OUR VOICE: College education needed to advance

Farm Forum

That Albert Einstein and Bill Gates were able to make great strides in physics and technology without the benefit of a college education is a remarkable, almost unique event. The rest of us should be so lucky. Or driven.

Years ago, a college degree was no guarantee of stable employment with potential advancement. And years ago, not having a degree did not necessarily hobble one from becoming a corporate CEO.

But according to Alain Sherter, MoneyWatch, March 19, “Higher education attainment is growing increasingly important. Getting a college degree is increasingly a prerequisite for success in the workforce and entry into the middle class.”

Which is why the loss of federal college aid in South Dakota this year is so devastating. The U.S. Department of Education declared South Dakota to be ineligible for aid for College Access, a program that helps low-income students pursue higher education.

In 2011, Gov. Dennis Daugaard requested extensive budget cuts in many areas including higher education with the long-term results that federal officials curtailed funding until next fall. While there are some residual funds left from last year that will be used to help high school students and their families fill out and understand the complex FAFSA and other college enrollment criteria, services will be extremely limited.

With budget cuts that have resulted in state institutions raising tuition and related student expenses, such as fees and campus housing, you have a recipe for disaster. We are essentially sentencing many high school graduates to a future of financial insecurity and career stagnation.

Ask any recent graduate how many years it will be before his or her college loans are paid off. The answer will be ‘decades.’ And these may be students who have at least some form of financial assistance from their parents. Low-income students, who may be tremendously bright and creative, are simply doomed. As so often happens, parents who do not go to college raise children who do not go to college.

It’s not easy, when passing laws and trying to balance the state checkbook, to remember the needs of future generations.

But, like dropping a pebble in a puddle, the ripple effect cannot be denied.

— American News editorial board