Higher education key to reviving economy

Richard Hernandez Mar 15, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Our election coverage this week isn’t so much about candidates and platforms and promises and campaign spending. It’s about voters. Actual people. And what will matter to them most come November.

Today, Richard Hernandez and the state of higher education.

Richard Hernandez: I am a community college student in Los Angeles. And I want to hear the candidates spell out what they’re planning to do to make higher education more affordable and more accessible.

In California, public colleges and universities were hit hard by the recession. The state closed its budget gap in large part by slashing funding to higher education. Fees and tuition have risen as a result. At the community college level, fees have doubled and are set to increase again this fall.

But despite the higher fees, schools are cutting their course offerings. Winter and summer sessions have been eliminated from many schools, and fewer and fewer classes are being offered during the regular semester. Many students are faced with the reality of having to extend their education plans by another semester or two, or even a year or more. This is especially tough on students hoping to transfer from community colleges to four-year universities. If you can’t get into the classes you need to transfer, you can’t transfer.

We can best solve these problems by stopping the budget cuts for higher education. It’s ridiculous that students across the country have less access to an affordable education. It’s ridiculous that middle-income families don’t know if they can send their children to college even though they’ve been saving for years. If our goal really is to revive this economy, we should start by getting as many students through college as quickly as possible, so they can become productive members of society.

I’m looking for a presidential candidate who understands the social and economic benefits of an educated workforce: less crime, more community involvement, increased entrepreneurial activity, higher wages, greater purchasing power — all these things benefit society as much as individual students.

We need a president who will reinvest in education; someone who will help students achieve their goals by making college more accessible and more affordable; someone who won’t be anything like the politicians who created our current predicament.

Ryssdal: Richard Hernandez is a second-year community college student in Los Angeles. Tell us what matters to you most in this election year — write to us.

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