Thursday, July 06, 2006

An Open Letter on the High Cost of College, to the Band of Brothers Candidates

To Mike Lyon
Executive Director, Band of Brothers 2006

Dear Mike and the Band of Brothers,

I am a blogger who runs a political website,

I write to you and the Brothers to ask you to consider refining the second key value of the Band of Brothers, "Expanded education opportunity," to include the words "including universal access to college for American students, free of obstacles born of financial need."

I have been arguing for this since my first run for state representative in my home state of Massachusetts, and I still believe it is a winner that cuts across class and party lines. Whether you are making 90 Grand a year or 35 Grand, you can hardly imagine how you will deal with the record-high cost of college, especially if your youngster (or - heavens! imagine paying for two or three!) is very bright and qualifies for a prestigious private institution.

Every report indicates that this is the first time since World War II that top colleges increasingly reflect family wealth in their student bodies rather than personal merit. Many prestigious colleges lament that they do not have the financial means to enable every student who is deserving of admission to attend. I reference one article on the problem at the end of this letter. There are many.

College is no one's welfare hand-out. You must earn it, and once in, you must perform to the standards of the school. It has always dismayed me that prominent politicians from Bill Clinton to George Bush on down propose programs that tinker at the margins, like making more or less of tuition payments tax deductible, but never dare to think big.

Why not say we support a national initiative that will enable any student to go to any college he can manage to get into if he or she is works hard enough? That should be well within reach of the world's wealthiest democracy. It's good economics, it's good education, and it's just plain fair.

I think that if the Brothers can agree to the insertion of this particular plank in the Key Values, it will attract voter and media attention to counter the charge that "Democrats have no ideas", which of course is bunk. The problem is we have too many, which is a good thing, except it makes it difficult for the voters to wrap their minds around one big identifying issue.

Whatever else these candidates think, they might say, at least I know that they want to make it so I don't have to worry about how to send these kids to college. Especially the smart one, who at 12 says he wants to go to Colgate, (or Amherst, or...) How in the heck am I going to afford Amherst? Worse, how do I tell them that, no matter how hard they work, even if they are admitted, they might not have the money to go? How do I explain to my children that this is not how the "land of opportunity" works?

To me this is a conservative, all-American issue. The Republicans talk about opportunity in their dishonest, hypocritical way ("opportunity" means opportunities for Halliburton) but they never do anything about restoring REAL opportunity. The beauty of this issue is it puts Republican hypocrisy squarely in our sights: How can you be for "opportunity" if it doesn't start with the first rung on the ladder of success, college? You shouldn't be excluded from a top school because your parents aren't poor enough to qualify for special programs, but not rich enough to afford $60,000-a-year.

This has a personal resonance for me. Though from a family of modest means, I had the privilege of going to a top Ivy school, because people before me, in the Civil Rights Movement, worked and fought to open doors for the benefit of people they would never know. My experience at Yale allowed me to realize my full potential, and it pains me to have seen my country move in the opposite direction since that time. I feel some responsibility for keeping doors open to Americans of all classes that were open for me, sometimes, I have realized after studying the Civil Rights Movement, at a cost in blood.

The plank I am proposing is general enough that there are many ways to get there, yet the goal is clear. With the tax-breaks-for-millionaires and windfalls-for-Halliburton-and-oil-companies economic policies that the incumbents now have in place, we should be in no mood to tolerate Republican cries that this would cost too much. Let them say it. The cost of Bush's Iraq war is topping $2 trillion. According to the Pentagon, we are spending the equivalent of a full year's room, board, and tuition at Yale every 25 seconds. I think we should engage this debate on where the money is going in this country, so we can draw a sharp distinction for the voters between what is, and what could be, in terms of a concrete goal. (I love to think of the ads we could write for this. Yes, I'm champing at the bit for battle...)

We have the Iraq issue, I think, firmly in hand now. They are on the run. What we need, in addition to the common sense agenda outlined in the Band of Brothers Key Values, is one big signature DOMESTIC issue to fire the imaginations of Americans, and the media. I learned in my not-so-successful political career (I never actually won!) that you get farther by hammering home a few big ideas people can remember, than by trying to recite a litany. If voted on and/or approved by the Band of Brothers, I would be happy to make available my research, and to work with campaign communications teams to sharpen talking points related to the issue.

Thank you for your time in reading this, and victory to all of you.

Warm Regards,

Ralph Lopez
author, proprietor of Citizens' Talking Points

Article: "Darwinian Admissions"

cc: The Council of Independent Colleges

From the Band of Brothers values website:

"Band of Brothers 2006 is premised on the basic idea that all Americans should be given the same opportunities to succeed. We support policies that promote American Values:
• Basic health care coverage for all Americans
• Expanded education opportunity
• Responsible use of our Military
• A foreign policy that promotes US leadership with NATO, the UN, and our allies in the war on terror
• Overhaul, reform, and simplify the tax system
The Band of Brothers 2006 campaign will focus on exposing neo-conservative agendas and policies that are in conflict with great American traditions.
• Values and Patriotism – Clarity on which values are to be honored and which values are under siege.
• Corporate Responsibility – Reinforce the sensibilities of the middle class while illustrating how neo-conservative agendas encourage corruption and greed in big corporations.
• Exposing Bush – Put the spotlight on policies that benefit the 1%, on Republican base strategy, payoffs, and cronyism.
• Foreign Policy – Not contesting the need to fight the war on terror, but illustrating that the Bush foreign policy makes it more difficult and costly.
• The Economy – Serious discussion on low income growth, increasing inequality, rising health care cost, cuts in public services, and a deepening middle class squeeze.

Band of Brothers. Together, we can."


Post a Comment

<< Home