The Atlantic has an important perspective on the South’s “cycle of failing higher education.”
In short, the now Republican-dominated South is steadily reducing state support of higher education. The result is higher tuition. The further result is that the higher cost bars the door to college to those who need it most. Arkansas has a particularly mean new wrinkle that requires high test scores to qualify for scholarships funded by the lottery. This produces an economic bias for higher income kids from money heavily generated by poor lottery players. Help is concentrated among those who need it least.
.. most of the states with the highest cost of college for families earning less than $30,000 a year are now also in the South
This is no accident. You need look no farther than Republican Rep. Charlie Collins, from Fayetteville no less, for resistance to what he sees as “handouts” in government support of higher education, particularly Rep. Greg Leding’s recent push for a “no-loan” program to help poor students go to college without crushing debt.
Check these facts from The Atlantic:
* Four of the five states where a community college costs the most for the poorest students are southern: Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Arkansas. Low-income families there would have to pay anywhere from 39 percent to 47 percent of their annual household incomes to pay for a two-year degree, the Penn study found.
* All five of the costliest four-year public university degrees for low-income families are in the South, the same study shows: South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas, where the poorest students would have to spend from half to three-quarters of their incomes to attend college.
* Five of the 10 states with the lowest percentages of people who have college and university degrees are in the South, the Lumina Foundation, which tracks this, finds: Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
To some, this seems terribly unfair. To others, it is justice. Don’t want to be poor? Go to work. (As if the working poor don’t.)
Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s push for more income tax cuts — a popular crusade of Fayetteville’s Collins — holds little hope for correcting this. The belief that goodness will trickle down is short-sighted, The Atlantic article says.
These trends affect more than the number and income level of people on southern campuses, said Melanie Barton, the executive director of the independent, nonpartisan South Carolina Education Oversight Committee. They threaten the region’s economy and portend a further entrenchment of poverty.
“I’m scared to death we won’t have students in the pipeline for jobs,” said Barton, especially in newer fields such as high-tech manufacturing and healthcare administration.
PS: Expensive though Arkansas is for its own poor kids, its tuition deal at UA for border states, particularly Texas, has brought influx of students from out of state, typically from the higher end of the demographic scale.