Select Page

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence. Robert Frost

I am not a math whiz, and if my college major had been anything that required more than GUR-level math and science courses, I wouldn’t be able to brag about my college GPA. Let’s just say that I got a lot of help in my high school physics class, which was not difficult to come by, given that the ratio of girls to boys in the class was around 1.2 : 30, and the only reason I took the class is because the bastard high school chemistry teacher told me I’d never make it. Not that I’ve ever gotten a chance to brag about my college GPA: When was the last time someone asked you about your college GPA? Which reminds me:

A cousin went to a small, rural school, the kind where it’s not unusual to have fewer than a dozen class members. He’s always been a very big guy, and there was another very big guy in his class. Hence, their junior-high classmates often encouraged them to fight. Once in a while, because there’s not a lot happening on the prairie, they did. After one such episode my aunt got an invitation to the principal’s office, who told her and my cousin that he was not going to tolerate any more fighting. The consequence of one more fight would be that he’d withhold my cousin’s eighth-grade diploma. The eighth-grader cousin: “When was the last time anyone asked to see your eighth-grade diploma?” I believe that shows an intelligence and grasp of reality that can’t be taught.

I’m not a college snob and don’t believe that college is a good fit for everyone. My intelligent cousin takes care of himself and his business quite successfully without benefit of a college degree, and there are many people like him, just as there are many college graduates who are incompetent clowns. But I do believe that continuing past high school with some sort of formal education is beneficial for just about everyone, whether they use that education in a career or not. No education is ever wasted, even if you eschew the knowledge gained by earning a molecular biology degree to be a flagger on a construction crew because you’ve discovered that you like working outside and making impatient drivers smile despite themselves. Going to school exposes us to so much much more than formal education. Hearing points of view that differ from our own, meeting people from diverse backgrounds and realizing that there are more similarities than there are differences among people, and disagreeing vehemently with a roommate and realizing that the roommate is still a good person regardless of her stance on religion, which is completely opposite your own, are all valuable experiences that make us better people.

Our governor has suggested a substantial college-tuition hike. Headlines abound:

Gov. Chris Gregoire has asked lawmakers to let state universities increase tuition by up to 28 percent over the next two years . . . four-year universities would be authorized to raise tuition by up to 14 percent each year for the next two years. (SeattlePI.com)

University tuition could skyrocket 28 percent . . . Gov. Chris Gregoire on Tuesday proposed letting the state’s four-year schools hike tuition by 14 percent a year each of the next two years. (Spokesman-Review)

Gov. Chris Gregoire has asked lawmakers to let state universities increase tuition by up to 28 percent over the next two years . . . Under Gregoire’s current proposal, four-year universities would be authorized to raise tuition by up to 14 percent each year for the next two years. (KOMO News)

My lack of math-whizness aside, even I know that 14% for each of the next two years does not equal a 28% increase. It’s just under 30%. If your boss offers you a 14% raise each of the next two years and you sign a contract agreeing to a 28% total increase over what you’re making today (say, $50,000), you’ve been screwed out of $980. I should mention that The Seattle Times got the math right.

In light of this egregious display of ignorance (I’m ignoring the fact that everyone writing these stories most likely has a college degree, because the bigger problem is that too many of us don’t question such statements), we should be spending more money on getting people higher education, not erecting walls to keep them out. And we should do better about making sure potential students know of all the current options available to them. I am constantly amazed at the people who don’t know about financial aid. Community college students working two jobs and going to school who don’t know they qualify for grants, scholarships, and loans. High school seniors who want to go to college but know better than to ask their parents for help and so resign themselves to the hope of getting a full-time job in a grocery store instead of a part-time job and a college or vocational-school education.

C2 works in the psych department at her university. Because she was studying abroad until January, she missed out on all the beginning of the year announcements. The school seems to be making a concerted effort to get the word out about different forms of financial aid because she just heard that anyone who qualifies for work-study can qualify for food stamps. I know a lot about financial aid, and I had never heard that before, so I looked it up. Turns out it’s true, with some caveats. Go to the USDA for more information about the program. I can hardly stand to think about students who dropped out because they couldn’t afford school and food, when help was there all along. No one should ever assume that they or their children can’t afford college until investigating all the resources available. There are many valid reasons to not go to college, but lack of money shouldn’t be one of them