We applaud the Sun-Times’ focus on addressing the debt burden faced by too many of our college students and the ripple effect it has across families and communities. This is an important step in opening public dialogue on higher education and upward mobility for low-income and working class students.

Nivine Megahed, president of National Louis University, has rightly called for radically rethinking tuition structures and the business model for higher education. Larger public investment in our students is equally important. A key factor contributing to increased student debt has been the decline in state investment in higher education by the general assembly and governors of both parties. Thus, the burden of financing a college education has now been largely shifted to students and their families.

We must reverse the decline in the number of students receiving Illinois’ need-based student aid program, the Illinois Monetary Assistance Program award, and commit to funding the MAP award at a level that ensures that every student who qualifies receives the award. Funding must also ensure that the award covers the cost of tuition at the state’s public universities, as it did as recently as 2002. While the recent budget passed by the legislature is an important first step in reversing over a decade of disinvestment in higher education, much more is needed from our elected officials in order to lessen the financial burden of higher education on the state’s low-income and working-class students. The health of our students and our state depends on it.

Kyle Westbrook, Executive Director
The Partnership for College Completion

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

An angry president

If Donald Trump is upset about the Canadians trying to burn down the White House in 1812, he must be absolutely apoplectic about the North Koreans bombing Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Larry A. Niemi, Loop

Embroiled in debate

For months this country has been embroiled in a debate over the issue of kneeling in protest by mainly professional athletes during the playing of the national anthem.

Right-wing commentators such as Fox’s Tomi Lahren continue to drone on and on about how this is showing disrespect for the flag and a lack of patriotism by those on the left. Either Lahren, and those like her, don’t have a clue as to what the action represents, or they are simply  using their position to pander for ratings from those on the right.

The protest is not now, and never was, an issue of respect or patriotism. Trump used this position to distract the country from his actions and to solidify support from his base. The president screams patriotism and respect but has shown he doesn’t even know the words to “God Bless America” or the national anthem. Recently he suggested to the prime minister of Canada that Canadians attempted to burn down the White House during the war of 1812 (the attempt was made by the British, not the Canadians.)

One has to wonder if the president could even pass the citizenship test given in this country to prospective citizens. The kneeling is to protest the perceived injustice with regard to minorities in this country, particularly by law enforcement agents. The protests are conducted in a very civil and non-violent manner. That cannot always be said of such protests in this country, and that are met with very different reactions.

Case in point: the Boston Tea Party, Dec. 16, 1763. On that night, the Sons of Liberty, disguised as Mohawk Indians, illegally boarded ships and destroyed approximately 46 tons of tea, property of the British East India Company, in protest of a tea tax. (Even with the tax, the cost of tea at the time was cheaper in the colonies than it was in England.) And how is this recorded in the annals of American history? These men were heroes, striking a blow for freedom.

Thousands of people died believing in the principles of democracy upon which this country was founded. A quote, attributed to Voltaire but most likely stated by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” None of us agree with everything that is said and done in this country, but many have died to preserve our right to disagree and seek change in what we believe needs to be changed.

Daniel Pupo, Orland Park

Right to free expression

When President Jim Tracy of Local 2 of the firefighters union in Chicago apologized because a member of his union knelt during the national anthem, I for one could feel his pain. After all, the game was being played in honor of firefighter Juan Bucio and Police Commander Paul Bauer, two heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for a city they loved.

I was a Chicago police officer for 33 years and my heroes were always firemen. After all, something had to be said for men and woman who run into burning buildings while everyone else is running out. During my 33 years, I cannot count the number of police officers I served with who have given their lives to make Chicago as safe as can be. However, I truly believe it’s time that we take a long look at what we are doing to ourselves because of a small group who chooses to ignore what we think  is sacred.

We have to ask ourselves do we really need them on board to validate our sacred reverence for our war veterans and those who have died while serving their fellow man? Every American has a right to express themselves, no matter how vile we think that protest is. It’s time we come to accept that not everybody sees the world in the same way. This indignation against those who kneel and protest the anthem is starting to creep into our world, in an ugly way. It’s even permeated into sports events. Think the NFL on Sunday. We American patriots have to accept that others have a different view. It hurts, but so do a lot of other things in life.

Those of us who stand together and pay tribute are all that matters, no apologies necessary.

Bob Angone, Miramar Beach, Florida 

Fake POTUS

How can we honor, revere or salute a POTUS who claims to respect the American flag when he doesn’t even know the words to the national anthem? We have a fake POTUS, who denigrates our basic democratic values, by insisting that our standard news channels and legal system are picking him out to somehow lower his standing.

In other words, he wants us to believe it’s the whole world that’s wrong and only he is right. Preposterous. The man’s a fool, and those who listen to and believe him are bigger fools than he is.

Edwina Jackson, Longwood Manor

Bike trail anarchy

Thank you, Sun-Times, for the update on progress of the Lakefront Trail. However, I wonder why you chose for a graphic a picture of a cyclist ignoring the pavement markings and riding his bike in the wrong direction. As a cyclist, I don’t want to see such behavior promoted. Granted, traffic was light, but still. The trail suffers from enough anarchy.

Steve Cohen, Evanston