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La Grande Observer Paper 08/20/14

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Home arrow Online arrow Photos arrow OUR VIEW: Tuition bill a step forward

OUR VIEW: Tuition bill a step forward

Sure, a bias exists against community colleges. Some people say the intellectual fireworks found at a four-year school are more of a sparkler at a two-year school.

That bias needs to go the way of the dodo bird. People need to open their minds. Education is education, and quality teachers and learning opportunities can be found at any level.

Some states, including Oregon, are exploring the idea of “free” community college tuition. A bill signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber earlier this month orders a state commission to see whether free tuition is feasible. The study will determine the cost to taxpayers, whether the current system can handle an influx of new students, and whether the program should be limited to recent high school graduates.

Not all students are ready to step straight from high school into a four-year university. Community colleges provide welcome stepping stones on the path of education.

Costs are an issue. Anyone who has their radar on knows college debt is spiraling out of sight. As an example, consider that at Lane Community College in Eugene, a credit hour that cost $6 in 1969-70, or $37 in today’s money, now costs $93 for in-state students. That’s about a 250 percent price increase. Not fair. It puts a substantial hurt on today’s students and their parents, whoever is paying the bill. 

It’s time to look for a long-term solution, not a quick fix, and to figure a way to make college education affordable, regardless of family income, without breaking the taxpayer.

The cost does not have to all fall on taxpayers. One idea circulating is to provide a “free” education, and then have the students pay back the “loan” when they do get a job through payroll deduction.

Access to higher education is important. Education is an investment in the future, and an education investment now saves higher costs later.

We need to expand educational opportunities so that fewer people end up depending on the social safety net.

In the global economy, with its increasing reliance on technology and expanded knowledge, training is critical.

What’s more, an investment in education draws money and business to a community.

Let’s ensure everyone has access to the power of a quality, affordable education and gets the economic opportunity they deserve.

Sure, not every student will get a job right away in their chosen career path. But making community colleges accessible to more people, whatever model is chosen, is a step in the right direction.

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