Free first year of college provides opportunity for education

(U-WIRE) RALEIGH, N.C. — Democratic U.S. Senator John Edwards, who represents North Carolina, spoke at the University of Maryland Thursday, outlining his “College for Everyone Plan” as a means to provide the opportunity of a college education to more students. The plan calls for many changes to the current ways students are selected and then pay for a college education.

These include offering a free year of college for students meeting certain requirements, ending legacy preferences and reforming school loan programs — all ideas that would give students a reasonable way to pay for school and to also be accepted to the school of their preference. Edwards also proposed offering a four-year scholarship to students wishing to pursue a career in homeland security, but this measure does not appear to stem from the same motivational factors.

Students who wish to qualify for this free year of college would, under the proposed plan, need to have taken college-preparatory high school courses and spend 10 hours a week doing either community service or participating in a work-study program or part-time job. It is estimated that these scholarships would total $6 billion, but half of that would be offset by the fact that federal loans and grant payments to these first year students would drop.

Assuming that funding could be found, the idea behind the program is a positive way to recognize the achievements of students from high school who remain active in extra-curricular activities when starting college. These scholarships will provide the opportunity for students who may not have been able to pay for the college of their choice to now attend and give the motivation to stay active in the community when they arrive on campus.

Many schools have recently decided to end binding early action programs, including UNC-Chapel Hill, a move that Edwards supports. He believes early action makes students feel that they have a better chance of acceptance at a university if they commit early, and then students are not able to compare financial packages from other universities. Ending these binding policies would be a good way to provide students with more time to weigh the important decision of which college to attend, a choice often centered on financial packages.

Overall, Edwards presented logical changes for the future of college education in America through the “College for Everyone Plan,” and more students across the country would have the opportunity to attend college — a trend that would benefit all facets of society.