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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Columns

The Octogenarian: Politics make new semester exciting


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Columnist Ken Levin says that this election could have a profound impact on the coming generations higher education experience. | File photo/The Cougar

Some of us, both educators and students, have witnessed a great number of new semesters. This is my 21st new college semester as an undergraduate, and each is distinctive for a variety of reasons.

My college career started in the fall of 1951 and has involved six institutions of higher learning.

What has happened is that every 30 years, I go back to school because I just can’t make up my mind as to what to do with my life. In that time, I have made a discovery. For a retired old man looking for a way to fill his time, college life is a blast.

This semester is going to be especially exciting because it will involve both academics and one of the most important presidential elections in my lifetime. This election will affect college students and secondary education like none other in my 85 years. This is my 22nd national presidential election, the 17th in which I have taken an active part and the 16th that I have voted.

As a full-time college student, however, this election is the first in which my interest is heavily involved in the future of my fellow and future students.

Our nation has been at the forefront of the free K-12 education system and, until the advent of the 21st century, affordable secondary education. Looking at the student loan burden on most of us and the increase in college costs, public institutions have become more educational businesses than dedicated institutions of learning.

There is a need for change.

Today, there is a new trend. The junior college has become the community college and many states are making them tuition-free. Why? Because some state legislators are intelligent enough to recognize that these institutions help to supply the trained workforce for their communities.

I believe that every state university and college should be tuition-free for undergraduate school and student-subsidized for graduate school.  This idea immediately creates two questions: Why? and How do you pay for it?

The “Why?” is simple. Having an educated and trained population puts us on a competitive level with other nations and is, therefore, an essential part of our national defense.

If we look at education as a necessary part of our national defense, it could alter the thinking of those legislators who see it as privilege. We have a defense budget in this country that has been loaded with waste since the 1950s.

A new tax of some kind could be necessary, but if it is for our nation’s defense it could be more palatable. It would take change in the method of purchase and what the military buys based on need rather than the current trend of buying at will.

This shows the importance of this election to college students. There is also promise of change to one of the biggest rip-offs of the American public: the student loan program.

Imagine an adjustment to the method of disposing of student loan debt. Reduction of a loan for services rendered, removal of interest rates and adjustment to payment schedules can all work well in helping students in debt.

As you start your new semester, consider working for the political party of your choice and of course, register and vote.

Opinion columnist Ken Levin is a political science senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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