Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sirota: Higher education should be a right like high school

Following up on Matt Taibbi's expose of the scam that federal student loans have become, David Sirota offers us an alternative [emphasis mine]:

Just consider the critical difference between how high school and college education programs are funded.

The former is funded by broad-based taxes and few would ever suggest changing it to an individual tuition system. Why? Because we've come to view access to high school as a right. This view is based not just on notions of morality but also on an economic calculation. Basically, we know we need a workforce with as many high school graduates as possible, and we've decided that forcing young people to go into crushing debt to get a high school degree would deter many from getting the degree.

Yet, even though we know that higher education is also increasingly an economic necessity, we do not have the same funding model or outlook for college. Instead, we still predicate access to higher education on a student's wealth and/or their willingness to go into crushing debt.

[...]  No doubt, shifting our policies to treat post-secondary education as equally necessary as high school -- and therefore worthy of similar fiscal treatment -- requires a paradigm shift in thinking.

It requires us to see higher education as not just 4-year university programs, but also 2-year community college programs and vocational and technical education.

As I've been saying for years, we can give millions of Americans marketable, in-demand job skills without four-year colleges.  For too many, four years of college is an extravagant waste of time and money; they don't want or really even need to be there, (hurting the college experience for those who do); they just need a piece of paper at the end that generically qualifies them for gainful employment.

By David Sirota
August 29, 2013 | Alternet

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