Support Free College Tuition for Minnesota’s Best Students

MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty floated a plan today that would provide high school students graduating within the top 25% of their class 2 free years of college tuition. For an additional 2 years, just major in math or science.

Education is on my list of things I think US citizens should ‘get for free’, so I give the plan a hearty,’Hell yeah!’

It’s a smart solution and all MN gubernatorial candidates should be supporting it. According the the Strib and Minvolved, this change means 15,000 students getting an education without looking at a decade of student loan bills (which jump 1.84 percentage points on July 1 – ouch).

Sure, making it free doesn’t eliminate costs – there’s still infrastructure costs, decent salaries for professors and staff, etc. So, there’s a conversation around how those costs will be met. The obvious answer is to distribute the costs to those students still paying tuition; out-of-state students and those greater-than-25%-smart students. Providing a helluva disincentive to _not_ attend college. Definitely the wrong message.

There are other more interesting and sustainable options – like taxes. In fact – that creates a virtuous circle – better educated people make more, therefore they have more income, therefore they can be taxed a higher rate.

If I’m buying a ‘free’ education with my taxes – sign me up.

10 thoughts on “Support Free College Tuition for Minnesota’s Best Students

  1. Not 1500 – 15,000. (And actually, I just took that number straight from the star tribune… it seemed to me that it ought to actually be more. But I really have no clue what the stats are.)

  2. I would like to think that the “virtuous circle” would indeed appear. Alas, there are too many Ph.D.s who can’t find work — and when we do, it often doesn’t pay the bills.

    Not that I wouldn’t like to see the Governor’s plan work out.

  3. I’m a cynic. This smells nothing more of ‘Let’s give government away to the rich white folks’

    Whether intentional or not, the top performers in school tend to be those students who live in the best school districts with a steady family life and who aren’t worried about where they’re going to live next week or what they’re going to find for dinner.

    With the metro schools also being highly segregated, I have a feeling that this ‘top 25%’ plan will mean any kid growing up in Highland park get’s a free ride while the kids that really need the help will, once again, be ‘left behind’ (pun intended).

    If you want to improve things, give it to the poorest 25% or the least performing schools. Give those kids an incentive/reward to get out of their situation.

  4. Darrel,

    You’re exactly right. A more interesting plan would be free tuition for the bottom 25% and increasing the costs of tuition for everyone else.

    An even better plan would be free tuition for _everyone_ in the state.

  5. From what I read, it was the top 25% in *each* school, meaning that even the poorest school will have students eligible for this program. While that still slants it toward already achieving students, that’s a reasonable place to target such a program. When you’ve got dropout rates over 30%, which lots of schools in poor areas do, the bottom 25% doesn’t need assistance going to college until they can get assistance to finish high school first.

    I think a program like this aims to allow people who are in all ways except financial, ready to be college material. It’s also aimed at increasing the number of people with math and science educations to build a stronger technical workforce. It’s mostly that latter item that is likely driving such a proposal. As such, it’s *not* aiming to provide a base level of education for everyone (which I’d support), but to just increase the number of college graduates and math/science graduates to increase business activities in the tech/bioscience, etc. fields.

    That said, I also think that a lot of people misunderstand the cost of “college” as an abstract concept. In many cases, the college of choice may be an expensive proposition, but a 4 year degree from St. Cloud State or another memver of MNSCU (or whatever it’s called now) for tuition and books runs $25,000 or the price of a nicely equipped Honda Accord.

    This program is a fantastic thing for people for whom $25,000 might as well be %1,000,000, but I’ve had one too many conversations with people who have a $400/month car payment and “can’t afford” college. I say that mostly because those situations are what frames the public discourse about paying for college.

    Too often, discussion of $50,000-$100,000 educations seem to be the default in those conversations and they shouldn’t be, any more than private elementary and high schools when talking about earlier education options.

    And, for the record, I have attended at least one year at each:

    * A state-run community college
    * A prestigious private University
    * St. Cloud State University

    Anyone that thinks they won’t get a “good” education at the $6000/yr tuition school needs to get rid of whatever brainwashing put that idea there.

  6. J – good point. Success is far far less about which school and more about what students want to do when they graduate.

    If the answer’s nothing – any price is too high.

  7. “From what I read, it was the top 25% in *each* school, meaning that even the poorest school will have students eligible for this program.”

    How DARE you read the full plan and therefore trump my wile assumptions. ;0) ;0) ;0)

    OK, fair is fair, I guess I’d have to give Pawlenty a BIT of credit for that clarification. That, indeed, would help things along.

    Personally, I think there are much bigger problems with MN’s education system that should be resolved first. Seems to me that money spent on education in the early years pays off far better than spending it at the end of their k-12 career. With MN having one of the lowest black graduation rates and the metro area having schools highly segregated, I think there are other priorities.

    And, J, plenty of good points there in your post. I have to agree with them all.

  8. Nice article!

    ok for those more involved and educated on MN and its schooling and education system please don’t flame me or at least just tell my why my proposition wouldn’t work, mind you im a determined 22 year old drop out from california.

    I’ve been doing courses to get my GED and get my education back on track, and hopefully get some funds to do a small 2 year technical.

    I would have to agree with darrel and wynia they have some pretty good propositions, mine though I guess tailors to those in my situation (The Drop Outs) if there was a standardized test those who sought after a way out of there low wage mind numbing jobs, because of not having proper credentials.

    “I will state this it was my choice to drop out which was a stupid one, financial and work proposal came my way and at 18 after being held back already, but being offered to fly all over the US doing construction making 24$/hr, it was awesome for the time it lasted till the owner embezzled and dissolved the company few years down the line”

    Sorry enough about me, my idea/proposal would be to give those who are already working full time and making just at or below the poverty line a chance each year to be able to shoot for something better.

    * Those who apply have a test and personality exam to take (because as stated before those who have the ambition and driving motive will make far better applicants than those who don’t have a drive to be more)

    *Top scoring in each city, and who present a good self driven to make something of themselves and are goal oriented will be reviewed further by a board or committee and then notified if they are accepted.

    * This idea is just for those in the working field who want a vocational or technical tuition granted to them to for a (2 year’s)

    So this idea is just a proposition of mine, food for thought I guess so anyone and everyone please go ahead and tell me why it is or isn’t a good idea, what im asking I guess is your opinions and professional thoughts on this idea weather it is even possible or too far fetched to work.

    I just really think it would drive and motivate those who want a second to get out of there dead end minimum wage jobs and try and ready them or help them build a small company or further themselves in the one they already have.


    Devan B.

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