Perhaps one of the most prophetic assertions ever made was by the French poet, novelist and dramatist Victor Hugo, who penned the following line: “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” It may be America is on the verge of just such an idea. You’ll note the eminent author offered no comment relating to whether the idea is good or bad. Apparently “whose time has come” is a factor independent of the worthiness of the idea.
We’ll flash back to the 2016 presidential elections and a campaign pledge made by then-candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), who, on May 3, 2016, proposed a formula to create free college education at public universities throughout the nation, at a price of $75 billion annually, to be financed through transaction taxes on Wall Street trades. Though Sen. Sanders no longer has a prominent forum from which to expound his views, his free college concept may have struck a political nerve. On Jan. 3, 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, with Sanders at his side, addressed the students at LaGuardia Community College in Queens, calling for legislation to provide free tuition for all full-time students who attend all New York state colleges. He declared that “to be competitive globally, we have to have the best educated workforce, and that means we have to have college for every child, man or woman who wants to attend.”
I harbor a few thoughts on this subject. I approve of college scholarships and have been involved in a foundation assisting well qualified students to obtain chemistry degrees these past 37 years. Note that the operative words are “well qualified,” for if the student is not both bright and motivated, any effort or funds devoted to the project are mostly wasted. And this is my concern with scholarship programs that are politically motivated. They are not administered for the education they provide the recipient, but rather for the votes they provide the sponsors.
Let me add a final comment: The enthusiastic support which Governor Cuomo’s proposal understandably received from students tells me this is an idea whose time has come. This was equally evident to Sen. Sanders, who prophesized: “If New York state does it this year, mark my words, state after state will follow.” Yes, it will come to pass, despite the fact the end result will be the effective stuffing of huge sums of public money down the proverbial rat hole. But perhaps that’s what public funds are all about.