By Colton Isenhart
This fall I plan to attend Lake Superior State University, a small school with a 1 to 17 teacher to student ratio in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. I plan to study wildlife and fisheries biology to protect our valuable natural resources for generations to come. LSSU is one of the more affordable schools coming in just under $19,000.00 for tuition and fees. No one disagrees that the cost of a college education is increasing, even out of reach for many. Those who depend on student loans to get through college often graduate with crippling debt. The answer is not more loans, but more opportunities to earn that education. I propose three recommendations to my state legislature to reduce the cost or meet students halfway by increasing their power to earn that education.
First, audit all the colleges and universities in the state and compare the quality and costs of their programs. Find out where the money is spent and make that information public and easily accessible. This can certainly help me in making an educated choice when picking schools and spending my college savings. Use that information to give more aid to colleges who offer the best value. This educates consumers and rewards quality institutions who deliver the best value to their students.
Second, meet me halfway. I am saving for college by working part time at Meijer while in school, and full time in the summer. When I began working, I opened an account with Gerber Federal Credit Union right away because my parents taught me it was important to save a portion of my income. Reward hard workers, and savers like me, by matching my tuition payments. If I can manage to save $4,000.00 for school then offer a grant that matches that amount. I will be a more invested student if my own money is also on the line and you will be rewarding the good habits of working and saving.
Finally, increase work programs like MICorps and the CCC. Through these programs students who work for the state during the year through state parks programs, or other work projects, get not only a wage but college tuition contributions. Projects are getting done for the state, hard work is rewarded, and continued education is made possible.
Give students a chance to further their education without crippling debt. I have studied, volunteered, worked hard, and saved a large portion of my income. Unfortunately, the cost of even a lower end college education is still more than I have saved, and more than I currently have the power to earn. Legislators, please consider these three recommendations: match students' college savings; hold institutions of learning accountable by sharing a college tuition audit with the public, and meet students halfway with increased work study programs so together we can improve our state and make college more affordable.
Colton Isenhart is a senior at Fremont High School. This essay won him the top award in the recent Gerber Federal Credit Union's Annual Essay Scholarship Program.
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