When I was a teenager, my family did not have a lot of money to send me to college. Even though I had decent grades in high school, with little effort or extra-curricular activities, I need to stay home and help my brother and mother get by. A single mother back then, my mother, could not raise a family on a secretary's salary. My mother was, and is, smart and she worked hard, but she just couldn't stretch the pittance she was paid. My dad was not sending child support and I suspect that he could not, with another son and wife in the mix. So, I feared it was up to me to get through college.
When I went to my guidance counselor at Southwest High School, she asked me to which schools I applied and I told her UMKC. "Oh, your grades reflect that you can go away to a better school than that." I explained, I could not. I was helping my mom pay bills and the easiest way to be able to pay bills was to work in Kansas City while in school. Of course, my decision was made more palatable by my then boyfriend, now husband, living in the area and also attending UMKC.
When I got ready to apply for school, I applied for financial aid. In addition to the application for scholarships (I got one which I lost after the fun first year), I applied for somethings I had never heard of before - a Pell Grant and work-study. I did not know these programs were need-based, what many would call "welfare." I got that aid, and worked in various departments for work-study, Speech and Hearing Science and English and Biology. I liked those jobs and learned things there , doing clerical work, that I would not have known otherwise. Plus, I developed a strong work ethic.
The Pell Grant sure came in handy! I do not know how I would have got through undergraduate studies with out those funds. When I married after my junior year, I no longer qualified because of my husband's family's assets and income. By then, I did not need the money. My husband worked, and he helped with my last year of undergrad and he and my grandmother, along with my work, were able to help me through law school five years later.
I am sure grateful for the government assistant, welfare, if you will, that I received that helped me to get an education. I hear some people say that a college education was not worth the price. I sure got many times more than the assistance was worth. Up until college, I could type. Typing was my only real skill. I could have worked as an administrative professional my whole life, but, to be brutally truthful, I was not that great of a secretary. I worked hard, but I was not a perfectionist. I hated to proofread and I loathed correcting errors not only on the cover letter, but also on copies with "white-out." Plus, my hand-eye coordination is not that great and I do not type fast and make lots of mistakes. I am much more suited to be a lawyer. I feel I have been a productive citizen and the investment this country made in me was a good one.
Now, instead of increasing aid to students, some states like Kansas, want to cut aid. People balk at President Obama's plan for more educational assistance. I guess if I had been born thirty years later, I would be somebody's horrible secretary messing up letters and would be burned out.
It seems to me that we can set up a system for free college education at some public colleges, just a s we do for secondary education. In a few short years, manual jobs won't exist and technical will continue to be more intense. Don't we owe the people of the future the opportunities to succeed and to make this world succeed. We are all part of this great big marble. We need to start acting like it.