The Achieve program proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty would provide free tuition for the first two years of college to students who graduate in the top 25 percent of their high school class. The program would provide additional support to students the subsequent two years if they major in a math or science field.
It’s apparent that the program discriminates based on field of study, an absurd notion of favoritism that assumes math and sciences students are more “worthy” of financial support than students in other disciplines.
The Achieve proposal is reflective of a new conservative education strategy. The American Competitiveness Initiative, a plan President George W. Bush mentioned in the State of Union address, also places emphasis on math and science.
Given the extent to which many of our schools are underfunded, it would be better to invest in education as a whole. Our history and English programs also need support. Writing is a skill many students and adults lack, but the president is not stressing that inadequacy. Our history textbooks often are outdated and lack broader appeal, and lack of perspective is dangerous in the global world – but again, there is no hoopla there. In the meantime, the president argues that math and science are needed to find success in our world today, but are number crunching and chemistry the only things that measure “success”?
Locally, this state couldn’t even pass the Dream Act, which would have allowed illegal immigrant teenagers who graduate from Minnesota high schools to pay in-state tuition. There was no question of providing financial aid, and the program would not have added any additional expense to the state, but many, perhaps concerned with maintaining the status quo, could not even grant this slight relief to Minnesota students who would qualify.
Minnesota has long neglected higher education, but instead of pushing to slash tuition increases, the governor provides a proposal that would pour much-needed resources and incentives to families who might not need the assistance. It would be more beneficial to invest in rational and effective programs that won’t unnecessarily deplete the resources of Minnesotans.