Thursday, February 18, 2010

Freedom and Education

Article IX of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina recognizes the importance of education in maintaining a free and healthy democratic society.  Section 1 reads:
Section 1.  Education encouraged.
Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools, libraries, and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.


Section 9 of that same section reads:

Sec. 9.  Benefits of public institutions of higher education.
The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.
 While the state has done a good job of creating a good system of Universities, Community Colleges, public schools and libraries, the General Assembly needs to do much more towards fulfilling their duty in regards to section 9. Tuition prices have risen, often dramatically out-pacing inflation over the decades, putting high quality  education out reach for many citizens of our great state. No citizen of our state should be required to graduate from an institution of higher learning with a mountain of debt. The high cost of education places an even greater debt on society. First of all, the expense often discourages people from seeking additional education. The lost opportunities and lower capacity to improve productivity carries with it real economic costs. Moreover, the middle class is especially hurt by the high cost of education because they are often ineligible for government aid offered lower income families and also unable to pay for higher education from their own funds.
Another burden resulting from the high cost of education is increased poverty. Despite the many opportunities for student aid, many poor families forgo higher education because they are intimidated by the cost. Instead of seeking more ways to decrease the cost for the poorest students, the General Assembly should hold to its mandate of encouraging education forever through free and extremely lower cost education. By fostering a culture of education wherein all citizens are equally encouraged and provided with the means of improving skills, gaining knowledge and increasing wisdom, the General Assembly will increase hope, reduce poverty and promote general peace. Everyone knows that as the general population becomes better educated, many social ills decrease.
Education could then become the centerpiece for nearly all of the social programs run by the state. Non-violent offenders should be offered opportunities to go to college or to learn a trade rather than go to jail. Welfare aid should also carry family requirements for the pursuit of education. As individuals and families focused more on education, they would have greater earning power in the marketplace. The need for aid would diminish and tax revenues from a healthy innovative economy would increase.
Free and low cost opportunities for post secondary education would alleviate citizens from the crushing weight of debt that accompanies today's graduates. Ever-increasingly, student loans are crushing the ability of even professionals to meet their families' needs. Debt for education offers diminishing returns as graduates are often unable to practice in their fields of expertise because of interest payments. High personal debts, even for education, create a drag on the economy. In fact, because of student loans, higher education may be a fast track to more poverty.
All communities should band together to pressure to the state to fulfill the mandate of our forefathers. Our hopes for a free and prosperous society rest upon access to good education. Wise founders of our state understood this. That's why the University of North Carolina was the first state university in the US. Let's leave a legacy of education for our children and our children's children forever. Make education free.

1 comment:

juliedbeaumont said...

Who would be teaching at these colleges? I think the argument for education with a price tag is paying the professors. They spend years getting degrees and earning their rank and deserve to have a reasonable living. If you lower the cost of tuition won't their salaries be the first to be cut? I am guessing the majority of money goes to operating costs. I know that UNC-CH has done a lot of building and expansion and that should be financed completely by the state but I am guessing it has contributed to the rise of tuition there. Maybe there is a huge money hole the state is dropping funds into unnecessarily that would pay all of the educators enough to keep them at the public universities but I doubt it. Then there would be a bigger gap between the education you can receive privately and publically, as professors seek better pay for their services. Aren't the community colleges providing the type of services you are talking about? a decent, fairly priced education? I know that going to a community college for the first 2 years of higher education is a great way to cut the costs of earning a 4 year degree. I just can't wrap my head around the reality of drastically cutting the cost of tuition at colleges like UNC-CH. I do feel the price tag has gone up quite a lot and should be more reasonable but bringing it closer to free than not just sounds like the level of quality education you get there would be compromised.