December 14, 2007

Philanthopist Helps Future College Students in Maine

Assuming it's good for the country to have as many educated people, then what are we doing to provide equality of opportunity? OK, money and social status provide more access, and opportunities. But, should it come down to these qualities? Or, should we give chances to those who cannot afford to go to college to do so? Shouldn't commitment and skills take precedent over money?

I don't think every high school student is ready or willing to pursue their studies further, but there are many who just can't because the cost is so high. Not only tuition has risen greatly but--let's not forget--during the years attending college a student cannot earn as much as someone who doesn't have the burden of a full academic load.

A couple presidential candidates have floated the idea that every American upon birth should get a bond in their name, say, $1,000, which will accrue interest for 18 years, or until the person goes to school, usually with a cut-off limit by age 30. This can only be used to help defray the costs of attending higher ed schools. Obviously this is not a solution to the problem, but it helps. It's an investment that the country should make, something like the GI Bill for WW2 veterans.

It makes economic sense too, because educated people tend to earn more money, pay less taxes, and are less likely to be a public charge. It's estimated that for every dollar our government spent for the GI Bill, it got three in return. But, as it is the case for many things, it's hard to spend up front in order to save later. Our health care system is a prime example of this. We don't have universal health care coverage, people don't get preventive care, no early detection, and the result is more expensive (and often futile) treatments later.

Anyway, in the spirit of endowment for the future, a benefactor in Maine is giving $500 towards a college education to every child born in Maine! Harold Alfond, who died recently, founded the Dexter Shoe Company in Maine, and later his foundation that will manage the grants. This tax-free savings account will be available to Maine newborns--about 14,000 in 2006--starting in 2009. It's estimated that, with current numbers, the foundation will spend some $7 million per year. There are plans for raising the contributions and grants levels to cover increased college costs in the future.

Philanthropist Alfond never went to college.

1 comment:

Demos said...

The cost of college and the need for student to work hard while in school results in a prolonged time to graduation.

This is more evident in "commuter" colleges, like CUNY, where the vast majority of students work. The average degree takes some 6 years to complete.