While shopping at Lowe’s Home Improvement, I met an employee who was a college student.
As we chatted, I learned he was the son of Mexican immigrants, and the first in his family to attend college. After attending a junior college for two years while living at home, he was completing his education at UTSA.
It will take him five years to complete college, as he is working 25 hours/week. Because of his commitment to fund himself, he will have less than $3,000 in student loans.
He is on his way to becoming a CPA and clearly appreciates his education, having worked to pay for it himself. This effort is very admirable.
Also admirable are the steps Texas has taken to offer high school students alternative paths to leading successful and productive lives.
In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 5 requiring multiple paths for high school students to be either college, career, or military-ready upon graduation. Consequently, there has been a boom in the demand for Career and Technical Education classes.
Boerne ISD offers such classes as auto tech, welding, health, and culinary, all leading to marketable careers. BISD is constructing a new wing at each high school to house Pathways in Technology Early College High School academies. Students completing these programs will receive an associate’s degree in addition to their high school diploma upon graduation. Champion High School has begun offering a cyber security program, while Boerne High School will begin a health careers program in 2025.
These programs, along with advanced placement and dual credit classes, will literally save students thousands of dollars toward a college or career/technical post-secondary education.
But more needs to be done to make education affordable. This does not mean instituting Bernie Sander’s idea of “free” college, or President Biden’s misguided attempt to wipe out student debt. Those approaches would penalize non-college educated taxpayers along with those who repaid their student loans. Those stunts would reward the wrong things.
UT Austin offers full tuition scholarships to in-state undergraduates whose families make less than $65K per year. Additional money is budgeted to assist low and middle-income students with on-campus housing costs, while the Dell Foundation has committed $100 million to provide financial aid to low-income students. Texas A&M has similar programs.
Still, colleges need to tighten their belts to eliminate fat and waste. UT Austin spends more than $14 million per year on nearly 200 employees in its “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” Department. This has ballooned from $9 million just five years ago.
There are 14 associate deans in this department who average more than $100K in salaries. The highest paid bureaucrat is the director of Diversity and Community Engagement who “earns” $341K per year. What a racket.
Eliminating this entire department would save each UT student $1,000. What is more important, paying high salaries to those intent on promoting a particular political agenda, or making college more affordable for students?
I feel that being exposed to people of different backgrounds and cultures is a good thing. I just don’t like that some colleges lower standards to admit students simply in the name of diversity. That is the antithesis of meritocracy.
For that matter, so are legacy admissions for students who don’t cut the grade academically. What makes America great is that students from any walk of life can achieve through hard work and commitment, anything they set their minds to do, just like the young man I met at Lowe’s.
Following the Hopwood vs. Texas court ruling in 1996, UT’s system of affirmative action was overturned. Texas replaced affirmative action with the Top 10% rule for the state’s flagship universities. Studies have shown that students who are achievers in high school generally continue to be achievers in college. Texas’ system has resulted in a diversified student body. So why do we need $14 million wasted on DEI bureaucrats?
Many on the left say that African Americans are underrepresented. That is true. Yet each year Hispanic students comprise an increasing share at both UT Austin and Texas A&M, while those of Asian ancestry are heavily represented. How is this a problem? Shouldn’t we reward excellence instead of penalizing it? How does the left explain their preference for one “student of color” over another “student of color.” Isn’t this hypocritical?
Elementary and secondary schools must have high standards and expectations. Strong efforts need to be made to increase parental engagement. Yet, schools cannot force parents to be engaged. Either they are or aren’t.
My immigrant grandparents, whose schooling ended in the fourth grade, strongly supported their children’s teachers, and promoted education. Each child graduated from college or trade school and became successful adults. My grandparents taught their family to love America and appreciate its bountiful opportunities.
The American Dream is alive and well for those willing to work for it. Let’s not pay for distractors and distractions to that worthy goal.
Rich Sena, a member of the Republican party, sits on the Boerne ISD board of trustees.