Regarding your recent column on student loans and the financing of public higher education [“Student debt will hinder future growth” printed March 5], it’s time for taxpaying boomers to grow up. Most of us went to public universities and most of us graduated without debt. We were free to go to work, grad school, serve in the Peace Corps, get married, and take most any other risk we desired. Unlike students today, we were not indentured servants. We enjoyed this freedom because previous generations sacrificed to build great public institutions of learning and assure access to all willing students.
That has changed.
The last 30 years have seen a steady real disinvestment in public higher education at the state and federal level. Escalating tuition and eroding need-based aid are evidence of that. Sadly, there is little political will in Ga. or the U. S. to pay the taxes needed for broad-based access to affordable education. Mention of tax reform is anathema in today’s political environment.
The Hope Scholarship does help some students, but it is built on the backs of the Georgia’s poorest, most desperate citizens. It is a wealth transfer from the poor to the more affluent and it doesn’t count as evidence of political virtue or economic wisdom.
Likewise, the idea of a 77 percent tuition increase is shameful; it too is a shift of tax burden from the old to the young. Finally, personnel reductions totaling $600 million in the university system will close the door on thousands of Ga. students at a time when education is most needed. It will further depress Ga.’s economy by reducing consumption.
Why does Ga. have a problem funding education?
If we want a vital economy with a high quality of life, everyone is going to have to pull their fair share, especially the privileged at the top of the income and wealth scale. We should no longer finance education through student loans and excessive tuition hikes.
Ga. needs an overhaul of its 1937 vintage tax structure, but in the meantime, a two percent surcharge on income greater than $400,000 ($200,000 for singles) would generate $400 million annually.
And, rolling back 30 years of accumulated tax breaks legislated as favors for a small number of businesses would begin to reduce Ga.’s revenue deficit.
Thirty-one other states have taken a balanced approach to budget adjustments; they have used a combination of cuts and tax increases to maintain critical services, including secondary and higher education. My own state of N.C. has raised income taxes on the wealthy, closed special interest loopholes, and increased excise taxes.
Let’s start to invest in the next generation. Anything else undermines Ga’.s competitiveness and quality of life.
GT Office of Development
Having just read [“Students rally at Capitol to protest budget” published March 16], I feel that there are a few issues that need to be cleared up. I believe the article mischaracterizes the role of the Young Democrats of Georgia (YDG) and the tone of the Rally. It also completely leaves out the contributions of the organization Georgia Students for Public Higher Education which worked tirelessly to organize the Rally and bring in students from all over the state of Ga.
First, the Rally had been in the planning for weeks. You would have thought that in that time, someone organizing would have obtained a permit. Steve Golden, the current YDG Chief of Staff, only obtained the permit for the Rally, because SGA’s believed they would not need one, and at the time it was uncertain if the SGA leaders were going forward with any action that day.
As for the supposed shift in tone, that is false. While there were outliers whose signs and message were more belligerent and sometimes off topic, these people were in the minority. The article makes it sound as if the YDG Rally was a mob of angry people shouting. It was an organized protest with high profile speakers including State House Minority Leader Dubose Porter and State Senator Vincent Fort. In fact, while one of the speakers was giving their speech, someone attempted via bullhorn to incite a chant and was shouted down by the crowd.
I would also like to point out that this Rally did accomplish something. Representatives from YDG and the Georgia Students for Public Higher Education met with legislators on March 18. According to one of the representatives, the meetings went very well.
Ex. V.P., College Democrats