|Volume 31, Issue 14
||April 15, 2005
Iowa Legislature attempts to say thanks
Serving one's country can be thought of as the ultimate price for freedom. The Iowa Legislature has passed a bill giving a thank you of monetary value to those men and women who do serve this country, affecting some NIACC students.
According to the Iowa Legislative website, the bill, Senate File 75, formerly known as Senate File 30, transfers approximately one million dollars to the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) to be used for a home ownership assistance program for eligible service members.
Funds are used as matching grants for down payments and closing costs toward home purchases. Families could receive up to $10,000 in matching funds, which will be administered through the IFA.
To be eligible, a member of the Guard, Reserve, or regular armed forces is required to have at least 90 days of active duty service between Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2006.
The bill reallocates the original 2003 appropriation of $1,810,000 to the Military Pay Differential Program. The funds used in this bill are not new spending.
An existing allocation to the Iowa Dept. of Public Health for counseling services is amended to allocate $10,000.
The bill also appropriates $650,000 to the National Guard Educational Assistance Program (NGEAP), which deals with tuition assistance for Guard members.
The bill reads that the services are available to all assigned to active duty, regardless of whether being sent to combat zones.
Josh Sprague, a sophomore at NIACC, is a member of the Iowa Army National Guard who recently served in Iraq.
Sprague returned to Mason City after serving 363 days in Iraq for Operation: Iraqi Freedom and will be a beneficiary of the bill.
"It's a good way to show appreciation," Sprague said. "It's nice to know people are looking out for you."
Sprague admits that the money will be nice, but he also says that most troops, along with himself, don't even expect to be thanked. "I feel weird when I am thanked," Sprague said.
Sprague, 22, is like most troops, in their 20's, either attending school or have yet to "settle down."
However, the funds in the bill will not only do well for younger troops like Sprague, but also troops that left their established jobs in America.
"Some people could have been making $80,000 here," Sprague said. "They could of lost money over there (while serving in Iraq)."
State Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City served on a subcommittee for the bill and said it received bipartisan support. She, like other members of the House and Senate, said she knows the importance of helping out those who serve one's country.
"These men and women - and their families - are sacrificing a great deal for their country," Ragan said. "We need to do whatever we can to ease the challenges they face here at home."
The bill was introduced on January 26 in the Senate and passed in the Senate on January 27 with a vote of 49 ayes and zero nays.
The House passed the bill on February 28 with a vote of 98 ayes and zero nays. The bill was sent to Governor Tom Vilsack on March 8 and was signed by Governor Vilsack two days later on March 10.
"This bill ensures our soldiers are able to serve our country with the confidence that they will remain financially secure and receive the services they deserve when they return home," Governor Vilsack said through a press release on his website.
"It also assists those brave men and women with fulfilling their dreams of homeownership and obtaining a college education. Those who serve our country make numerous sacrifices so that we can enjoy our many freedoms."
Music lessons available to all students
Amy Jeanne Noer
Students interested in a new hobby, a new career or an extracurricular activity might find taking music lessons at NIACC, such as piano, an ideal solution for their needs. NIACC offers music lessons in piano from Rachel Everist and Bill Backlin.
Everist said NIACC teaches piano lessons at all levels.
"Most music majors pursue a career in music education," Everist said. "Music therapy is another music career growing in demand. Music performance in a professional symphony, chorus, band or studio musician is another option."
Everist indicated that those who take lessons should be prepared to commit to daily practice. "Daily practice is key to success in music. Beginners should practice 30 to 60 minutes per day and intermediate to advanced students should practice one to two hours per day," Everist said.
Piano lessons can be taken for one or two credits.
Dennis Wilson, age 67 years old, is in his fifth year at NIACC taking piano lessons. "I am coming along just fine. Rachel Everist is a very patient and talented instructor. I always wanted to take it," he said.
Wilson said he was motivated to take the lessons. "I am doing this for personal achievement and my own satisfaction," Wilson said. "I practice 30 minutes everyday and my favorite pieces are classical, modern, hymns and I like the composers Joplin and Garner." He encourages others to do the same thing.
"There are a lot of opportunities at NIACC and I think people should take advantage of them," Wilson said.
There are a lot of benefits to the study of music, specifically piano. "The study of music is beneficial because it is a lifelong skill you will always use. Music is universal to all areas of life because it deals with what makes us human-our emotions," Everist said.
Everist stressed another benefit from the study of music. "Music allows us to better understand our emotions and find new ways to express them," Everist said.
NIACC placement rate nears perfect
NIACC celebrates a 98 percent placement rate as reported in the 2004 Career Placement Report. Iowa employers also celebrate the fact that 91 percent of these graduates are working in Iowa.
The 2004 Career Placement Report study, conducted by the North Iowa Career Center on the NIACC campus, involved 261 graduates of the one- and two-year training programs in the College's Business, Health, Agriculture and Industrial Technology divisions. The survey response rate was 90 percent.
"The College serves area residents by providing training opportunities for high demand careers with attractive wages and serves our business community by developing a well-trained workforce," said North Iowa Career Center Director Kim Caponi, noting that NIACC's placement rate has exceeded 90 percent for more than a decade. "At a time when Iowa faces population declines and predicted workforce shortages, it is important that our skilled graduates are staying in Iowa."
Of 35 career programs with graduates in 2004 at NIACC, 30 experienced 100 percent placement. It is not uncommon for NIACC graduates' starting salaries to compete with experienced level wages across the state and nation. Graduates of NIACC's physical therapist assistant program, for instance, averaged $16.15 per hour, which is higher than the experienced median hourly wage of $15.02 in Iowa.
Some of the other top starting salaries went to NIACC students completing studies in the areas of associate degree nursing (ADN); licensed practical nursing (LPN); information systems technology; e-commerce, web design and development; criminal justice; accounting; and automotive service technology.
The North Iowa Career Center provides services for businesses, NIACC students, NIACC alumni and many others.
The Center conducts job fairs and career/college days, provides an online job internship and resume bank, works with students on choosing a major, conducting a job search and partners with Iowa Workforce Development to match up businesses with qualified job seekers.
For more information, contact the North Iowa Career Center at 641-422-4353 or 1-888-GO NIACC, ext. 4353.
Hacker activities prompt password changes
An internal training program at NIACC noticed a number of strange problems with their applications on March 8. Certain key files for some programs had been mysteriously hidden. After some calls to Microsoft were made, some suspicious new files were found within the college's system.
According to Mark Greenwood, director of Technology Services at NIACC, it was soon discovered that at 1:30 that morning somebody had hacked into NIACC's computer system and downloaded the NIACC security database.
Greenwood said the hacker got in through an unsecured application on NIACC's backup system to gain access to NIACC servers.
Ironically, in covering his or her tracks, the hacker had inadvertently hidden other files that caused the activities to be noticed.
By 9:30 a.m. on March 8 the threat had been stopped, although technicians worked through to Wednesday morning to patch the hole and fix the problem.
The security database that was stolen included the usernames and passwords for every student and instructor on campus. This prompted the changing of passwords soon afterwards.
"It was a wake up call for us," Greenwood said.
While Microsoft is investigating the incident, the hacker has yet to be identified.
According to Greenwood, it is likely that the hacker was looking for free storage space for large files such as pirated video games or movies.
Greenwood said the hacker did not download anything that could affect a student's grades or class schedule. Only the student usernames and passwords were taken.
For students who used their social security numbers as their password, Greenwood said that he would not be overly concerned since there are easier ways to get that number anyway.
"I don't have a cause for concern right now but people need to understand that this information did get taken off the system," Greenwood said. "If students use the same password for everything they may want to consider changing it."
Summer school provides opportunity to get ahead
Summer school. The name alone makes many students leery because of the prior association with enduring time inside during summer days playing catch-up with undesirable or failed courses.
However, summer sessions at NIACC are an alternative way for students to graduate early or make up needed credits.
Summer enrollment at NIACC has been higher than average during the past few years. Last summer, 781 students took summer classes in the 2004 summer sessions and 663 of those students had been previously enrolled at NIACC.
Marilyn Smith, a counselor in NIACC's Student Support Services, said there are many benefits to taking a summer course.
"Summer courses are a great way for students to catch up with their studies," Smith said. "They can re-take courses they may not have passed earlier, or they can get extra credits to graduate early."
There are three summer sessions a student can choose from.
The first term is a three and a half-week session that begins on May 9 and runs through June 3.
The second term is a six-week session that begins on June 6 and runs through July 15. There are more classes available in this session.
The third and last summer session is a three and a half-week session that begins on July 18 and runs through August 10.
The summer sessions are fast paced and classes take place every day.
"Some individuals like the summer atmosphere, they like to concentrate on one class," Smith said.
Students began registering for fall classes at the end of March, and summer registration began one week after that.
Students who register after the first week are able to register for both fall and summer classes at the same time.
There is no government financial aid available for summer classes. NIACC does offer a scholarship. The form can be picked up in the Financial Aid office.
Students should fill out the form as soon as it is made available, the money will be divided between the students applying based on need.
There are no guarantees that a student will receive financial aid Smith said.
If students have money in their account left over from spring term, that money can be used towards summer sessions.
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