Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Darned smart people

"The State of Things" will be discussing the in-state tuition waiver for graduates of the North Carolina School of Science today at noon. Evidently, some legislators want to do away with the benefit. As an alumni of NCSSM (Class of '88), I feel obliged to listen in and defend it.

As I understand it, the waiver was enacted to do two things:
  • Increase competitive enrollment in the school. Many prospective students saw that going to NCSSM would give them a better education, but it would most likely hurt their college prospects. If you were at the top of your class at your old high school (as many NCSSM students were), you would be surrending a top class rank and GPA, and probably a lock on the school's nomination for the big in-state scholarships like the Caldwell and the Morehead. At NCSSM there is no class rank; you take a tougher course load, and your grades are inevitably less than what they would have been before. Many students (or their parents) decide that remaining the big fish in the small pond with have greater benefits for them. The tuition waiver helps remove some of that concern.
  • Keep graduates in-state. The graduates of NCSSM are much more likely to remain in the state if they go to school here. By enticing them to the state university, the state keeps more of its educational investment in the local economy.

I graduated long before the tuition waiver was enacted, so I never had the benefit of free tuition to our state schools, although I did attend N.C. State. So I imagine that many will argue, "Hey, we didn't need to give them that benefit before, and we don't need to do it now." And, to be honest, there is some truth to it. I didn't need a guaranteed scholarship to want to go to NCSSM. I was in a backwoods high school where football reigned supreme and science geeks were at the bottom of the social ladder. I jumped at the chance to get out of there, and go to school with people who valued what I valued.

Still, I imagine the current attacks on the waive are similar in tone to the attacks on the whole concept of the school itself: "Those darned smart kids don't need no help. Give the money to the poorest, the lowest, not the best and brightest." Elitism is always a tough sell, politically.

Tough, but not impossible. I do happen to believe in a meritocracy. I think educational dollars should belong to those who will make the most of them. NCSSM was a demonstration of an educational free market: I had a choice of where I wanted to go to school, and I voted with my feet. Students access to superior education should not be limited by where they happen to live.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home