To Pennsylvania’s senators and representatives:
I am writing to convey my disappointment in your leadership by expressing my opposition to your failure to fund a portion of college tuition for four non-public institutions whose students are Pennsylvania residents.
This position is placing our students and parents in a hostage situation. Withholding this funding constitutes an abuse of government authority and a misuse of taxpayer funds. You will simply use it elsewhere. By making tuition costs prohibitive, you will effectively deny students the ability to attend these institutions that have themselves invested heavily in remaining affordable. Where is the integrity in keeping commitments made during recent campaigns?
I am mindful of the argument from one party that money should “follow the student, not the institution.” I am also aware of how the opposing party, frequently backed by the teacher’s union, contends this is defunding our public institutions (K-12 or higher education). Both parties are guilty, in different ways, of usurping power by treating the other party as the adversary, despite knowing that our early-in-career population will ultimately pay the price.
Let’s talk about reality. Both parties align with some of those in extremist bubbles, and the public frequently feels powerless to advocate for fairness. Both parties hide behind voting blocs and are fast to label individuals and each other as victims and perpetrators. You are playing a risky game of deception to maintain power by appearing to be on one side or the other while the other hand seizes power and resources. Yet our students pay the price. How?
Access to education:
Supporting college tuition provides reliable access to quality education for students from diverse socioeconomic circumstances, especially those who might not otherwise be able to afford it. We are not a predominantly wealthy community. By ensuring sustained funding, we ensure that all students have equal access to institutions that meet their diverse needs and career goals, fostering a competitive environment that encourages excellence.
Access to resources:
Our employment market is changing rapidly; skilled professionals are in high demand, but many reside elsewhere. By making tuition affordable, we can ensure that our community has a well-trained and educated workforce that supports local industries, encourages new businesses, and promotes economic development. Indirectly, we increased earning potential, employment rates, and entrepreneurial endeavors; rather than being a drain on our tax base, college graduates make substantial contributions.
Both parties discuss social mobility, equity and equality. Consistent funding has facilitated upward mobility by allowing students from disadvantaged backgrounds to break the cycle of poverty and attain upward mobility through higher education. Years without interruption have demonstrated the effectiveness of this investment and its positive impact on students’ lives. I need not tell you how many students attend these institutions from Wellsboro school district.
Collaboration between the public and private sectors is essential for launching students early in their careers. Cutting off funding to these institutions would jeopardize the collaborative efforts developed over years of established practices, available apprenticeships, and dependable partnerships. How much are you willing to risk that graduates will lack the skills and be compelled into lower-paying jobs or leave the workforce altogether?
Student loans are not the solution to high tuition costs. Despite being well-intentioned, one could contend that government intervention in markets signaled permission for colleges and universities to increase tuition by one thousand percent over the past decade. By promoting alternatives, tuition assistance respects the parent’s ability to contribute to their children’s education. It increases the competitiveness of colleges by encouraging them to invest in appealing programs rather than niche causes. By rejecting tuition assistance, we impede the ability of parents to provide their children with credible opportunities.
Refusing to contribute to higher education funding sends the message that government authority can be exercised arbitrarily and without regard for the welfare of its citizens. Your role is not to win an election. Your duty is to uphold the principles of responsible governance and ensure that tax dollars are effectively utilized for the greater good. Maintaining funding demonstrates both your commitment and ours, as taxpayers and fellow citizens, to responsible and accountable governance.
I am confident that you will seriously consider these arguments to demonstrate a commitment to our state’s future, our students’ well-being, and the prudent use of tax dollars. Please reconsider your decision and ensure the continuation of this essential funding now and in the future.
David A Messineo was a previous board member of the Wellsboro Area School District. In full disclosure, his daughter may be affected directly by the results of actions taken by the PA legislature