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From The Carriage to The Convocation: How Community Development Can Finance Your Child’s Education

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization. 

By Andrew Vaz
May 19, 2017

Let’s end student loans now! Every year, a child in America is plotted on a path towards a college degree. A tradition which never ends, parents begin their two decades’ odyssey of financing their child’s education despite the challenge of higher education costs. Unless they are making a six-figure or more salary, parents never can save enough money to cover the entire cost of their child’s tuition. The price for attending college never seems to drop; thus, when the child grows up and attends that post-secondary institution, they have no choice but to request loans from either the government or private lenders. Now, that child has entered a hole of insurmountable debt they can never repay in full. It is time for a gut check. Our communities must do more to invest the future of their children and the opportunity to do so begins now.

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Our local communities every year ask the Federal government for money in their annual budgets. That money is filtered down to the local governments and spent on the re-development initiatives that lasts for years. However, how much of that money is put towards higher education is rarely discussed. Most local governments leave higher education as a state problem.

However, states are also coming up short when it comes to grants and other forms of student aid. Deep cuts are the culprit — deep state funding cuts have major consequences for public colleges and universities. States (and to a lesser extent localities) provide 53 percent of the revenue that can be used to support instruction at these schools. When this funding is cut, colleges and universities generally must either cut educational or other services, raise tuition to cover the gap, or both. This now truly leaves the issue of tuition at colleges at the local level.

Communities must develop an action plan that will get their students the funding they need to attend college. The goal is to one day have a funding system in place which will make college completely free. Until then, this plan will alleviate enough pressure of the backs of students and their parents.

Step 1: Create a fundraising initiative supported by community leaders and businesses

I am impressed by the level of support towards small businesses, especially on special events such as small business day. If we can generate money for local businesses, we can do the same for our colleges. A fundraising initiative can be created strictly for the allocation of funds for our schools. The it can be called free college day — a day where the community comes together through concerts, deals at restaurants and shopping malls, and other events in the locality. It is expected that any community can generate millions in revenue to give to our colleges to keep them open and allow students to attend at a reduced tuition rate. I must also mention these communities should also lobby both Federal and State legislatures for their support in the creation of the free college day.

Step 2:  Obtain cooperation from multinational organizations and international governments

With the free college day event ongoing, communities can turn to corporations and international governments for their cooperation. Already, states such as New York have projects based in Silicon Valley where students can find work after college. Multinational corporations, especially those who occupy these communities where college funding is poor, can donate funds to college in exchange of employment for their highly qualified students. International governmental bodies can also help with the funding of our colleges in the form of scholarships to students interested in working for their governments in the future.

Step 3:  After the creation of free college day, it should become a holiday

The situation around small business day is that it is held on the weekend, usually on a Saturday. As such, free college day should be considered a holiday — like MLK day, and most governmental observances, where businesses remain open. Colleges will not hold classes, however, and students and the administration would be allowed to fundraise for the cause.

Step 4:   Salary cuts for faculty and administrative staff at colleges/universities

Quite unpopular, but necessary — universities must discuss the payment of their faculty and staff members. A part of the tuition problem at some post-secondary institutions is the faculty/staff pay: tenured professors make almost six figures and staff are hired for unnecessary positions. Colleges should hire faculty and staff with reduced salaries consistent across the community.

Step 5:  Universities must cooperate on all community development projects

The caveat to this plan is that it is not without its repayment to the community at large. All colleges and universities that sign on this plan must be involved in all community development plans going forward. That means, colleges will also assist business and community organizations in infrastructure, workforce development and information technology — just to name a few areas.

Going forward, this plan will hopefully get our communities financially engaged in the future of education.


Author: Andrew R Vaz, M.Sc., M.P.A. is a doctoral student in the public policy and administration program at Walden University. He is a graduate of the Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Public Administration double master’s program at Florida International University. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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