We’re pleased to announce the winners of The Nation‘s fifth annual Student Writing Contest.
This year we asked students to send us an original, unpublished, 800-word essay detailing how their education has been compromised by budget cuts and tuition hikes. We received hundreds of submissions from high school and college students in forty-four states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total. The winners are Amanda Lewan of Michigan State University and Melissa Parnagian of Old Bridge High School in New Jersey. The winners receive a cash award of $1,000 and the finalists, $200 each. All receive
Nation subscriptions. Many thanks to the IF Stone Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute for its generosity in making this contest possible. The Editors

The University of Texas football team is among the best in the nation. It has been a beloved part of the university since 1894, and has grown each year since its inception. The program is seemingly larger than life, making more money last year than any other athletic program in history. Its place at this university is defined and unquestioned. If one attends the University of Texas, it’s impossible to not know about the importance of the football team.

The University of Texas Asian Studies program is one of the best in the nation. It’s been a part of the university since 1994, and is already among the most distinguished academic departments of its kind. Its place at this university is defined to those who know about the major, but it’s quite possible to study on campus for four years and never become aware of the fact that the Asian Studies program even exists.

The football team is comprised of eighty-five student-athletes who receive full scholarships to attend the university.

While there is limited funding for those who study abroad, the Department of Asian Studies does not have the funds to offer scholarships specifically aimed at students within the major to help them pay for classes at UT.

To bolster the team’s defense, the University recently recruited Will Muschamp, the former defensive coordinator at Auburn University, to stabilize the shaky unit. Muschamp was offered a salary of $425,000 annually to bring his unique services to the program. Entering only his third year at the University, Muschamp has already become a team favorite among players and fans alike.

To bolster an incomplete Asian Studies program, students along with faculty lobbied tirelessly for the university to adopt a class that would teach the Vietnamese language. After two years of diligent campaigning, the university decided to add the language to the curriculum in the Department of Asian Studies in 2006. Dr. Hoang Ngo was selected to teach both the regular and advanced Vietnamese courses at the University. He was offered a salary of a little more than $45,000 for his unique services. Ngo quickly became a favorite among his students for his knowledge and patience.

Football is the most popular spectator sport in the state of Texas without rival. The sport’s importance to our heritage is well known and documented.

Vietnamese is the third-most-spoken language in the state of Texas behind English and Spanish. This is a fact that is not well-known or documented.

Under head coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns football program has soared to new heights. In the past decade, the Longhorns have won more games than in any other ten-year stretch in the program’s history. Brown’s smart coaching and savvy recruiting have built a seemingly unstoppable athletic machine in the city of Austin. His success has distinguished this era of Texas football as the golden age, unmatched by teams from past generations.

Under Dr. Hoang Ngo, the Vietnamese language course had grown quite popular in a short period of time. According to Nickie Tran, a former student in Ngo’s class, “[Teaching the Vietnamese language] is important because if you talk to a lot of second-generation Asian-Americans, you hear it’s hard for them to retain their native language,” Teaching Vietnamese at the University of Texas has enabled this generation of Vietnamese-Americans to develop a special connection to generations past.

Mack Brown recently received a $2.1 million pay raise on his $3 million base salary to reward all of his success. The University of Texas’s football program is thriving—last year it generated $120 million in revenue.

Dr. Ngo has now moved back to Vietnam to seek new employment. The Vietnamese language program at UT has been discontinued. A casualty of budget cuts, the administration felt that the program was expendable because of its small size—its absence will save the university approximately $50,000 a year.

A 2009 study revealed that less than 50 percent of football players at the University of Texas ultimately graduated and received a degree.

With the elimination of the Vietnamese language program, dozens of students will be forced to take courses in a different foreign language so that they may fulfill their academic requirement and graduate with a degree.

Come September, when students come back to campus, the most popular sport in Texas will be put on display before an ecstatic crowd of more than 100,000 screaming people in Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, which recently received $179 million in renovations.

Come September, when students come back to campus, the third most spoken language in Texas will no longer be taught due to budgetary constraints and sadly, hardly anybody will ask questions or even notice.