A Note from Lucy Flores

Flores4Congress-logoThis past weekend, as thousands of UNLV students celebrated their graduation, I reflected on how important education was in creating opportunities for me. I also remembered that overcoming the odds and becoming the first person in my family to attend college would not have been possible without financial aid to make tuition more affordable.

That’s why I’m disappointed that Crescent Hardy recently voted to make it harder for students to pay for college.

Higher education is essential to achieving the American Dream, but it’s increasingly harder to afford. And now Rep. Hardy helped Speaker Boehner and the GOP Congress pass a budget that freezes Pell Grants for a decade, meaning the class of 2025 would have to find a way to pay for an extra 10 percent of their tuition.

We need to ensure the next generation of Nevada students has the same opportunity to complete their education and reach for their dreams.

Join me in calling on Republicans in Congress to make college more affordable? Sign the petition today.

Make College Education a Reality

Kate Marshall, NV State Treasurer (Candidate for NV Secretary of State)

I wanted to share my recent op-ed in the Reno Gazette Journal on my College Kickstart program–a non taxpayer funded college savings account for our school age children here in Nevada.    Ensuring that everyone has access to higher education, is a personal mission of mine, and I am proud that soon we will expanding this program statewide.

Nearly 81% of the jobs of the future will require some sort of post secondary education.  Yet only 30% of Nevadans have some sort of post secondary Education.  This needs to change  and I am committed to ensuring our kids not only know that they can achieve a college degree but are given tools to achieve that dream.

Take a moment to read my personal story in the op-ed below and join my campaign team so we can continue to create opportunities for our kids to succeed.

From Reno Gazette Journal on February, 12th 2014

Kate Marshall: Make college education a reality

As a young child, I thought the most I could strive for in life was to get a job with benefits. College just wasn’t part of my picture. It wasn’t until a nun from my school showed up at my house to talk to my mother about me, and my future, that my outlook changed.

When you grow up in a family, or in a place, where college isn’t openly discussed, a child needs to be told what possibilities there are for his or her life. Children need to be told that they can reach further than just a job, or just a job with benefits.

With that in mind, my office has launched an exciting new initiative aimed at instilling the dream of a college education in the minds of Nevada schoolchildren. The Nevada College Kick Start Program (CollegeKickStart.nv.gov) has established 529 college savings accounts for all 2013-14 public school kindergarten students attending school in Nevada with an initial deposit of $50.

Studies have shown when a child has a savings account with his or her name on it — no matter how much is in the fund — that child is seven times more likely to go to college. College savings send a strong message to children: “You are a college saver. You are college-bound.” That is true, regardless of your family income, where you grew up, your ethnicity or whether your parents went to college.

The accounts were established with fees paid to the state by private investment firms, not taxpayer dollars.

The funds can be used for any institute of higher education, whether it’s culinary, technical; Truckee Meadows Community College; University of Nevada, Reno; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Harvard or any accredited institution of higher learning. It cannot be used for any other purpose than to pay higher education expenses.

We have also partnered with our Nevada College Savings Plans program manager, Upromise, to drastically reduce the minimum amount needed to open a SSgA Upromise college savings account. Parents can set up a 529 college savings account with as little as $15 — reduced from $250. And for those families making less than $75,000, the state will match up to $300 a year for five years, within the availability of funding.

Parents or other caregivers can open this parallel account and deposit whatever they can afford into that account so they’ll be better prepared when the time comes for their child to attend an institution of higher learning.

An educated workforce is critical as we work to diversify our economy and create jobs with better pay and benefits. It is essential that more Nevada families begin discussing and planning for college now so that more of our youths will attend and graduate from an institution of higher learning.

We need to let all children know that they can go to college. Let’s put everyone on the same starting line and make a college education a reality for thousands of Nevada’s children.

Kate Marshall is Nevada state treasurer.

An Endangered Species Up in Arms

The number of students taking humanities courses is plummeting, and financing for liberal arts education is being tea-partied to death.

— by Donald Kaul

Donald Kaul

As many of you already have intuited, I don’t know everything. Nobody does, I suppose. More importantly, I don’t know everything about anything.

I’m what used to be called “a generalist,” someone whose knowledge in any direction is a mile wide and a quarter-inch deep.

Sad to say, we generalists are an endangered species.

Everywhere, the pressure is on young people to specialize. They’re also being urged to concentrate on the so-called STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and math. Why? These are disciplines that can predictably get you a job upon graduating from college.

A Florida task force last year went so far as to suggest that college courses in the humanities — literature, history, the social sciences, the arts — be made more expensive than STEM courses just to steer students away from them.

Kaul-Humanities-tom.belteThis idea has the humanities people up in arms.

Duke University President Richard Brodhead headed a study group of educators, business leaders, artists, and politicians that recently delivered a report to Congress decrying the attitude that studying the humanities and social sciences is a waste of time.

“This facile negativism forgets that many of the country’s most successful and creative people had exactly this kind of education,” he said.

The report comes at a time not when hordes of students are crowding into “wasteful” humanities classes, but rather when attendance in them is plummeting and financing for liberal arts education is being tea-partied to death.

Our higher education system is forgetting what education is supposed to do in the first place.

I entered college as an engineering student — a mistake on the order of Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia. I was lucky though. I made a last-minute escape to the English department where I was not only allowed to read novels for fun but also find out about things I was actually interested in — history, psychology, architecture, and the arts.

I hasten to add that I had no idea what I was going to do with this information. Neither did my father, a tool and die maker who wanted me to join one of the more practical professions — preferably dentistry. He wanted me to make a living without being in danger of killing someone.

That didn’t appeal to me either. Like many students (particularly English majors) of the 1950s, I wasn’t going to school merely to learn a trade. I was out to become an educated person — well-read, witty, sophisticated — like someone in a Noel Coward play.

Unfortunately, Coward never tells you how his people earn a living. When I graduated with my English degree firmly in hand I had no answer for my father’s question: “What now, bigshot?”

Thus, I drifted into journalism. It wasn’t an unfamiliar story in the newspaper business of the time. Back then, it served as a refuge for failed novelists, playwrights, and other flotsam bearing a liberal education.

The thing is, it worked out fine for me. I led an interesting life, had a lot of fun, and earned enough to raise a family in modest comfort. Moreover, at one time or another, I pretty much put to use everything I had learned in college.

And that’s my point — a point these STEM people miss — there’s nothing wrong with learning for its own sake. Knowledge doesn’t go to waste. It comes in handy somewhere along the line, sometimes in the most unlikely places.

I realize that the world now is a very different place from the one I grew up in. Back then, you didn’t have to be a hedge fund manager to work your way through school for one thing. But another difference is that workers today change jobs, even professions, four, five, or six times during their working lives.

Specialists who know only one thing might be left out in the cold when circumstances change. Generalists have the intellectual tools to adapt.

Actually, we’d be better off if more of our politicians had read a few more good novels. Or if perhaps they’d written a poem or two.

Knowing something is always better than knowing nothing.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. OtherWords.org  Photo credit to Tom Belte/Flickr