Big changes for the FASFA

The time to get the Free Application for Federal Student Aid completed is now Oct. 1 - Feb. 1. Though FAFSA can now be completed anytime before February, it is advised that students fill it out as quickly as possible. This change is to better help first-year college students when they are choosing possible institutions by allowing them to know how much financial aid they will need months prior to their enrollment. The change also helps continuing students. Instead of getting it done in January when students don’t have school on the mind, they can get it done during fall break when Missouri Western is top priority. FAFSA will now be using the tax forms of two years prior, so students and parents won't have to wait to file their taxes before submitting. If a parent loses their job during the year, they are able to go onto Missouri Western’s Financial Aid website and find the Special Circumstance Appeal Request form so that the student will receive the right amount of aid needed. Due to the changes to the FAFSA, the Missouri's Access Grant deadline has also changed from April 1 to Feb. 1., along with scholarship deadlines and priority Financial Aid deadlines. For continuing first-year students, financial aid packaging deadlines are still due in May, after grades are posted. First-year students will receive their financial aid the first week of December as opposed to March or April. “The FAFSA date change will not affect the amount received," said Paul Orscheln, Associate Vice President Enrollment Manager. Marilyn Baker, Director of Financial Aid believes that this will be a positive change for students. “Before [students] leave for Christmas Break they can talk to Financial Aid staff and ask questions or use our computer lab to fill out questions. This is better than doing it during the summertime when we are here but students aren’t,” Baker said. “I hope it helps students. I hope it allows students to get their applications done before student break." Baker hopes to open up a couple of workshops at some point before Feb. 1 to try to help students with the changes. Students can make appointments to meet with Financial Aid if they have questions. Central High School’s graduating seniors are preparing for the FAFSA application changes already, and will be having Missouri Western’s Financial Aid department come and talk to the parents and seniors. “Families with older siblings may stumble at this change, because they had dealt with FAFSA in the past and were unaware of the new changes. However, for first-time freshman the change should be very simple,” said Megan McCamy, a student counselor at Central High School. All students are advised to deal with the new changes by checking their Goldlink accounts, student emails and completing FAFSA as quickly as possible

Komastu Ramen is as good as it sounds

komastu_ramen_20161 When college students think of ramen, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the 99 cent packets that can be bought at any supermarket in America. Komastu Ramen shows St. Joseph what ramen is truly supposed to be. Komastu Ramen is downtown at 724 Felix Street. This restaurant has a beautiful atmosphere, between the hanging lights and upbeat music played in the background. There are no tables, but booths that are surrounded by a wooden canopy that resembles a canoe tipped on its side. Another unique facet of Komastu is the way you order. I was greeted by a waitress and then told how to use their iPad to order off the menu. Meals, drinks and desserts were all ordered by iPad. They have a wide variety of ramen, all with different types of broths, noodles, meats and vegetables. They have Tonkostu style ramen (pork broth), Shoyu ramen (soy broth) and Miso style Ramen which is made with miso broth. There wasn’t just ramen though; they also had appetizers that were gluten-free, such as the cucumber salad and seaweed salad. Some specialty items include oysters, as well as olive and cheese carts. I went with my friend and we both ordered the miso style ramen. She ordered the vegan ramen which came with tofu, cabbage and enoki mushrooms. I ordered the oishi ramen. This ramen had pork belly, roasted chicken, and a hardboiled egg as well as a plentiful amount of veggies. The portion sizes were very hefty. The chopsticks available were unlike traditional chopsticks. They were thicker and white, with carvings to help grasp the thick noodles easier and fit more comfortably in your hand. The actual ramen was amazing. The broth brought the perfect amount of savory to the dish; between the pork belly and green onions, the ramen flavor was divine. The vegan ramen was just as excellent. The enoki mushrooms gave it a nice flavor, and the consistency of the tofu was high quality. Everything was very high quality considering the affordable price. We also splurged on Japanese soda since we were there. The type of soda you could buy from a comic convention or at select grocery stores around St. Joseph. The brand of soda, however, I had not found in town before. The bottles had marbles inside that fit in the lid. You had to press down firmly on the marble and pop it into the glass in order to drink from it. It’s a really fun experience to drink it. Overall my experience at the restaurant was very good. The only negative aspect of the restaurant I’d say were the flies. As we sat there were about two or three flies buzzing around our table, they would leave and come back throughout our meal. Despite this, the quality of the meal was very good and the atmosphere was one I’d love to take a group of friends to. I would recommend Komastu to my friends and I will definitely be going back.

Blum sees renovations

Those walking through Blum Union this semester may notice a few changes to the student union. Over the summer the upper floor received a makeover that SGA and the Student Affairs Office hope will make it easier for students to access resources in that area. “We see students from this office all the time come upstairs and not know where to go,” said Shana Meyer, Vice President of Student Affairs. “It was barricades to involvement. People didn’t know about the services that we had, and we know that when students get involved and engaged on campus, they’re more likely to persist and be retained.” Renovations were made to the Center for Multicultural Education, Center for Student Involvement and International Student Services Offices in an effort to make each office more accessible and visible to students. The renovations include large storefront windows, new carpeting and new paint for the offices. To Ann Rahmat, Director of International Student Services, these changes provide a more private space for international students to seek advice and feel at home. “For us, we basically want to make it into a safe place for international students- make it where they really feel like it’s a home, where they can be comfortable,” Rahmat said. “[Students] have always been welcome, it’s just that we’d be giving them more space to be able to be more comfortable in that space.” This new space is being completely funded by Student Success Act dollars. The Student Success Act (SSA) is an act that charges students $25 to $75 per semester to maintain and improve the quality of university programs and services like the International Student Services. The renovations were approved by the committee presiding over SSA in April. A new memorandum of understanding for SSA was also approved in April, allowing the money to individually fund student services. “The committee is comprised of both faculty members and student members,” Meyer said. “They worked through a ton of different options for where the funding might go. Funding was originally allocated to the union a couple of year ago, but it was just a process that we really had to work through as far as ‘what are we going to use this funding as a whole for?’” The renovations for Blum ended up costing $196,164 out of a $440,000 budget. With full-time students paying $150 per year, it would take around 1,300 students to raise these funds within a year’s time. Whether or not that many students will benefit from the renovations they are funding is to be seen. Student body president  Alec Guy thinks the money could have been used on a number of projects around campus and that this project was worth the cost. “I do think that it’s a good use of money,” Guy said. “In terms of other  projects and things like that, we just recently changed SSA  to go to different student services on campus and actually provide them with more funding. So I think there are plenty of uses for this money that would benefit students, and I think this is just one of the many that will have a great impact on students and improve Missouri Western.” Gillian Evans, SGA’s director of public relations, believes students deserve to have access to the services in Blum and believes these renovations will make that access easier. “We’re paying fees to have those services there, and nobody even knows about them,” Evans said. “I was one of these kids, where’s it’s kind of intimidating getting involved. You don’t really know how to or where to, and then you hear about all these services that are there and these offices that are there for students, but whenever you’re a student and you can’t really navigate where to go, it’s very frustrating.” Students and faculty members alike are hopeful that the renovations will be able to give more opportunities for students to get involved. “You can’t make people get involved, but you can certainly make it easier,” Evans said. While the choice to get involved on campus is ultimately up to the students, Guy believes SGA still has work to do to promote the new space before involvement increases. “I think it will be a lot on SGA’s shoulders, so to speak, to kind of get students to come upstairs and see the services that are up here,” Guy said. “So I think that the renovations themselves will help, but we also have to publicize it and kind of let students know that it’s been renovated.” According to Guy, SGA has not made any plans to publicize the renovations yet, but will be discussing options further into the semester.

Commencement speakers announced

This year’s spring commencement will have two student commencement speakers. Seniors Alex Atkinson and Ida Haefner were selected as this year’s commencement speakers.  Haefner will speak first at commencement, followed by Atkinson. Vice President for Student Affairs Shana Meyer said that there were several qualified candidates for commencement speakers, which afforded the opportunity to have two speakers. “This year we had seven nominees and we had seven phenomenal nominees,” Meyer said. “Of the five that presented their speeches, any one of them could have been our commencement speaker. So, when the committee presented our options to the president, he said ‘if you have that strong of folks, let’s showcase two of our strongest students’ and that’s what we did.” Meyer said the two speakers will provide a good opportunity to show what Missouri Western is about. “This is just an amazing opportunity not only for our students that get to speak, but for our students who are graduating and audience members to hear from one of their peers,” Meyer said. “Every year, all the speeches are about Missouri Western memories and some of the transforming lives opportunities that Missouri Western has given these students, so I think it’s a great way to showcase everything that our institution is about.” Haefner and Atkinson will be speaking at commencement on Saturday, May 7.

Missouri considers guns on college campuses

Guns may be coming to campuses all across Missouri in the near future. Senate Bill 731 and its identical House Bill 1910 would remove the current ban on conceal and carry weapons on college campuses. This means that anyone aged 19 and above who completes the required courses and registration associated with conceal and carry in the state would be legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon onto college campuses. Risk Manager for Missouri Western, Tim Kissock, said that the university is content with current laws, but would follow any new laws if the university had to. “We will certainly do whatever the legislature requires us to do and we’ll do it in good faith,” Kissock said. “We do feel that guns are a complex issue and right now conceal and carry weapons are not allowed on campus, and we are certainly not pushing for any changes to that legislation. We’re happy where we are right now.” Kissock also said that special operations of colleges and universities warrant them being protected against conceal and carry laws. “It’s an education setting,” Kissock said. “There are a lot of debates; there are a lot of young people, people living in the dorms. The reality is that there is drinking and some amount of drugs on every campus. To throw guns into that situation, on balance, we think would not make the campus community a safer place.” Besides allowing guns into classrooms, one of the major things that this legislation would do is allow guns to be brought into the homes of those who live on campus. Director of Residential Life Nathan Roberts said that the training provided to Resident Assistants would not change despite the change to guns laws in the state. “From our perspective, I don’t think we would do anything differently in how we approach our business of student programming or student conduct violations and those types of things,” Roberts said. “I don’t think it changes how we do business. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I think that’s going to be determined on how the student population is and how they manage it.” Resident Assistant and Shotgun Club President Matt Scholz said the training provided to those with a conceal and carry license would prevent some problems with guns from happening. “It would probably affect my position for the fact that there would be firearms on campus,” Scholz said. “Now, to tell you the truth, I don’t know if it would be for the worst or the best as an RA. Some situations that do happen in residential life could involve an RA being at the wrong end of a firearm in some situations and other situations could end up being just fine. I would assume that nothing would go wrong, considering you have people who would have taken CCW classes.” The bill does allow for universities to opt out of allowing the conceal and carry access if it can provide a safe environment. This includes installing metal detectors in building entrances and having guards scan people as they come into the building. For universities like Missouri Western, Kissock said, the exemption is not possible. “It’s really not feasible. It’s cost prohibitive. I think we’ve done some estimates on it and the cost was in excess of $10 million dollars,” Kissock said. “My understanding is that if you don’t want to allow concealed weapons to be carried on campus, then you have to set up those security procedures and quite frankly, it wouldn’t work here. We don’t have the money to make it work.” The exemption would also require the same requirements of the residence halls. Residential Hall Director Roberts cited the same burden of cost as Kissock. “I don’t see those as real feasible depending on what type of circumstance you’re in and certainly not for the residence halls,” Roberts said. “That’s not something that we would have the money or the staff to do.” If the legislation was put into effect, it is unlikely that Missouri Western would qualify for exemption and would be required to allow conceal and carry on campus. Despite some concerns with the legislation, Kissock said that things would work out and MWSU would comply with state law. “It certainly won’t be the end of the world. We’ll make it work,” Kissock said. “I anticipate initially there will be a lot of people that will maybe be afraid or concerned to be sitting in classrooms and have people carrying guns. I think it would certainly keep our campus police a little more active, going around and making sure people who have the weapons are properly licensed. I don’t know. It’s hard to predict what will happen in the future and I guess that’s one reason why we’re not crazy about changing, is that we don’t know what will happen.”