State’s free tu­ition plan will up­end pri­vate col­leges

Higher ed­u­ca­tion

The Buffalo News - - OPINION - By Thomas Caulfield Thomas Caulfield, Ed.D., is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of coun­selor ed­u­ca­tion at Cani­sius Col­lege.

There should be danc­ing in the streets be­cause of the new New York State law pro­vid­ing free col­lege ed­u­ca­tion for all. That is, free col­lege ed­u­ca­tion for all pro­vid­ing the stu­dent at­tends a pub­lic col­lege. That means pri­vate col­leges are cut out of the pic­ture and will not ben­e­fit from this leg­is­la­tion.

Now, pri­vate col­leges are al­ready hav­ing a tough time of it. The pool of stu­dents has been di­min­ish­ing as of late. The re­duced num­bers of po­ten­tial stu­dents means fewer pay­ing stu­dents for the col­leges to en­roll and the com­pe­ti­tion has be­come quite se­vere. Pri­vate col­leges have al­ready been prepar­ing to ba­si­cally sur­vive by mak­ing cuts to pro­gram­ming, fac­ulty and re­sources. En­ter the new law. Do you think pri­vate col­leges will flour­ish now, or will this be the death knell for that ven­er­a­ble mul­ti­tude of cam­puses that have pre­pared a mul­ti­tude of lead­ers through­out the years? With one stroke of the pen, a whole ed­u­ca­tional in­dus­try is in dan­ger of be­ing wiped out.

The irony is that this law was passed un­der the lead­er­ship of a gov­er­nor who re­ceived his ele­men­tary, high school and col­lege ed­u­ca­tion at pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions. As­suredly, those in­sti­tu­tions had some­thing to do with prepar­ing him for his cur­rent suc­cess.

Has any­one heard of a voucher sys­tem, such as has been prac­ticed suc­cess­fully in Min­nesota, Louisiana, Ver­mont, Ohio, Europe, etc.? It’s true the voucher sys­tem is hotly de­bated, but us­ing it may save nu­mer­ous in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion. Even the Supreme Court has ap­proved use of ed­u­ca­tional vouch­ers.

It is taxes that sup­port pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. Those who de­cide to use pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion ac­tu­ally pay dou­ble taxes. They pay their taxes to sup­port the pub­lic schools as well as tu­ition to sup­port pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion. Con­sider how much money pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion has saved state tax­pay­ers over the years, while en­hanc­ing free­dom of choice. Elim­i­nate pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion and all those stu­dents will be dumped into pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. Then watch your taxes soar while you and your chil­dren have free­dom of choice re­duced even more.

My own ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion was un­der­taken pri­mar­ily at pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing gram­mar school, high school, col­lege and master’s de­gree. My doc­tor­ate was at a pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion. The strong prepa­ra­tion I re­ceived in pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion was clearly re­spon­si­ble for com­ple­tion of the ad­vanced de­gree. In ad­di­tion, I was free to choose which venue was at­tended. We, as Amer­i­cans, en­joy more free­doms than peo­ple of other na­tions, yet those free­doms are grad­u­ally dis­ap­pear­ing. Must we whit­tle away at our free­doms even more with this lat­est leg­is­la­tion? Was it not our free­dom of choice which made this na­tion great?

Who will be able to af­ford a pri­vate col­lege ed­u­ca­tion? Will it be only zealots and the very, very wealthy? For com­mon folk, free­dom of choice will be elim­i­nated through eco­nomic ne­ces­sity. Though I am happy for those who will ben­e­fit from this leg­is­la­tion, it raises a wor­ri­some is­sue over which I am not danc­ing in the street.

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