Editorial: Work toward free tuition


Today, more than ever, continuing education beyond high school — either through traditional academic paths or training in specific job skills — stands as the most important step someone can take to help find and keep a good-paying job.

Also today, more than ever, the cost of that post-high school training is moving beyond the reach of many families. Those who can cobble together grants, scholarships and loans often graduate with so much debt they face years of monthly payments.

Lawmakers in New York — and at least one Illinois representative — want to do something about that. New York’s lawmakers decided to do what they could to help their state’s students compete in today’s global marketplace. For families who make up to $100,000 — the cap moves to $125,000 in three years.

Students still would have to pay for room and board, and lawmakers even are investing $8 million toward electronic books to help hold costs down.

Three other states — Tennessee, Oregon and Minnesota — now offer free tuition to community colleges, but New York is the first to waive tuition to public four-year schools as well.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, wants Illinois to do the same thing. He knows the proposal doesn’t have a chance this year — Illinois has operated without a state budget for almost two years as bills and unfunded pension debt continue to accrue — but he wants to at least start the conversation.

“Today, college is what high school was — it should always bean option even if you can’t afford it,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement, according to NBC News.

He’s right. Today’s competition in the marketplace is about brain power, not muscle power. Jobs disappear every day due to automation and more efficient processes. Science, health care, engineering and other technical areas will need the best and brightest brains if the United States expects to continue to compete. No one knows how many great ideas have been lost because someone could not afford college or technical school.

Illinois lawmakers should look at subsidies and tax breaks still being handed out for yesterday’s ideas and think about investing in tomorrow’s success by finding a way to make tuition disappear.

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April 11, 2017 at 12:19AM

Editorial: Work toward free tuition

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