Tuesday, February 10, 2009
A Fair Shot for Our Own Kids?
I swear to God, sometimes the General Assembly in Virginia is just bizarre. Today, in addition to all the waffling on the easy-to-understand public health bills disguised as tobacco legislation, this august body is looking at a proposal from Republican Rep. David Albo* of Fairfax that would charge Virginia students 150 percent tuition if they don't finish college in four years.
Virginia students getting into Virginia colleges is a problem of Bushian proportions now and Albo proposes we solve that by making these Virginia natives finish fast (132 hours in four years) or pay the penalty that out of state students pay to matriculate here. This toad obviously has no idea how most students live. He doesn't understand that the average student gets a degree in a bit more than five years (meaning his final year would cost 150 percent of a tuition rate that is already outrageous for a state university). Students work during school; they have to take semesters off to earn high tuitions; they get sick; their families break up; things happen.
Children of Republican state representatives, I understand, rarely have to come up with money they don't have in order to attend a state university, since they tend to go private and elite--and they get preferences at the best schools whether or not they earn it. Which would help explain why Republican state representatives have for many years consistently chipped away at Virginia's contribution to college education and created tuitions more suited for private schools than public universities. And God forbid anybody should suggest we raise taxes (to where they were in the days when we took responsibility for our kids) in order to help pay for these Virginians' educations.
North Carolina recongizes the value of home-grown graduates. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, my home state appropriated 82 percent more money for higher education in 2008 than did Virginia, spending 64 percent more per student. Are North Carolina students smarter, more valuable, better loved than Virginia students? North Carolina limits out of state enrollment at its universities to 18 percent (and that includes basketball players). Virginia's colleges are letting in upwards of 30 percent from out of state, out of country in our top universities (UVa, 66.6 percent state residents; William and Mary 68.2 ; JMU 70.3 ; Tech 73.6). And the graduate schools? Let's not even go there.
Two other bills in the General Assembly want to limit out of state enrollment to 30 percent and 20 percent. Opponents say passage of either would demand an increase in tuition (at UVa, state students pay about $9,500 a year, out of staters about $30,000). They say it would create a hardship.
Well, sure it would if tuition increase was the only way to raise money for colleges. But it isn't. How about using the lottery for its stated purpose and then raising tobacco taxes to national norms and slightly increasing state income taxes (which are absurdly low anyway) to compensate? We're talking about our kids and the future of Virginia here. They don't graduate and go home to New Jersey or Calcutta.
I'd say my kids are worth it, although both went out of state to school (and paid less tuition even at the higher rate). Aren't yours? Albo doesn't think so.
(*Note: Albo is a Fairfax drunk driving lawyer whose firm, Albo and Oblon, recently hired Salem Del. Morgan Griffith, the outrageously and consistently irresponsible majority leader in the Virginia House, as a partner. He represents rich drunks in this part of the state.)