26.1.09

MORE MIDDLE CLASS MYTHOLOGIES. I'm skeptical of union jobs in monopoly industries as a formula for permanent prosperity and have on occasion suggested the post-World War II mortgage and education benefits offered to returning G.I.s receive too much credit for the prosperity of The America That Worked(TM).

Perhaps I'm repeating myself. On the other hand, the head henchman of academic mediocrity, Arthur Levine (formerly of Columbia Teachers) has an Inside Higher Ed post trotting out the ancient beliefs.
The original G.I. Bill, and its reauthorizations, built the modern American middle class. A new civilian G.I. Bill would preserve that middle class, providing a wise investment in the most precious resource America has — its human capital. It is difficult to imagine a better or more greatly needed economic stimulus.
If, that is, the policy really builds human capital. What he's proposing, however, is a bailout for the high schools, which will still be absolved of any responsibility for building human capital.
But another equally important goal would be to prepare the more educated labor force the nation needs for economic development and global competitiveness at a time when a dwindling number of jobs are available to individuals without a college education and its associated skills.
Boilerplate. High technology can augment the productivity of a person with few skills. The income inequality that reflects higher rewards to perceived skills is an inducement to develop such technology.
The stimulus G.I. Bill would seek to assure both college access and affordability. It would focus on two populations — low-income Americans who attend college at dramatically lower rates than their fellow citizens and middle- and upper-middle-class populations for whom the cost of college is growing far faster than their paychecks. Support would be means-tested — graduated based upon need. Higher education would be free for families with incomes below $100,000.
No mention of ability testing. More work for the access-assessment-remediation-retention complex. But it's not really free.

The new G.I. Bill would be extended to all Americans who have earned a high school diploma or G.E.D. The scholarship would cover the costs of tuition, fees, books and living expenses for up to four years of full-time college attendance, as a last-dollar scholarship. That is, a student would have to apply for and use all other forms of financial aid available to them first — family, government, private, institutional and personal — and the scholarship would provide the last dollars needed to fill any gaps.

College tuition and expenses would be set at the local cost of attending a public community college for the first two years and a public four-year college for the final two years. Living stipends would be set at the equivalent of a full-time minimum wage job, adjusted to local costs of living and a student’s number of dependents.

One simply defines "personal" as "sixty hours a week at Wal-Mart" and the scholarship approaches zero. It's closer to indentured servitude than it is to a scholarship.

Much like programs that bail out corporations, the scholarship would give the government an equity stake in the student’s future. In exchange for government support, recipients would provide the government a tax supplement, perhaps an additional one or two percent of their yearly income, annually for life.

The government would receive short-term savings in unemployment benefits and the cost of other social programs — prisons, welfare, health care — which typically rise during hard times. In the longer run, government would benefit from the higher salaries and taxes that college-educated people pay, as well as the additional equity share in taxes that recipients of this funding would be required to pay.

The proposal is likely to receive support from the well-off, for much the same reason that the well-off didn't object to the pre-Nixon Administration Selective Service: somebody else is subject to callup.

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