Attending will remain costly on a net basis

Any enthusiastic support for the University of Minnesota’s decision to freeze undergraduate tuition (“Regents, students like U tuition relief,” June 6) is grossly premature. This initiative fails to address the real problem, that being the net cost of attending the university.

Freezing tuition will not necessarily decrease the average debt load. Rather, undergraduates will continue to owe $20,000-plus on average at graduation time.

In addition, the university’s financial aid packages are significantly lower than those offered by other state and private higher-education institutions, as experienced by the high school seniors I used to teach.

Many of my poorer students were forced to take their general courses at lower-cost community colleges simply because the net cost of attending the U was way out of reach. Also, many of my students received much better net-cost arrangements from some of Minnesota’s more-prestigious private colleges.

Our legislators ought to investigate the net cost of learning at the U rather than the gross cost, especially when they compare financial-aid arrangements made to poorer Minnesota residents as opposed to out-of-state students.

The university’s bias against poorer students is also demonstrated every year when officials at the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses refuse to participate in the no-fee Application Week for Minnesota high school seniors. Almost all other Minnesota colleges — public and private — gladly participate.

Howard W. Schwartz, Golden Valley

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Motives of Congress appear inconsistent

We seem to live in a paradoxical world. “In the face of fierce congressional and industry opposition,” the Transportation Security Administration has scrapped its plan to loosen restrictions for airplane carry-on items (“TSA cancels plan to let knives, bats on planes,” June 6).

The congressional opposition is particularly curious, because this is the same Congress that could not muster the courage to pass legislation to slow the proliferation of guns in our neighborhoods.

Could it be that our elected representatives are more concerned with the safety of affluent airline passengers than of ordinary citizens, many of whom live in dangerously impoverished neighborhoods? Yes, perhaps so.

After all, this is the same Congress that pressured the FAA to put air traffic controllers back to work when sequestration forced the FAA to furlough workers, creating air travel delays. And who flies on airplanes? Affluent people who have Congress’ attention.

J.H. Fonkert, St. Paul

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The TSA has come to its senses with respect to knives, and with bats and other sports equipment. Now I read that the National Security Agency is collecting metadata from Verizon because it’s a “critical” security tool and an administration official has said that authorities need the information to protect the nation from terrorist threats. I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, I constantly see ads for AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Am I to assume that the “terrorists” only use the Verizon network for their calls?

Marc N. Burton, Minneapolis

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Attention diverted from real issues

The Associated Press story “IRS paid for plush meeting facilities” (June 5) — a part of the corporate media’s concerted efforts to demonize the agency tasked with investigating the tax swindles of the Corporate State of America — was riddled with more holes than the U.S. tax code.

“One top official stayed five nights in a room that regularly goes for $3,500 per night,” the story reported. Shame! But, oops, in fact the IRS “paid a flat daily fee of $135 per hotel room.” But the room upgrades were a “package deal that added to the overall cost of the conference.” Shame again! Of course, the story — designed to make taxpayers recoil in horror at the idea of a public official in lodgings above the level of a Motel 6 — leaves out exactly how much that cost actually was.

Corporate America, which cheats U.S. taxpayers out of $92 billion annually, wants to paralyze the IRS. One way to do that is to ensure that working for the agency is so financially unattractive that no expert in his or her right mind, with the legal and financial know-how required to navigate the corporate tax swindlers, would ever consider IRS employment. After all, working for the tax-dodgers is much more lucrative.

Employee conferences for a public agency with 106,000 employees (2010) cost $49 million over a three-year period (2010-12). That’s $16.3 million per year. That’s $154 per employee per year. Wow, that oughta buy a lot of plush. Big news, right?

Íris E. Lee, Northfield, Minn.