Gas Price Increases Affect the Economy

April 21, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Kimmy Ryan
kryan@smu.edu

 

Haass, Rubin, and Gergen Answer Questions at Tate Lecture Student Forum

September 15, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Marissa Belske
msbelske@smu.edu

SMU and local high school students gathered in the Hughes-Trigg ballroom Tuesday afternoon to ask respected political and foreign affair experts about pressing issues on the U.S. economy and international relations in the Middle East and China.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Robert Rubin, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and David Gergen, a senior political commentator for CNN helped kick off the 29th season of the Tate Lecture Series by expressing the importance of U.S. international involvement in a down economy.

The Role of China and Latin America

The experts agreed that with today’s economy the U.S. needs a much broader range of partners. Haass said that a good relationship with China is vital to the future of the U.S.

“They stressed to me the point that the U.S. needs to become and stay allies with China to grow,” said SMU student Daniel Hux.

According to Gergen, China’s renewable energy industry is growing rapidly, at times promoting their economy at the expense of American jobs.

“They (China) are doing a lot of things which are in violation with international law to build up their economy and create these jobs,” said Gergen. “Places, like in Dublin, Massachusetts where there is a renewable energy company, are now shutting down and moving its jobs to China.”

“It surprised me to hear that China has gotten into renewable energy,” said elementary schoolteacher Linda Giesen. “They are taking our jobs and that is scary.”

The experts agree that the U.S. needs to turn their attention to developing relationships with Latin America as well. Rubin says that 10 to 20 years down the road, the U.S. could face conflict in these regions for access to their natural resources.

“We have paid too little attention to Latin America for far too long,” said Gergen.

A Strong Home Front

The U.S. economy was on the minds of all the experts. Haass was especially passionate about the importance of improving the American economy before creating international commitments.

“The most important thing I would say is we need to be strong at home if we are going to be strong abroad,” said Haass. “We are accumulating debt at an alarming rate which leaves us vulnerable. We need to restore again the economic foundations of our might.”

Gergen joked that all students should take history while in college to learn from previous mistakes. While America faces threats from abroad, he says that the America’s biggest threat comes from within.

“I cannot remember a time when our problems have seemed so big and our capacity to solve them have been this small,” said Gergen.

The Future of the Middle East

The experts touched on Iran and the growing threat there due to their economic challenges. Haass said that today Iran is developing nuclear weapons in laboratories and that it is hard to predict what will happen next.

“The question in Iran is what is the timeline of political change in comparison to the timeline of their nuclear development,” said Haass.

While the experts are hopeful that the issues will resolve themselves in the Middle East, they say problems will not be resolved anytime soon.

“The basic message is stay tuned,” said Gergen. “I think almost everything we have said today is stay tuned.”

Although the subject matter of the afternoon was serious, SMU Student Haz said that the student forum was both entertaining and enlightening.

“They are passionate about what they do and it is good to know that we have people out there that are trying to help fix what’s going on here.”
For more information on the speakers visit the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series website. The next Tate Student Forum will be held Tuesday, October 5th and will feature Inventor Ray Kurzweil.

Animals Suffer from Poor Economy

April 15, 2010 by · Comments Off 

by Katie Simon
katies@smu.edu

The sad, tired eyes of an old chocolate Labrador peer through the bars of the kennel that is now his home. The four-year-old dog’s family recently abandoned him to a local animal shelter because they could no longer afford to care for him. But he doesn’t understand that.  

For many people, the poor state of the economy has taken a significant toll on their ordinary lifestyles. But for those with pets, both the owner and the pet may suffer.

Animal abandonment is no new problem. A family moves, which serves as an excuse to hand their dog over to an already over-capacity no-kill shelter. Or a man realizes he’s allergic to cats after all, so the cat ends up at a city pound where it is most likely to be euthanized.

But families who genuinely love their pets are now handing them over to shelters because they have either lost their jobs or their homes for financial reasons. Shelters, on the other hand, are experiencing a decline in adoptions because people know it is hard enough to care for themselves when they are tight on money. Adding an animal to the equation is simply out of the question.

Mark Cooper, the rescue coordinator for the city of Dallas, says the number of people surrendering pets for economical reasons has increased by 20 percent.

In December 2008, the Collin County Animal Shelter took in 63 pet surrenders from owners. In December 2010, it took in 117.

Owners surrender dogs more than cats. Dog food is expensive, and visits to the vet, especially for big dogs, are generally more expensive.

“People cannot afford the vet bills any longer; so instead, they are surrendering the animal to us in hopes that we can “fix” the animal,” Cooper said.

Tomi Tucker, the volunteer coordinator for the no-kill shelter Operation Kindness in Carrollton, says that they are constantly turning away animals—especially large breed dogs—because of space.

“We get hundreds of calls a day that we can’t take,” Tucker said. “We have to tell them no.”

While some shelters have maintained a steady number of animals, one thing is constant among all of them, say shelter workers: the number of surrenders and fewer adoptions are due to the economy.

Loss of a Home

When a family loses their home, their pet often loses its home and its owners.

“It’s like being separated from one of their own family members,” said Jackie Shapiro, who recently adopted a kitten from KittyCo Cat Rescue in Dallas.

Cats have an advantage in this situation, explains Tucker. If a person or family downgrades from an expensive home to a smaller one, a cat can usually be included in the moving process.

Large dogs, however, usually end up homeless.

“Cats are a little bit easier because more people can take cats than they can take dogs, because dogs require more assistance,” Tucker said.

For pit bull terriers and pit mixes, moving homes is practically an automatic death-sentence.

Pit bulls are considered an aggressive breed and many homeowners or landlords won’t allow their owners to keep them. And when pit bull owners bring their beloved dog to a no-kill shelter, they are often turned away because the shelter knows it is unlikely to be adopted.

Some city shelters, such as Carrollton’s, don’t take in pit bulls at all. Instead, they are immediately put down.

Amy Pelzel, a full-time volunteer for Denton Animal Shelter, says that Denton euthanizes 35 percent of its animals, and of that 35 percent, 70 percent are pit bulls.

“A lot of pit bulls are great with people, but aren’t dog-friendly. A lot of homes won’t allow you to have an aggressive breed,” she explained. “You can’t take it to a dog park, and you can’t find anywhere to live with that dog. It’s a stereotype of what that kind of dog is, so they aren’t accepted by society.”

Owner Surrenders

Before the economic downturn, many animal surrenders were strays people had found. At least that’s what people were telling shelters.

Pelzel believes that then, people were embarrassed to admit that they either could not care for or did not want their pet any longer. Now, however, financial problems have given some people a legitimate reason for handing over their pets, and others a believable excuse.

“People are literally just saying, ‘Oh, it’s because of the economy.’ And it’s almost more of an acceptable excuse to give up an animal,” she said.

Whether the surrenders are genuine or not, though, more people are turning in pets rather than strays.

Many pet owners want the best for their pet, but they don’t always understand how to go about ensuring that their pet ends up in good hands.

“If they turn the dog in as an owner surrender and there is no cage space, it can be directly taken to be put to sleep. Its time is up the second it is released to a shelter,” said Molly Peterson, the president of the Collin County Humane Society.

Peterson recommends that owners tell kill-shelters that the dog is a stray rather than turn the dog in as their own. This way they not only avoid paying the surrender fee, but the animal is automatically ensured a three to six day holding period, which was originally created so that owners could find missing pets. This window of time allows an owner’s pet a greater chance of being adopted rather than euthanized.

A Sad Future

For those animals who are lucky enough not to be turned away to a kill-shelter, a kennel or cage may be their forever-home.

Vikki Honkala, president of City Pet Rescue, says that old pets in particular face a dismal future living in the shelters.

“When you see the confused look in the eyes of a 10-year-old dog that has been left at a shelter by its owners, it’s awful. Who wants to adopt a senior dog or an old cat?” Honkala said.

Because older animals usually experience more health problems, which equal more expensive veterinarian bills, most of them live out the rest of their lives behind a caged door.

Maura Davies, the senior director of communications at SPCA of Texas, said the number of adoptions occurring within the SPCA has plummeted in recent months.

Last year, the SPCA adopted out around 750 pets a month, or about 25 a day. However, those numbers have significantly decreased lately.

“Adoptions went from 750 a month to 500. We have gone down from about 25 a day to around 16 a day,” Davies said.

Operation Kindness has seen the same decrease in adoptions. They usually adopt out between 60 and 75 animals per week. Recently, though, they experienced a week where only six animals were adopted out between Monday and Thursday.

For the animals, living in the shelter is a complete shift from their lives in homes with families. Most are sad and scared.

“You can’t tell them, ‘It’s going to be okay, you’re going to find somebody.’ They don’t understand why they are where they are,” Pelzel said.

Responsible Ownership

Operation Kindness and other shelters say it is better to adopt a pet from a shelter rather than buying from a breeder, because breeders add to the problem of animal overpopulation.

“I think it’s really important to adopt. It helps the animals, and a lot of times the animals that you can adopt are absolutely wonderful. From what I’ve heard, a lot of times they make better pets,” Shapiro said.

However, breeders stress that adoption is not for everyone.

While many families can’t help losing a job and the subsequent inability to pay for their pets, there are still others who adopt a pet without considering the costs and responsibilities associated with doing so, say shelter officials.

Tucker said that Operation Kindness has very strict requirements for adoption, and does its best to educate potential new pet owners of the responsibilities a pet entails.

Tucker recalled a family of five who bought a poodle they had bought from a breeder for $1,500, then turned it over to Operation Kindness when they realized it was required too much trouble and time.

“We asked, ‘Ok, is it housetrained?’ And they said, ‘We don’t know. We just keep it in the bathroom,” recalled Tucker.  

Many shelters also frequently experience animal returns because the owner realized he or she didn’t have enough money to afford her pet.

“We try to educate people when they adopt them that this is a commitment,” Tucker said.

Adoptions by college students are also strongly discouraged. Operation Kindness receives many animal surrenders from recent college graduates moving away for their jobs.

Shelters strongly recommend that owners prevent the problem of homeless animals by spaying and neutering their pets, because poor economy or not, the number of animals in shelters is astounding.

“The only way that every animal in the U.S. could have a home is if every man, woman and child adopted seven animals a day every day for the rest of their lives,” Davies said.

VIDEO: Rise in Entrepreneurship in a Down Economy

March 5, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Courtney O’Callaghan
cocallagha@smu.edu

Read more

Big D Blog: Bishop Arts District Resident loves her New Old House

October 27, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Diana Nolacea

Tracy Popken is living her dream at 24, thanks to the down turn of the economy in the last year.  She says she wouldn’t be where she is now if the economy was thriving in the United States.

Popken graduated from the University of North Texas in 2008 and was scouting out a place to live in Dallas. She came across a unique and mixed neighborhood in Oak Cliff. She fell in love with Bishop Arts District, a flourishing community of specialty boutiques, restaurants, shops and galleries. Her fashion design degree lead to her a happy job as an assistant manager at a local boutique in Bishop Arts District. Popken loves her bosses and is learning so much about managing the store.

Popken decided to take advantage of the home buyers credit available to first time home buyers. She says she is excited about her 2008 income tax return. Also, thanks to the economy, the house she bought almost went into foreclosure. So, the price of the home had been significantly reduced. Those two factors were the reason Tracy was able to acquire her home. She is restoring her 1920s home just down the street from Bishop Arts and she enjoys every minute of it. It was her dream to buy an old house and restore it. And that is exactly what she is doing.

Campus News Blog: Economy Still Hurting?

October 19, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Gwen Sullivan

For those of us that think the economy is finally recovering, the Federal Reserve policymakers are not so sure.

Since the Fed has pumped trillions of dollars into the economy to stimulate a recovery, they are watching closely to make sure they stop soon enough to not cause inflation.

When a recovery does in fact happen, it will most likely be a modest one, said Bernard Baumohl, executive director of the Economic Outlook Group. Even if we are on the way to change, Fed members agree that the job market is likely to stay down for a while, meaning employees won’t see major changes in their pay checks for quite some time.

This means that seniors graduating in May will still feel the effects of the recession. CNN posted the Top 50 Best Jobs in America in 2009 that have the best pay and growth prospects.

With the economy still hurting, graduates can benefit from looking for a career in another profession. Graduate school is a popular route, and it’s not too late look into other areas of interest!

Campus News Blog: Consumer Trends Show Signs of Economic Improvement?

September 28, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Gwen Sullivan

Is the economy showing signs of improvement?

In a New York Times article, “Men’s Underwear as an Economic Indicator,” written by Jack Healy, he said that statistical evidence on Wall Street says the answer is yes, but that “Consumers remain weary.”

Healy said that subtle signs, such as the raise in movie attendance and declined sales in men’s underwear, show how people are finding cheaper ways to entertain themselves and are still not spending like they used to.

According to an article on the Daily Mustang, SMU has seen evidence of declining enrollment back in April, but current college students are feeling the effects just like everyone else.

Are SMU students finally adapting to a tighter wallet?

It seems like this year, more students are looking for jobs to earn a little extra cash. They are finding on-campus jobs and local restaurants and shops that allow flexible weekly hours and nighttime and weekend hours.

But what about all the cars around campus bearing new license plates and shiny rims, and the apartments with a five-digit monthly rent?

It is difficult to know how quickly the economy is changing, especially when people are saving and splurging.

GameStop Q-4 Analysis

April 29, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Katherine Helms
khelms@smu.edu

In a time when most companies are feeling the heat of the deep recession, GameStop Corporation is one of the few to benefit from the downturn. The company is reporting sharply higher sales and earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended on Jan. 31.

GameStop, the world’s largest video game and entertainment software retailer is thriving as penny-pinching consumers see staying at home and playing video games as a cheaper alternative to going out.

Headquartered in Grapevine, Texas, the company has 6,207 retail stores worldwide. GameStop sells both new and used game software, as well as video game equipment and accessories from Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. With the coming of new games such as Rock Band Beatles, company executives believe sales in the next quarters could see similar improvements.

GameStop’s sales increased 21.9 percent to $3.5 billion compared to $2.9 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter of 2007. The company’s net earnings jumped 22.4 percent to $232.3 million this quarter

“”We are seeing a very, very strong demand in our pre-sale reservations for both the Guitar Hero Metallica and the Rock Band Beatles. So, there is still a lot of new exciting things coming out in the music genres this year,” said David Carlson, the company’s chief financial officer, in an earnings conference call.

New hardware sales grew 13 percent, which the company attributes to Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. The new software sales grew 23 percent thanks to new games like World at War and Wii Fit.

GameStop stores can be found across the United States and in Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway Spain and Sweden. By the end of 2008, GameStop opened or acquired 1,002 new stores, and according to Daniel DeMatteo, GameStop’s chief executive officer, stores will continue to open in the United States and abroad this year.

The company’s top competitors include Amazon.com, Toys “R” Us, and Best Buy. While those competitors are much bigger than GameStop, they sell many other products; Gamestop focuses entirely on video games.

Although many industries have felt substantial hits during this economic downturn, GameStop has continued to flourish. Games serve as a cheap form of entertainment compared to movie tickets, which sell for around $10 each; games are slightly more expensive, but can be used over and over again. For example, Mario Power Tennis sells for $29.99, so instead of spending $40.00 to take your kids to the movie, games may seem like a more reasonable solution.

“In spite of the recession games are viewed as cheap entertainment and we see software sales growing 5% to 10% in the US as they already grew about 10% in both January and February,” said DeMatteo in the earnings conference call.

The company had a good quarter, but Bob Dudley, managing director and broker for Morgan Keegan and Company in Little Rock, Arkansas, says he would be wary of buying GameStop stock and keeping it long term. He explains that from an investment standpoint there are too many long-term hurdles that the company will face. For instance, Dudley raises the question of how many people actually go to the mall with the intention of going to GameStop. The company has multiple stores located in malls, and Dudley questions whether the high rent is worth the traffic and the long-term effect this will have on GameStop.

“There are so many other solid long term opportunities in this market, I would have nothing to do with this company,” said Dudley.

Sour Economy Sends One Student to UNT

April 22, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Laura May
lauram@smu.edu

Jakin Vela started out his college education at the University of Texas at San Antonio. But after spending one semester there, he realized it was not the school for him.

He moved back to his parents’ house in Richardson and decided to apply to the school of his dreams, Southern Methodist University.

He started his second semester of college as a film and psychology major at SMU. He applied for and received various student loans. Over time he become very active on campus. He was the president of SPECTRUM and a Dedman II senator.

But this semester, he is taking classes at University of North Texas–and it was not his first choice.

“I could not get my loans for SMU for the semester,” Vela said, “and when I found out that paying for school just wasn’t going to happen, I needed to act fast.”

‘Feeling the Burden’

Like many students across the country, Vela’s educational dreams have fallen victim to the national credit crunch.

“At the time of my application for loans, banks were closing left and right,” Vela said.

The bank Vela got a previous loan from stopped accepting loan applications because “they were feeling the burden of the economic downfall,” he said.

Unfortunately for Vela, he did not qualify for enough grants or federal loans to pay for SMU. Like many SMU students, Vela said his parents make too much money for him to be considered for any “considerably helpful amount” of financial need-based grants or federal loans.

“So, it’s like I’m stuck in the middle section where I don’t get enough of the help I need from either the government or my parents,” Vela said.

The federal government helps college students through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students have to fill out a detailed form to see how much, if any, government money they qualify for. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has a Web site to help Texas students with financial aid in Texas.

“My parents don’t make enough to just write a $36,000 check every year for school,” Vela said.

As a result, he moved to a school that he could afford. Vela, who said he is close to his family, has had to relocate to Denton and now has apartment expenses added to his financial worries.

Down Economy Affecting Hilltop’s Enrollment?

The big question for SMU is if prospective freshmen are feeling the economic pressures and not applying to SMU.

While numbers of applications for the fall 2009 semester are not yet available, some high school students are being affected by the poor economic climate.

Nora Henson is a counselor at Plano Senior High School and is currently sitting in on academic conferences with junior students to discuss college plans. While she said that no one has mentioned SMU by name, some students are considering community college options because of finances.

“The poor economy is definitely changing the direction of college plans for many students,” she said.

According to the lead counselor at Garland High School, Debbie Lee, students now have the perception that they need to switch their first choice school to a more economical option.

Even so, Lee says that despite the poor economy “quite a number of students are applying to SMU.”

SMU’s Enrollment Suffers Along with Economy

April 15, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Tiffany Adams
tadams@smu.edu

As the recession deepens, more and more people are looking for ways to save money. One big cost many families are trying to trim is college tuition. This could spell declining enrollment for pricey private schools like Southern Methodist University.

One explanation for the dwindling enrollment numbers includes transfer students such as Katie Stipanovich, one of many students who have transferred from a private university to a less expensive school. Stipanovich, now a sophomore at the University of Missouri, transferred from SMU to the public university in her home state to help her family cut costs.

“With the economy so bad, my parents thought it best to pay in-state tuition, which comes down to about a third of the cost of tuition at SMU,” Stipanovich said. “The cost of living in Missouri is much lower than in Dallas.”

For the 2008-2009 academic year, tuition at SMU reached $29,430, fees added up to $3,740 and room and board was $10,125.

The political science major further helped decrease the cost of college life by quitting her sorority and finding a part-time job at a local bakery. The dues for her sorority as an active member were $1,195 per semester.

“I quit my sorority because the dues were really starting to add up. This actually worked out quite well, because by quitting my sorority, I had more free time, which meant I could find a part-time job to earn my own spending money so my parents did not have to give me a monthly allowance,” she said.

Lisa Vasquez, executive director of public relations at Collin County Community College, affirms this trend of increasing enrollment at public universities, as students opt out of enrolling in more expensive institutions.

“Although our enrollment has steadily increased since before the economic turn, we have seen a jump in enrollment, largely due to the bad economy,” Vasquez said.

She said that the community college has 21,304 students enrolled for the spring semester, an increase of 10 percent from the year before, when usually enrollment increases only about four to eight percent each year.

In an effort to help students, Vasquez said that the college has frozen tuition for three years for those students who are Collin County residents, as well as provided more financial aid. The tuition for a county resident taking an average of 15 hours was $557 for the 2008-2009 academic year.

“In 1999-2000, Collin County provided $2.3 million in financial aid, whereas in this last year, our financial aid reached over $19 million and will probably break $20 million in the near future,” she said.

Hillary McIlvain, assistant director of Admissions at SMU, said although student enrollments are down, the number of applications for admission starting in fall 2009 has increased.

“Whether or not those admitted will actually enroll is another story. It will be interesting to monitor those enrollments this fall,” McIlvain said.

According to SMU Enrollment 10,347 students are enrolled at SMU this spring, a 1.52 percent decrease from the 10,507 enrolled in spring 2008.

She also said, as the point of contact for families of SMU admits, the admissions office has seen a significant increase in calls asking for financial aid and merit-based scholarships. These scholarships, McIlvain said, have not experienced a decrease in the amount of money allocated towards them.

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