Thursday, March 22, 2012

I sympathize w/ the 21st Century student

It has been 30 years since the days when I was trying to get myself ready to go away to college – which included trying to figure out how to pay for it.

In my case, I was fortunate. I attended a university that had a commitment to trying to get the maximum amount of financial aid for its students – although before it sounds like I’m anointing them for sainthood, I’m fully aware that their top concern was to make sure the tuition bill got paid one way or another.

BUT THE BOTTOM line is that I ultimately was able to attend the college of my choice, and I remain satisfied with my four years of higher education – even if I didn’t truly appreciate the quality I received until after I graduated and saw some of the awful things my new-found work counterparts had to put up with.

I also know that if it weren’t for the financial aid (which left me paying off debt for six years after I graduated), I wouldn’t have had that experience.

I probably would have gained something resembling a degree from somewhere. But I’d probably be in the category of  people who had to put up with nonsense – instead of gaining some advantages in life.

I’d be a different person from the one I am now.

WHICH IS WHY I read with much interest the Chicago Tribune report about financial aid for college students in this state.

It seems that the Monetary Award Program that is used to provide the bulk of a student’s financial aid package is broke. The state’s funding for the program ran clean as of nine days ago. Anybody who didn’t get their application for the program in by March 13 is out of luck.

They’re going to get nothing.

There are other programs that can provide some financial assistance. But they’re the ones that usually are used to supplement the MAP grant funds.

WHICH MEANS I can see a lot of prospective college students suddenly realizing they’re not going to be able to attend a place that they’re eminently qualified for. State officials estimate that some 140,000 students will have to be rejected even though they qualify for aid.

Now for those of you who are going to rant that these students should just get a job and work their way through school, that’s probably what they’re going to have to do. They know that. They don’t need to hear your ideological trash talk.

But the fact also remains that the price of a university education has reached levels that few human beings are in a position to pay without some form of financial assistance.

So having a solid program for offering financial assistance is crucial for our society as a whole.

BECAUSE NOT ENCOURAGING people to reach their full potential ultimately will create bigger problems than we now face. Anyone who can’t accept that concept as fact IS the problem in our society.

Unless our state officials are able to resolve this problem (along with a lot of others they also face these days), we are going to wind up suffering a severe situation.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that I think the Republican presidential dreamers are talking nonsense when they spew rhetoric about the value of higher education being overrated.

They come across as longing for a time when the point of colleges and universities was to weed out certain types of people from thinking they could be a significant part of society – instead of now trying to bolster anybody with potential to reach their full potential.

SO WHAT HAPPENS now? I can kind of comprehend the logic that says the people who filed their aid applications promptly will still get aid, while those who waited until the last minute will lose out. I can appreciate a deadline and the value of being early.

But this is going to be a harsh life’s lesson for some people, and one that can have a larger impact on all of us.

Which also makes me want to crack down on my oldest nephew, who happens to be a high school junior just now trying to figure out where he wants to go to college.

I hope he doesn’t wait too long. Because it would be a waste if he became the kid spending his spare time dribbling a basketball on a court somewhere just to kill time, trying to figure out where he went wrong.


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