Magazine

Stumbling Blocks on the Path to College


I couldn't agree more with William C. Symonds' commentary "College admissions: The real barrier is class" (Social Issues, Apr. 14), about the disparity in the college-entrance and -completion rates of low-income students vs. high-income students. This is not an affirmative action issue; it is an economic one.

Members of the National College Access Network are committed to increasing the number of first-generation, underrepresented college students who enroll in higher education. Through hands-on guidance in college admission, financial aid, and career selection, our members work with low-income students and their families free of charge to help them access, finance, and complete post-secondary education. By awarding "last dollar" grants -- scholarships that bridge the gap of unmet need -- we also help students pay for college and avoid being burdened by overwhelming loans.

Christina R. Milano

Executive Director

National College Access Network

Cleveland

Symonds' attempt to politicize college admissions is nonsense. His headline should have been: "The real barrier is cost." If the country wishes to promote advanced education (college, apprenticeship, or whatever) for a more productive workforce, then it has to accept some responsibility in subsidizing the process. There is a difference between running the process in a businesslike manner and striving for a bottom line in the black. Education should be available at reasonable cost to those who demonstrate an ability to use it. If there are class-based inequities in ability and degree of preparation, they should be remedied at the source, not by slipshod application of the entrance requirements to advanced education.

John L. Ragle

Hadley, Mass.

Editor's note: The writer is professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Massachusetts.

I found Symonds' commentary strange. My dad was the first generation to attend college. I never heard my grandfather (South Philadelphia High, '31) raise the issue of "discrimination" in regard to his not being able to attend college because of lack of finances. In fact, the opposite seems to have been the case. He worked hard and saved money so his children could attend college. Did it take a lot of research to figure out that one of the criteria for attending a top school is being able to pay for it?

David Kosloff

Merion, Pa. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which has already caused more than 80 deaths in China -- and Toronto -- serves as a reminder of the gaps that still exist in global cooperation to protect public health ("While China stonewalled," Science, Apr. 14). As soon as SARS cases were suspected in Taiwan, health officials notified the World Health Organization and asked to participate in the international effort to deal with the epidemic. But Taiwan is excluded from the WHO because of pressure from Beijing, and our initial appeal to be included in the fight against SARS was ignored.

Mainland China, a WHO member, has been slow to cooperate with the organization. Nevertheless, Beijing continues to oppose Taiwan's involvement in WHO efforts. It should be clear to all parties that excluding Taiwan from the WHO is unfair and dangerous. To ensure health for all, such political posturing must cease. The 23 million people of Taiwan must be allowed a voice in the WHO.

Jung-tzung Yih

Director, Information Div.

Taipei Economic & Cultural Office

New York We appreciated your thoughtful comments on the role L-3 technology is playing in defense and homeland security in "Plugging into the networked war" (The Corporation, Apr. 21). However, I was surprised at the mistaken impression that certain "industry insiders" have about the role of Robert V. LaPenta. As a co-founder and my partner in L-3 Communications Corp., Bob LaPenta has been involved in every aspect of L-3's success. As president and CFO, Bob is directly involved in operations and -- more important -- identifying growth opportunities for the future.

Frank C. Lanza

Chairman and CEO

L-3 Communications Corp.

New York

Your article on L-3 Communications, although generally accurate, appears to underplay the strength of its culture and management team. While Frank Lanza, like Bernard Schwartz before him at Loral, where they worked, is the key spokesman to the investor community, L-3 and Loral both created a formula for success and a strong team to implement the corporate vision. In contrast to your assertion that President Bob LaPenta is "an operations expert," I would characterize him as more of a visionary and financial strategist, who is one of the three "L's" for good reason. Moreover, alumni from the Loral/L-3 culture include Bob Stevens, Lockheeed Martin's COO and Lt. General Jay Garner, who has been chosen by the Administration to run post-War Iraq. Not bad for a one-horse show!

Cai von Rumohr

Managing Director

SG Cowen Securities Corp.

Boston

Editor's note: The writer's firm is investment banker for L-3. In "How to fix the airlines" (Industries, Apr. 14), you say on page 74: "Washington should butt out," and on page 78: Washington's "role should be to protect fliers, not airline balance sheets." But in between, you (apparently) applaud US Airways Inc. for defaulting on its pension obligations, which will be (partially) picked up by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

The PBGC is in fairly dire financial shape itself, and who do you think will get to bail it out -- along with the pensioners who rely on it and the corporations who've dumped their obligations on it -- if things get worse? The federal government. Which means taxpayers, both individual and corporate (to the extent that any corporations still pay taxes). That sounds suspiciously like protecting balance sheets to me, by allowing, or encouraging, airlines to transfer obligations to the government.

Donald A. Coffin

Associate Professor of Economics

Indiana University Northwest

Gary, Ind.

As a Republican and an accountant, I believe that a competitive free market, with its cycles of expansion and contraction, is the most efficient mechanism for most industries. But I also believe the economy is harmed when "infrastructure" industries go through long periods of destabilization.

"How to fix the airlines" (Industries, Apr. 14) makes several good suggestions that may help improve profitability in the short run. But in the long run, I believe the airline industry is unalterably doomed with its current competitive business model. Perhaps the time has come to consider returning the airlines and other infrastructure industries to government regulation.

Paul M. Green

Cincinnati

Many pilots like me are stymied by the government's archaic law that prevents commercial pilots from working beyond their 60th birthday. Many of us are frustrated by our own Air Line Pilots Assn.'s stubborn opposition to any change in the Age 60 Rule. The U.S. needs to join Europe, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and most of the rest of the world in allowing pilots to work a few more years -- provided they can meet stringent medical requirements.

Alan Fishback

Continental Airlines Inc.

Kingwood, Tex. Numerous scientific studies of dietary components, including at least a dozen placebo-controlled trials, have failed to show any conclusive direct effects of diet on childhood behavior ("Eat well, behave better," BusinessWeek Investor, Apr. 14). The process of manipulating a child's diet and instituting the necessary behavioral controls for dietary adherence may have beneficial effects on overall behavior, especially for young children whose behavior may be more plastic and subject to environmental cues. This indirect effect may be at least as likely as the food components themselves as a cause for the anecdotal improvements in childhood behavior associated with dietary management. Certainly, additional rigorous data in this area would be welcome.

Phillip D.K. Lee, M.D.

Los Angeles

Editor's note: The writer is professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles and clinical director of the Pediatric Endocrinology Div. at Mattel Children's Hospital.


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