It’s about time

It’s about time steps were taken to address the problems of rising tuition costs and extended graduation times in higher education.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education finally opened its eyes and focused on something other than dollar signs, something it should have focused on a long time ago—students.

The IBHE’s newly formed Committee to Study Affordability met Monday and discussed ways to better distribute financial aid and decrease the amount of time it takes students to graduate. While all of the suggestions made by committee members were not adequate, just the fact that these important student-oriented topics were being addressed brought forth some optimism that some changes will finally be made to improve the quality of higher education.

Committee members voiced legitimate concerns about scholarship availability to all potential students. One committee member made the realistic point that not all students have gotten what they deserve or need in terms of financial aid.

This is a justified concern of both the IBHE and students. But Committee Member Silas Purnell was way off track in his suggestion to eliminate the $1,000 state-funded merit scholarships given to the top five percent of students who attend a state school.

Purnell claimed these students aren’t in need of the funds. “Look at the top 5 percents’ income. It’s the poverty stricken that are violated,” he said. “If they don’t get help right then, their whole cotton-pick’n career is gone.”

Generalizations of this sort are the root of stereotypical problems that exist in today’s society. Purnell is suggesting that only those students who have solid financial backgrounds succeed in high school. We are sure many students in universities across the state could attest to the fact that they succeeded in high school despite financial strains. Sure, students that are poverty stricken deserve the opportunity to attend college and make successful lives for themselves. But awards should not be taken away from those students who worked hard in high school just because their families had more money. And who’s to say those students who were unfortunate enough to grow up in “poverty stricken homes,” as Purnell states, did not make it to the top 5 percent.

Hopefully, beliefs such as these will be overshadowed and pushed aside by other committee members, allowing the committee to come up with legitimate solutions.