‘Starvation mode’ for Connecticut, our nation’s richest state?

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CT legislature undermining the future of its higher education system” by CCSU Professor John O’Connor makes a lot of sense. However, I object to the title because it may be wrong to indict our representatives. Certainly recent budget issues are focusing our media, but I think it’s not just legislators or leaders who are failing to offer enough support for the infrastructure of our state’s most viable sources of higher education. It’s all of us.

As a keen sociologist, Prof. O’Connor makes it clear that “starvation mode” does not nourish the largest body of our state’s higher ed population appropriately. His well-researched point about our shift away from state support for higher education is undeniable, as is his reasoning that less support is really thwarting the best source for improving our state’s human resources.

I also applaud Prof. O’Connor’s call for more equitable tax collection and distribution. As an educator in Connecticut my heart bleeds now because I’m certain we teachers can do better with more financial support for our students.

Therefore, I must disagree with Prof. O’Connor’s final point about wanting “to continue to offer the same stellar education that students have received in years past.”

I don’t doubt that like most of our colleagues, he does his best, and that’s why I love my job. I get to work around terrifically dedicated educators who know it’s a privilege to serve incredible students. I believe our schools are still places where I can make a difference and improve our state citizens one by one and class by class. I love helping college kids make literacy transitions to college because I still believe something like the American Dream is attainable for anyone.

Nevertheless, on average, the value of our educational learning opportunities and our state’s college degrees is diminishing. To see anything else is to see “the emperor’s new clothes.”

What I have observed as a writing professor at SCSU over the years are the naked, statistical facts of increasing class size, increasing teacher/student ratios, increasing tuition, increasing average of years needed to graduate, increasing part-time/full-time teaching ratios, and increasing administrative costs.

There are many great human examples contrary to my point about our general decline and many of them are graduating this week. I am a proud of how our state schools still provide key steps forward in life for many of our citizens. However, I’m worried that the educational needs of many of our state’s college students require more resources at a time when they get less.

But we can all do better for more of us. I believe Prof. O’Connor’s call for more equitable taxation is ground zero. Let’s start by using a fair tax increase to lower tuition.

“Starvation mode” won’t get us close to where our state can be better respected for building a general population that is effectively enriched with intelligence, creativity and problem-solving skills.

Investing in human capital will improve our tax base AND our chances of making our own futures more successful.

Will Hochman is a professor of English at Southern Connecticut State University.

What do you think?

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