Addressing the cost of higher education in Kansas is important. Those who graduate from college have better career prospects, but they shouldn’t be burdened by lifelong, crushing debt.
That being said, a proposal in the Kansas Legislature that would allow K-12 school districts to cover college tuition costs for dually enrolled students is the wrong way to go. Money from the state general fund allocated to our public schools should be spent on our public schools, and on educating students in these early years.
That doesn’t mean the concept of allowing high school students to get a jump on college classes is bad or unworkable. Testimony from the executive director of public affairs for Wichita Public Schools suggests great promise for the idea. It would target and assist students who might be at risk of not attending college.
"These are students who are in the middle," said Terrell Davis, the public affairs director. "They have potential, but they could just as easily fall through the cracks. They sit in classrooms making anywhere from a 2.5 to 3.0 GPA. They get in trouble from time to time — not because they are bad kids but because they are bored."
Graduating them from high school with a sheaf of completed college classes would be a way to jumpstart their education.
And again, this seems like a worthy goal. But it’s ultimately not what the general fund education dollars are for. The state also funds higher education, and that’s the appropriate source of funding for encouraging students toward college and university degrees.
We understand. Spending money on colleges and universities isn’t always politically popular. Not everyone attends, and legislators might complain that graduates leave the state anyway or — much worse — become liberals. But the facts are the facts. College degrees (and we’re including two-year associate’s degrees in this category) make a lifelong difference.
At the same time, the House Commerce Committee moved to pass the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act, a $10 million bill that would direct aid toward students enrolled in two-year or technical degree programs in specific fields. It also would carry a residency requirement. We’re not ready to endorse that legislation, but it shows that there are other approaches and ideas in the air that don’t require cannibalizing K-12 support.
If we want to encourage college attendance, money to do that should come from higher education funds. It’s as simple and straightforward as that.