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Casey: Why Washington state’s free college proposal is deeply flawed


I always knew I wanted to go to college, but I couldn’t tell you why. It was just the next step after high school. I never thought about what I wanted to study, or what the classes and professors would be like.

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I thought about making friends in the dorms and partying. And in my freshman year, that’s all I did, and that was reflected in my GPA, which came in under a 2.0.

I bring this up because Washington State is inching closer to a free college program for low-income students. The proposed plan passed the State Senate earlier this Month, and is scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on College & Workforce Development this afternoon. I think this is a bad idea, and here are three reasons why.

College is not a right

Getting an education may be a right, but going to college isn’t; it’s not in the Constitution. If you do consider it to be a right, then pay for it yourself.

Having the right to bear arms doesn’t mean your neighbor is required to pay for your revolver. There are plenty of ways to get a high education that don’t require any state sponsoring: Academic scholarships, athletic scholarships, and student loan programs among them.

You don’t need to go to school out of state, or to an expensive private school. You can find a cheap local state school and get your degree. Or you can do two years of community college and then transfer. There are plenty of options for people who want to continue their education. Forcing an education on people who don’t desire it isn’t going to work.

College is not for everyone

Some jobs don’t require a college degree. Many of them are very high-paying jobs. It may benefit someone who is going into one of the trades to get to work at 18. College would just be a waste of time, and a very expensive waste of time at that.

You can learn just as much (maybe even more) in an actually work environment than you can from the professor for a class on “Unsettling Whiteness” (I’m not kidding, that’s a course being taught at Northwestern).

No motivation

The worst part of this plan in our state is that the bill would require the students to have a 2.5 GPA in high school in order to get free college. But that changed. They argued that it should be lower!

So if this bill passes, anyone who has above a 2.0 GPA or higher in high school can be eligible for taxpayer funded college.

Someone who gets a C average in high school is someone who doesn’t care. They have no motivation to learn. High school is not hard, and a 2.0 demonstrates a blatant disregard for schooling.

Now imagine this student going on to college, and getting it for free. Would this student suddenly buckle down and become a bookworm? Or would they attend college to skip class and go to frat parties?

The students who succeed the most are the ones that want to be there, and better yet, are the ones who are paying to be there. We always treat the things that we bought for ourselves with more respect.

The kid whose first car was a 1999 Honda Civic that they paid for with their own hard-earned money is going to care much more about their car, than the kid whose daddy bought them a BMW.

Giving free college to teenagers who don’t understand where that money is coming from is not going to provide any motivation for that student to study hard.

Now, back to my discussion about my freshman year of college. I wasn’t succeeding in school because I had no motivation. I didn’t have a purpose — I was just there because I thought I was supposed to be (and of course, to party).

My dad was not happy with my low GPA. He told me he was going to stop paying my tuition if I didn’t turn things around. I realized what that meant — that I would need to move home, and leave my new friends behind.

I used that motivation to start working harder in class. I also got a job working evenings at a driving range picking up golf balls. Eventually, I joined my school’s golf team.

I discovered my passion for radio by participating with the school’s student radio program, and I found my purpose. In my final semester at Pacific Lutheran University, I would finish with a perfect 4.0.

How about instead of giving college away to under-achieving high school students, we incentivize them to work harder. Instead of lowering the required GPA for free college, they should have raised it.

If students are required to get a 3.0 in high school, and are required to develop responsible study habits earlier in life, they might have better success in higher education. Let’s encourage better work, not reward lesser work.

Let’s incentivize businesses to offer more scholarships to hard working students of under-served communities. Let’s find ways for hard working students who can’t afford college to get there without using our tax dollars. And let’s encourage those who don’t want to go to college that that is okay too.

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