Morgan Liddick: Life does get tougher than figuring out student loans |

Morgan Liddick: Life does get tougher than figuring out student loans

And On the Right

The headline in the Rocky Mountain News was an above-the-fold screamer: “High-Ed Vouchers Failing.” Since I have an interest in funding for higher education in Colorado, my curiosity was piqued. Was funding being cut? Students excluded? Schools pushed out of the loop? No, none of above. But as I read further, I was anything but reassured.

What was the crux of the problem? According to the article and other similar news stories, the College Opportunity Fund, which provides economic assistance directly to almost 125,000 Colorado college students, is just too complex for some of them to understand.

That’s the crisis: the COF, which has grown by more than 5 percent each year since its inception in 2005 is not used by ” at most ” 5 percent of the students eligible because it’s just too much bother to apply. Consequently, the program is “Failing.” Despite its resemblance to the transfer-payments-gone-mad direct-tuition plan Governor Ritter proposes, it must be scrapped and some other method found for funnelling funds to students at our state’s colleges and universities. Oh, good grief.

Two initial thoughts on what this putative crisis said about the preparation our secondary schools provide those who are bound for institutions of higher learning: first, if a graduate of Anywhere in Colorado High School cannot master the intricacies of an application for financial support, how well prepared can they have been for life as an adult? Second, if the college-bound segment of ACHS grads are so challenged, what does that say about their non-academic-track peers?

And there is another and bleaker thought which drives speculation about Colorado high school curricula to the back burner of the brain.

It is an enduring tenet of conservatism that one relies on one’s self to achieve one’s desires. This usually requires sacrifice, tradeoffs, delayed gratification, diligent effort over time, concentration and planning. Evidently this is not a particularly popular attitude at present, either among certain segments of our population or the politicians who truckle to them. Witness the apparent expectation among students that receiving support from the purse of others should be as simple as extending one’s hand. What are we all here, 4 years old? And from what mischievous source did the idea rise in these young minds that complete strangers should uncomplainingly shell out for their education?

The mind reels at these attitudes for reasons more practical than philosophic. We are continuously told by a parade of people – politicians, educational administrators, businesspeople and a panoply of “experts” that higher education is necessary to make our population ” and therefore our state ” “competitive” in the national and world economic arena. But the most vociferous complaints about COF are coming from the very people who seek higher education, which at the least requires application and effort, and assumes a certain degree of intelligence. In view of the uproar generated by the failure of a few students to understand the process for receiving financial aid, and considering the present calls for “reform” in the name of making student aid more “accessible,” how concerned can we really be overdeveloping and reinforcing the problem-solving skills and instincts for hard work which we are told will be necessary for success in the world in which these young people will find themselves following graduation?

One is not optimistic, given the inadequacies revealed by this simple challenge.

To whom will these young graduates complain when they are exposed to the very real and intense competition of the global marketplace? What will be their reaction to the utter indifference of that marketplace to their inability to cope? Because indifference to the fate of individuals is an enduring hallmark of markets: they care only about what you do, not about who you are, how you feel, or what your particular challenges might be. Hard news for the entitlement crowd, but news they ” and we ” ought to heed before we rush out to eliminate even the minor inconveniences in the process of paying for one’s schooling with other people’s money.

Because in the end, the rough way will not be made smooth, nor the crooked path straight, by any but one’s own efforts. Those who promise otherwise are not being truthful. There is no such thing as a free ride in life. Those who insist there is, and that it can be provided to everyone with just a little more money, are deluding both themselves, and the credulous among us.

Something to keep firmly in mind, now and always.

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