Reward hard work, not accumulated wealth - Speaking Of Education

If you watched the State of the Union address on January 20, you must have shook your head in disbelief when President Bush said that the economy was on the mend. In too many ways, he thumbed his nose at the 9 million unemployed Americans who have yet to benefit from the mending that he bragged of. Even as he spoke of a mended economy, he also spoke of the need to contain domestic spending, while ignoring the role his own profligate spending has had in ballooning our deficit past the $450 billion mark. I could not listen to President Bush without thinking of the many ways our nation is pulling apart instead of growing closer together. Democrat candidate John Edwards' stump speech on "two Americas" contrasts with President Bush's myopic assertion that the economy is doing well, high unemployment notwithstanding.

Edwards is not the only Democrat who has spoken of the great divide in our nation. On the Saturday after the State of the Union Address, South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle responded to President Bush's address by lifting up the "good hardworking people" in his home state. He spoke of the need for a strong economy with good jobs and said, "America can't afford to keep rewarding the accumulation of wealth over the dignity of work."

Daschle ought to have a conversation with the financial aid directors of some of our nation's top universities. There, doors are being slammed in the faces of poor students while financial aid packages are being showered on those who hardly need the extra help. According to a 2003 report by the Lumina Foundation, our nation's lowest-income students are losing ground in the grants game, while the amount of money given to wealthy students has grown faster than the money given to other students.

Colleges have all kinds of rationales for rewarding the wealthy. Some have put more money into "merit" scholarships than to those that are need-based; rewarding the stellar student rather than the one who needs the most help. Other schools tell students they'll match the financial aid packages others give them, triggering a bidding war for those who could afford to apply to multiple schools, leaving others in the dust. Despite research that suggests that filling a class with early decision students disadvantages other students, some schools not only give away slots too early, but match admissions offers with financial aid dollars.

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