In this morning's Review-Journal, Jane-Anne Morrison appears to be calling for the Millenium Scholarship program (which provides high-achieving Nevada high-school graduates with a credit of $10,000 towards a college degree at any accredited institution in the state) to be cut, arguing the state can't afford it. Of course, this comes on the heels of a very parsimonious state budget which nevertheless funded the program through 2015, when presumably the state's finances can't be worse than they are now.
Keep in mind that the program was created to address not only what was in 1998 the state's lowest-in-the-nation rate of college participation (ie proportion of our population holding degrees or attending college towards a degree) but also to keep our brightest students in state, as many other states have done successfully in the last generation.
So its a fair question to ask how we finance it, but what in the world is the meaning of this conclusion? It appears to read that because our state's economy has created so few jobs for college graduates, we should cut the program. On the heels of several years of repeated spikes in resident fees for Nevada's colleges and universities (ie in-state tuition is already up by nearly 50% since 2007 and will increase again 13% this fall), cutting back on Milli further would only push more of the cost of higher education onto our students.
This will result in ...what exactly? Our best students leaving the state, right? Or staying but not getting jobs. This is an improvement?
But can they find jobs in Nevada these days? We don't know except anecdotally, but many are moving away for better job prospects. Who can blame them?If Guinn still lived, he'd try to come up with solutions. State officials need to do the same without dismantling the Millennium Scholarship, yet by being fiscally prudent.
And of course if we wanted to be fiscally prudent, we'd address our state's structural budgetary problems and not just kick the can down the road as we just did, once more.
Making students pay more, if it is fiscally prudent, has already been our policy for 5 years straight. Cutting state investment in our future has been our policy for far, far too long.
Maybe its time to try something different?