04/23/11 — Education earned: Perhaps it is not so bad for it to be a little harder to get to college

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Education earned: Perhaps it is not so bad for it to be a little harder to get to college

A couple of weeks ago, a North Carolina university system official made public his displeasure about proposed cuts to the system's funding.

He pointed to the fact that it would be more difficult to offer the number of classes necessary to reach the most students and further stated that limits on funding meant limits on scholarships, which means more children might find themselves working just to get through school.

And while no one wants to see education become a red-headed stepchild in North Carolina, the comments should have sparked a little bit of a notion -- an idea that perhaps there might be a better way to look at higher education and how to deliver it in this state and around the country.

During the economic downturn, more and more students are finding it harder and harder to earn spots in college and to get the funding they need to attend.

That means that more are choosing to start their careers in community colleges and are more focused on getting a solid foundation in their studies before heading off to major universities. And perhaps that is not the most horrible thing in the world.

Students who have to work and go to school -- and those who are already conscious of how much an education costs -- are more likely to appreciate it and to get the most out of it.

Rather than a rite of passage into adulthood, college becomes a chance to prepare for a future, not only with facts and figures, but with maturity and an understanding of what the words "work ethic" mean.

Starting slowly, or having to get a little work experience while you are learning, is what college should be about -- preparing for a career responsibly without saddling yourself with debt.

It is a shame that there is no golden ticket into the work force anymore -- an absolute guarantee that when you graduate, there will be a job for you.

Those days made college a bit of a place to come of age -- a chance to relax a bit and to make new friends as you took your first tentative steps into adulthood.

Maybe a wakeup call is not such a bad idea.

There will still be rewards for hard work -- and there should be money awarded to young people based not just on their parents' income, but because of the work they have done, what they have achieved. That rewards those who put their education first.

Sending more students to start out in community colleges is a good idea, too. It gives those who might have stumbled a bit in high school -- and those with very limited budgets -- a chance to chart their course and to manage their education funds wisely. They can find a calling, learn the basics, and still have money to maybe finish out at a top school -- focused and ready.

If education meant more and was harder to come by, perhaps more students would get serious sooner -- and perhaps we could encourage more to make graduation and honor roll higher priorities.

Putting a value on something begins with appreciating it. If education is to matter, it has to be something that is earned, not expected.

And, for that matter, maybe a little introspection in our university system is not such a bad idea either.

Published in Editorials on April 23, 2011 11:13 PM