Debating The Bush Economic Record: Education Matters More than Anything

Today, a worker with a High School diploma earns on average $27,915, one with a college degree earns $51,206 and those with an advanced degree earn $74,602.

In a global economy that values ingenuity and technical know-how, a college degree is as important as a high school diploma was 50 years ago.  Now we must make it as common.

This is what we did during my time as Governor of Indiana. In 1990, even in the depths of the last recession when the budget was tight, we created the 21st Century Scholars.  What it says to every child whose family qualifies for the free or reduced lunch program – and who in 8th grade signs a written pledge to graduate from high school with passing grades, every one of those children is entitled to a full college scholarship to the public university of their choice, and those scholarships are fully transferable to the private university of their choice. 

This program helped Indiana move from 40th in the country in the percentage of our kids who go on to higher education to 9th.  We are literally lifting up more than a hundred thousand poor children and saying to them, if you believe in yourself, if you do your part, you can count on us to do our part too.  They are better workers, better taxpayers, and better citizens. It’s good for us all. We should do that for every child in this country – each and every one.

We also need to help middle class families pay for college. Today the average student graduates with $19,300 student loans. This is a crisis that needs to be addressed. Over the last five years, average total tuition and fees have increased by 32 percent at private four-year colleges and universities, 57 percent at public four-year colleges and universities, and 33 percent at public two-year colleges. Parents can no longer meet this burden; many of them are faced with the daunting task of paying for college and taking care of their parents at the same time.

Government must step up and meet this challenge with them. By providing a $6,000 tax credit for college, we start to ease the burden on parents and students and make a college education an attainable goal and put them on the path to the American dream.

Education is the path to success for our children. To lead in the global economy America must produce the best and brightest the world has to offer. Companies should not have to recruit engineers in India because they cannot find enough in Indiana.

This is a guest contribution as part of NDN's ongoing debate about the economy. Read our new report The Bush Economic Record here.