There’s been a groundswell of bias against higher education nationwide, a counterproductive movement known all too well in Kansas.

Significant funding cuts driven by anti-public education forces in recent years when the far right controlled the Kansas Statehouse left some colleges and universities to reluctantly raise tuition rates — which only alienated some prospective students, and in turn exacted a toll in a state that should invest more its workforce.

The relentless ultraconservative meddling in public education at every level — pre-kindergarten, K-12 and colleges and universities — hurt the state’s reputation and tarnished the outstanding image of higher education in Kansas.

Washburn University President Jerry Farley, Pittsburg State University President Steve Scott, Emporia State University President Allison Garrett and Fort Hays State University President Tisa Mason recently shared concerns about the politically charged disdain for higher learning.

During a meeting with The Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board, the university presidents cited a need to reinforce value of higher education.

Years ago, the advantage of going to college was universally accepted. Folks with degrees generally made more money than peers without, and usually found greater job security.

That said, not all high school graduates attend college. Some go straight to work or enter the military.

But too often, promising students bypass college because of the cost, a reminder of the importance of connecting promising students with scholarships and grants, many of which go unclaimed.

Then there's the counterproductive, shortsighted mindset of those who openly state they'd prefer workers without college degrees because they cost less.

They should know access to a strong workforce tops the list when business prospects come calling. Kansas needs the most educated workers possible, whether they’re college graduates or trained at a technical school.

The state and nation also need more of the critical thinking fostered in college classrooms.

Beyond training future workers in every walk of life — and serving as major employers — the colleges and universities also enrich their communities. Unfortunately, those who’d shortchange the value of higher education are ignoring the return on investment.

Giving young Kansans the tools to succeed in a rapidly changing business environment is challenging enough. Making colleges do still more with even less is anything but a path to progress in Kansas.

Policymakers should concur and do more to support higher education.

 

GateHouse Kansas