As Goldy points out, we don’t actually need to save GET. But, much like Social Security, its solvency doesn’t stop critics from worrying about it. I don’t know, perhaps this is just concern trolling, but perhaps it’s legit. Better safe than sorry, so, here’s my plan to save GET for ever:
Free tuition. If a student has the qualifications to get into any of our institutions of higher learning, from the UW to our Community Colleges, they can get in. The state picks up everything up to a bachelor’s degree. We should make sure that money isn’t the thing that keeps people out of college. Ideally I’d say do it for everyone, but at the very least, free tuition for in state students.
Now, I realize that college tuition isn’t cheap for parents, so it won’t be cheap for the state. As much as dedicating a source of funding is usually the worse policy, I think that’s the way to go. You figure out how much it’ll cost to make college free across the state, and then figure out the source of money. That way if there’s a referendum to oppose the taxes, you can say that it is a vote against free college.
I know, I know, lots of people push for a high tuition and high financial aid model that many schools (public and private) have. Still our public schools ought to be that, public. And just as we don’t expect the wealthy to pay for public K-12, we shouldn’t expect them to pay a for public college education (outside of taxes). Surely just like the PTSA for K-12, there will be opportunities for wealthy people to pay more, but it shouldn’t be a requirement. There are some things that the market works great for, but education isn’t one of them.
Getting back to GET, the ostensible point of this post: there will be some people in the program who are out of luck. Parents sending their children to out of state schools who have this as part of their plan to pay tuition. We can figure out a way to accommodate them, at least partially. But for anyone in state, this is just as good of a deal as they would have got anyway.
Winners and losers aside, there is then a pot of money that people paid in. I recommend not spending it. I know, I know, in this economy and with my proposal of a major new spending increase, it’s hard to imagine the legislature not spending it down. But I recommend keeping it in place so that if and when future legislatures decide to increase tuition again, that we can revamp GET with that money.