occupied Estonia rather than Soviet republic Estonia.
The Republic of Estonia successfully regained its independence with the so-called singing revolution, where about a third of the entire population gathered to sing and rally against the occupation forces. Many historians consider this courageous insurrection to mark the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire, resulting in freedom for all the other nations that suffered under Soviet occupation.
Juri Toomepuu, Lutz
State Farm purge nears end | Jan. 5
Regional solution needed
We too are one of the unlucky ones being dropped by State Farm. We will be dropping our auto insurance with State Farm and will not be using it for anything in the future.
It is time that all of the insurance commissioners from the coastal states (Texas to Maine) call a meeting of the major insurance companies and give them two options.
1. Insure everyone at a reasonable cost.
2. Insure no one (the states would band together and self-insure).
From the coastal states alone you are talking billions of dollars in revenue for the insurance companies. I can't imagine if you gave them these two choices that they would not come around and change their policies. The coastal states cannot continue to allow the companies to cherry-pick the ones they want to insure and leave the rest for the states to take care of.
Jim Byers, St. Petersburg
Self-insure, cross fingers
I also got a letter from State Farm Florida Insurance Co. informing me that my homeowner's insurance would not be renewed.
I had been with State Farm for 15 years. I felt like a faithful spouse who has been served divorce papers.
Between 1997 and 2010, our homeowner's policy at State Farm increased over 500 percent. Last year, the annual rate jumped from $2,500 to $3,214. My wife and I are retired, and our budget could no longer sustain such increases. I went to my agent and negotiated a stripped-down policy for the year.
Then we were dumped. Thanks, State Farm Florida. The Times article suggests that State Farm is herding its culls towards Citizens. This is not for us. We will no longer be fleeced by the Florida insurance racket.
We have started our own homeowner's fund. We are fortunate. Our home is paid for and sits 63 feet above sea level in sinkhole-free zone. We have hurricane shutters that can be quickly installed and the trees close to the house have been cleared. I feel confident the house could survive anything below a Category 3 storm taking a direct hit on the Tampa Bay area. Knock on wood and cross your fingers.
V.J. Hagenbuckle, Clearwater
Egypt church toll rises to 21 | Jan. 2
A history of suffering
While this might not be on the hearts of most people in the Tampa Bay area, on New Year's Eve more than 20 Coptic Christians were killed when a car bomb exploded outside of their church in Egypt. Nearly 100 others were injured. The horror isn't only that they were killed after celebrating church services in peace, but that this has been an ongoing pattern of suffering for this minority religion in an Islamic country.
For most of the past 1,300 years, the Coptic church has suffered in silence. And while other atrocities around the world may sometimes drown out the tears of these Coptic mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, I think it's time for a change. Not only change in the way our country conditions the international aid it gives to foreign nations, but also time for change in the way we Americans perceive the world's persecuted minorities.
It would be a great service of raising awareness and educating citizens if the Times ran a weekly column on global minorities and their suffering. I, of course, think the first one you publish should be about the Coptic church, since they rang in the New Year in blood and mourning.
Karim Hanna, Tampa
He saved lives, but stayed humble Jan. 5, Epilogue
Connecting with others
Thank you for making Epilogue an occasional series in the newspaper. When my younger colleagues and friends ask me why I "still read the newspaper," Epilogue is one of the reasons I give them. Everyone has a biography representing our individuality, yet they add to our shared connectiveness with others.
I had the pleasure among hundreds in assisting Dr. Botero's patients. Dr. Botero, you've left this planet better than you found it, and you have achieved everlasting healing. Thank you.
Ron Skidmore, Largo