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The Education shuffle

January 21, 2009 - John Stack
One area where I think government spending is very justified is in education. And I don’t mean in approving of 4 percent raises for HS teachers and ludicrously low health payments. I mean investing in our colleges. Here in Saranac Lake, I think our number one local asset or resource is North Country Community College. Not only is it relatively inexpensive, but it offers many programs that people can really use. What would Adirondack Medical Center do without the nursing programs at North Country? I believe a key to prosperity is an educated populace, as well as affordable educational opportunities. Affordable.
            What is affordable? To go to even a state school in New York, it will run at least $15,000 per year. Where does this money come from? If you are an incredible athlete (1 in a thousand) you may get an athletic scholarship. If you are independently wealthy, its no real problem. If you are in the lower income brackets, you can get plenty of state and federal aid and low cost student loans. Admittedly, this is how my siblings and I got our college degrees. But, what if you are just middle class? Let’s say you have a dual income family with even just 2 kids? If you make a combined $60,000 – don’t expect any help from the government. You won’t get aid, and probably won’t qualify for low interest student loans – and if your kid can get a loan, it won’t cover very much of the $15,000 a year. That leaves about 10 grand (or more) for a middle income family to come up with – for at least the next 4 years! Tell ya what; most families making 60 grand don’t have an extra 10 Gs per year lying around. I don’t know how I’ll send my kids to college. Probably taking out a home equity loan? It’ll be tough for me. I don’t know how people do it with less resources than me.
            Which leads to Obama vs Paterson. Obama’s big plan is to give a $4,000 income tax credit towards higher education. This would cover a good portion of typical tuition costs at public universities. And its a good start. But, tuition is usually about 1/3 the cost of a public education. Room, board, books and fees take up the lion’s share. I don’t have a plan myself, but I think more grants should be made available to help cover living expenses. Paterson plans on cutting TAP, and increasing or tightening eligibility for TAP.
            One idea is to raise the number of credit hours from 9 to 15. For a true full time student, this won’t change much. But, for those who all ready have trouble paying for college(or caring for a family member), and must work and go to school, this is the end for them. To have to pick up more time at college, they would have to cut back on work hours. Yeah it would probably save NY a little money in the short run (fewer people going to college, therefore fewer getting TAP). But, in the long run, it would be disastrous with even fewer New Yorkers getting college degrees. Paterson does plan on increasing loans for those in need. I didn’t see what requirements (such as income) were to get these loans, but if the middle class is not included in these new low cost loans, this will do nothing to help invest in our future.


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