tv Washington Journal Simon Montlake Discusses College Tuition Assistance in... CSPAN January 8, 2017 2:02am-2:44am EST
there was the teapot scandal in the harding administration, but at the time of the veterans bureau scandal was secretly important, and yet this man had come down in history to the president has a crook. it was never clear to me what he had actually done, and i got intrigued by this. >> sunday night at 8 p.m. eastern on c-span's q&a. a program in kalamazoo, michigan that allows the students to attend college for free. , thiswashington journal" is 40 minutes. ke, a reporter for "christian science monitor." he's joining us from boston. he's here to talk about a piece he wrote for "christian science monitor magazine" on the impact of free college in urban areas. simon montlake, thank you so much for joining us this morning. simon: good morning.
host: the story that your run was about something called the kalamazoo promise. what is that? promise iskalamazoo a privately funded scholarship in the city of kalamazoo michigan, southwest michigan. what the promise does is it provides in state college tuition for any student who goes through the kalamazoo public school system and graduates from high school. what that means is that every year there are hundreds of children who can apply to college in state and know that there tuition -- their tuition will be covered. is ahe idea -- again, this private, not public money, this is a group of very wealthy followed up his -- philanthropists in kalamazoo. . toy decided that the way revive the city was to invest in education, and they already have a public university there, a
private college. the schools are there. the question is, how do you raise the achievement level of the students? and everyone can agree that the workforce, some post secondary education is essential for a good job and for lifelong prospects. what they have done is safe and created this pool of money. the requirements are fairly simple. you do not need to be top of your class. you simply need to graduate and enroll in college for you have a ten-year window to do that. you do not even have to immediately enroll, but you have to maintain a 2.0 gpa to complete a certain number of semester.ery any idea is to graduate and that that allows you to then gain your degree. into the workforce. and then to have pretty much no student debt, which in this day and age is quite a remarkable thing. generousa very scholarship. in areas based -- scholarship.
open to people in the air and have to be part of the public school system. really quite a generous program. i should say that this is not the first time it has been tried. universal quality. it is the fact that everyone in those schools is eligible and not just the top of the class or the, it is not about your income or your grades. who you are, where you are, and the idea that this will regenerate the schools and the community. host: and how many students have benefited from this program? how long has it been around? simon: it was launched in 2005. 06 was the first to participate. since then, 4500 students, more than that now, have received scholarships, have enrolled in college. not everyone has graduated. there is a problem with
enrollment to graduation, but you're talking about 4500 students every year that graduate class, some around 500 people, i graduated from high school. so, the cost of the program so far is roughly $85 million. so, we are talking about $10 million plus the year and is more students enrolled, that will go up. it is a modest scale compared to the total number of public pchool people who need hel pw with tuition across the country and even across michigan -- this is one city in michigan -- but it's sparked many other cities to try to do their own version. the idea is spreading. host: o ur viewers can join in our conversation with simon montlake from the "christian science monitor" on this remarkable program and kalamazoo offering free college for the students who live in that area. here are the numbers you can daiial.
if you make an income under $25,000 a year, you can call 202-748-8000. those earning between $25,000 and $50,000, 202-748-8001. and if you make more than $50,000, your line is 202-748-8002. of course, also you can find us on twitter. our handle is @c-spanwj. simon montlake, the essential question is, did the program work? clearly there were students who went to college, went to the program, now do not have student debt that have - -has it worked to revitalize this town the way that the program's founders intended or hope for? simon: you have got to remember this is a midwest city with a shrinking industrial core. it was a manufacturing hub, best the upjohn pharmaceutical company. at one point had a large pharmaceutical factory, one of the largest in the country. and a medical equipment company.
you've still got some light manufacturing but a lot of those jobs have gone away. the decline started in the 1970's. and you saw gradually over the years more and more middle-class families, white families, moving out of the city into the suburbs in other districts. so, there was a slow decline in the city. and really it was economically depressed into the 1990's and beyond. over a period of 11 years, you are not going to reverse all of those losses. there is definitely a revival downtown. i can see new buildings, there is investment going in, more people moving into the city. young people in the downtown area. but, you know, it is still, you do not have to drive very far to see sagging porches and streets with cars up on, cars missing wheels and other signs of poverty, dollar stores. it is not a shiny coastal city in that snesense.
another way of looking at it as property prices. there was the great recession in the middle of this period, but property prices did not crash that badly. they seem to be quite buoyant now. sentimentfor housing which perhaps youa would not see in other cities. really, i mean, the one way to look at it is enrollment in public school. our families choosing to move to kalamazoo and to send their children to those public schools? the answer is yes. it is the fastest growing enrollment in the state of michigan. theit is happening since announcement of the promise. you saw an immediate increase there. and another way of looking at it is the people that went to this program and got the scholarship and graduated, they are in their 20's now. so, as to what they do in terms es,their lives, their choic how they help to revitalize their community with their skills and education, that will
take some time to play o ut. but you're investing in human capital, you are not building a new railroad or airport or industrial park. it's harder to see the immediate gains, but if you think about the investment you make in your children, that is a lifetime. human capital stays around decades and decades. the early signs from what i can see is fairly encouraging. host: let's turn to cedar hill, missouri. thoseon the line for making less than $25,000 a year. what do think of this program? caller: hello, you there? host: hello, we're here. caller: when i was younger, i a family of five and
my parents could not afford sending the older was to college. the only one to go to college with my sister after we all moved out and stuff, they could afford to send her to college. later on in life, when i turned like 28, i was able to afford to go to junior college. i paid my own way. i seen when i did that that it an incentive to try harder, so i graduated and went on. i seen a lot of other people that have to pay. they drop out of their classes. so, there is a lot of waste there. i think if you have some kind of like, if you make so much money you pay so much, maybe that would be the best way to do it, make everything fair for everybody going to college. host: that's allen from. cedar hill simon montlake, do these children that go to the program
feel like they have enough skin in the game? paige: it depends on the kind of family. there is some families who frankly their children were going to college anyway. the families cannot afford it. -- can afford it. really for them, it is a nice without tensuate of thousands of dollars of college debt. remember, this is a poor community. a community where seven out of 10 children in the public schools will qualify for free or reduced lunch based on the poverty level of their families. many are students going to college for the first in their family to do so. and even though tuition is paid, they still have to pay for books and somewhere to live and a lot of them end up staying at home and going to a local college. many of them work hard time jobs. i profiled one young mother who was working part-time while she was in college. that is why it took her six years. i take your point that if you lavish benefits on people, they
may not feel the same engagement out,erhaps they would drop perhaps you're wasting your money, but that does not seem to be the case for the vast majority of students in this particular city. it is, your caller did raise a question about whether it should meansy stun your income, tested. a lot of programs are based on your eligibility -- in this case, the people who created no, this clearly said is not a social program. we are not trying to help the poor, the working families. this is for everyone. this is for the community. we want everyone to feel part of this. we want to make it very simple, so you understand. it is a universal benefit. it is a little bit like the federal government trying to create something, public goods, really. it is not about who gets it. so, i do take that point but i think if you look at the children who are mostly impacted plenty ofhey have
skin in the game because this really is a chance for them to climb out of poverty and a lot of them are working very hard to take that chance. from next caller comes south carolina. dorothy on the line for those making more than $50,000 a year. good morning. st wanted to say that i'm an older person, and when i was younger i lived out in california. at the time, college education was virtually free. we basically had a tuition that was $670 a year, and the rest of it was paid out of state taxes which the committee supported. anytime a school bond issue came up, anything for schools, the community supported it and was more than cheerful about paying for that. based on that, -- we had no money and i was able to go to university in, with almost no debt. and i have more than repaid in taxes and productivity since then. so, what i'm saying is that it before. done
it is just a matter of whether or not the community has the will to support that kind of program. and there will be some people who take, don't take proper advantage of it, but overall, it gives people the opportunity, and that opportunity i think is lacking right now and what is frustrating so many younger people. host: simon montlake? good: that is a very point. in fact, california is now exploring how it can make community college free to in state residents. in a sense, california is looking back to how it used to be. you know, the reality of higher education is that it is largely financed on the state level. in terms of public universities, i am talking about. if you look at how states have been financing universities and colleges, it's been going down. since the great recession, it's been very sharp. so, there is an increasing need there.
of course, we saw this past we ek, the governor of new york proposing a new program to make college available to people making below $125,000 a year. so, there is a movement there. tennessee has a tennessee promise, which again, covers in state tuition at community college and i believe some of the public universities. that's again, they are calling it a promise, but they have taken note of what kalamazoo is doing. oregon is the other state going down this road as well. it can be done. not all these states finance it to the same extent, but can be done at the state level. what's happened with kalamazoo is it is a particular city in a community. you've now got something like 90 cities or districts or communities across the country which have adopted some kind of promise. there is a promise movement now. every year they
hold an annual gathering in washington and get together with all these different educators and officials to try look at what is being done. there is clearly something going on there. but i do agree that it does come down to the will of the community and i think states like california have the means to do it. host: justin from peoria, arizona, is our next caller. good morning. are you there? go ahead. caller: i'm here. yeah, i agree with some form of free college. to ai was young i went trade school. it was just a small trade school for heating and air-conditioning. i ceoome out. i really did not have that good education. i could not really find a job. the debt, the interest was insurmountable. can't see myself paying it off. host: justin from arizona. let's hear from one more caller
from virginia on the line for those who make less than $25,000 a year. patricia, go ahead. caller: what i would like to say is i think our country is headed down the road toward socialism. i'm listening to this man is being interviewed with a british accent where i think this is the wrong way for our country to go. host: that is patricia from virginia. your response? british accent because i grew up in britain and i came to this country was is a country of immigrants. i wasn't aware that that made me a socialist infiltrator, but apparently that is what i am. host: simon montlake, one question, though, in terms of paying for this type of program. you said this program has cost $85 million, was funded by anonymous, generous flat this -- philanthropists.
how replicable is this kind of program? simon: not all of them take the same model. in this case, the money that was placed by these donors is regardless of how much college aid youe get, whether you get a pell grant or scholarship money. this is first dollar, the money that you can get to go to college. anything else you get's up to you. you do not have to return this money. in other cases you will see how -- they structure it is last dollar. meaning they did. what ever other federal aid or student loans or grants you get. in some cases, the promise can be quite modest in terms of the outlay. if you look at it, the low income students who go to college, those who go to community college, the cost of tuition is not that high. in fact, many of them qualify for federal aid, which covers the vast majority of those fees. what actually happens is for many people, those for whom it's
the first time to go to college, they unaware of the exact costs. they are not clear on how the funding worse, how student financing works. they may perceive that the cost of that enrollment and what they have to do to get there is higher than it actually is. so, there is some evidence that just by having simple program like this can energize that community to consider college and to focus on that and to try to enroll in college. yes, you are going to be putting money in, but it may not be as much as you think. i was surprised by some of the other programs, how little they spent. so, of course, if we say everyone can go to college for berniehich is what, sanders was proposing during the campaign last year, that does come with a very large price tag. very expensive. but this is not on the same level. you have to remember there are many other financing mechanisms out there for people. in the end, the promise is in a sense, it's about the money but
it is also about creating a mindset that you can do it. that college is for you. from next caller is allen orange county for those making over $50,000 year. good morning. caller: thank you for accepting my phone call. i have a general comment. college education is not a charity. there's a return. i myself came from a poor family. and because of scholarships and other things that helped me, i able to finish college and as a resultw, ipaying back with taxes and other' -- anyway, that's one thing. the second thing is the college education is not for everybody. and so, the programs they have, they should be for technical as
well as for the white coll professional. e reparation is to start a very early age. -- the preparation is to start in early age. this is my general comments. host: that is allen from california. good point is a very about preparation. one thing in my story i did is i went to an elementary school in kalamazoo and looked at what they were doing at that level to get people, to get young students aware of the program and what it meant and what a college going culture is. this starting kindergarten. the kindergarten parents sign a pledge with the school and the kalamazoo promise about what they would do to help their children to enrich their children and essentially put them on the track towards that goal. so, it does start very young. in fact, what you saw with the first graduating classes from
kalamazoo in 2006-2 thousand seven, he saw a large, as you imagine if you have this opportunity -- a large number of people who were eligible for programs enrolling in college. however, six years later, the attrition rate is quite high, because they were not ready for that experience. they were not ready academically and were not ready socially. there's an interesting aspect. we all imagine it is something about passing grades. about finding a place in a culture and socially adapting, having a support network, feeling that you belong there. so, the schools are doing an amazing job of trying to start that early on. if you are and fifth graders will be taken to the local university campus, shown around, students will volunteer and talk about their experiences. to it is very important stress that. it is not simply a matter of graduating from high school and suddenly you can go on to
college. here is the money, everything will be fine. it is a lot harder than that. for the people who have not been, you know, raised in a setting where that is the goal and where they have parents and other mentors as models. the path they think they should take. host: is there any debate in the community over whether this was the best way to spend that $85 million, if the goal is to improve the community as a whole thepposed to potentially outcomes of each individual person? are there any folks saying maybe we should've spent that money on economic development or other ways instead of on putting it all in one pot, which is free college tuition? simon: i have to say no. i asked a lot of people about this, and everybody really is quite supportive. it permeates everything in the community, even people that do
not benefit directly from it. seem to be energized by a. in terms of the alternative -- they have tried other things there. there's some very nice hospitals there. there is an industrial park. there is an innovation center. they have got the highways, they have got the railroads. they have got other assets. takingot like you are something -- are completely left behind town and just trying this one investment path to success. you might take the argument that, well, in addition to spending money on college tuition, what about money for the low income communities, what about social services, how they are helping people struggling in school? and i think what is happening there is that the funding formula for education in most localities is for people, state funding formulas.
in the case of kalamazoo, the fact that you have got a massive reversal in declining enrollment and more students enrolling in the public schools means more dollars follow those students to school. and so, the schools have built, there have been three new buildings in the last 10 years, they have added 80 classes. they can hire more special ed teachers. it does unlock funding for the schools. and i think that is where people see it as needed. the other thing i should say is that the city itself is in financial trouble. they have a budget deficit. they are struggling to pay for their social workers and their firefighters and all the other services and pensions. . they are like many other cities is struggling with those costs so, a separate track which was agreed last year is that two of the philanthropists who may or may not be part have agreed to help the city with its own budget over the next two years. and some of that money will go
for extra social services for the community. so, there is other money going in there. now, that is not really happened yet. we can't talk too much about the impact. i did not come across anyone who begrudge the young people of taking that money for college, because a lot of people have those children and their abilities to do something with their lives. host: let's hear from mary'sville, washington for those making less than $25,000 a year. good morning and what do you think about this program? caller: sounds like a pretty good program. when i graduated high school i got drafted and when i got back from vietnam, my g.i. bill put me through an apprenticeship with the local union, local sheet metals union. i got my education free. and also had a supplement to wage my wages to a living
through the g.i. bill. i think anything that the government and the government can do to help support our spring toit's a false think that us spending money on them is a waste because the more money they make more money they bring back to our united states of america. host: let's here, also, from brooklyn, new york. camella on the line for those making between $25,000 and $50,000. good morning. caller: how are you? i'm glad to hear it. happy new i find this program may also help parents who take out loans for their children, because even in families that are not experienced poverty, but also are financially well-off and have multiple children, finding themselves in a predicament where they have to pay for college. multiple times. so, it is not just for families
who are experiencing poverty, but also families and want to make sure their children get a proper education at large. i'm all for the program. host: simon montlake. simon: that is a very good point. i spoke to. to have got two or three children in the public school system -- i spoke to parents. they are the parents who moved there and were part of the school system before 2000 six, they say, we feel like we won the jack pot -- since 2006. we were trying to put money aside to pay for college but we did not know if we could afford it. it is a huge relief for those families. say that, again, this goes back to the idea of whether you should means test the benefits you provide, whether it should be a cutoff of people making $100,000 or whatever. there is definitely logic to that. and i see the fairness argument, but i also think there is sort by making it it so it a
universal benefit, you're creating a constituency, community, and saying that everyone has a stake in this. it is not just for working families, not just for the poor. it's for everyone. and that frankly creates a buy-in across the community and across different classes. and i think there is upon the value that, at least on the community basis. argue across a national basis because you get into difficult political arguments and trade-offs. i do think this community, the fact that it is for everyone, seems to be something they really value. host: next up is joe from staten island, new york, on the line for those making less than $25,000 a year. go ahead. caller: what's inflation? tos not free if somebody has pay for. why should other people pay for college? college is twice inflation, 4%. inflation is 2%.
why? it's a scam. i'm a little confused on that because in the case of, sue, these are private people putting their own money into college -- in the case of kalamazoo. in terms of the rising cost of college, that's true. the cost of a college degree has doubled since 1970. so, yes, the kosice ghana. why has the cost of college gone up? -- yes, the cost of college has gone up. when you consider the cost of higher education is people. the staff. most of the money goes on the stack. and those staff includes people who are highly educated. that is what education is about. the amount of money that wages offer those people have gone up as well. it should not be a surprise that in a sector of the economy which relies on highly educated people
to make it work, that the wage bill for those people over the last 40 years has gone up faster than inflation. that is hardly a surprise. host: simon montlake, for your piece in the magazine, you followed one student in particular. stacy. tell us about her story and how bothxemplifies, i guess, the pros and the cons of a program like this. then: trracy was part of first class that was eligible to she was a senior in 2005 when it was announced. by thtat time she had a son in her junior year. she wanted to go to college, she wanted to be a teacher but she was quite frankly unsure if she would be able to afford to do that. she had a son to take care of, her mother was hoping her. -- helping her. did take advantage of the
kalamazoo promise. she enrolled at western michigan university in kalamazoo and it took her six years to get her bash was degree but that is what she managed to do. then she applied for jobs and she found a job in element three school p ritchie is now teaching a class there. -- in an elementary school. she has three children with her partner. they are getting married next your. he has another son. it is quite a big family and she has a lot of demands on her. hearst son that was born in her junior year. he is now 12. he stays ine, if school and does well, he would be the first second-generation, first o f second-generationa. his mother benefited from it. he will followat in her footsteps. when you look at the family working classy're if you look at her income and they own a house, they have a car. so, you are seeing some benefits
there in terms of the return on the promise but you have to look further down the road and imagine that antonio jr. should stay in college and do well and other children take up this offer as well, that is how you start to create more family wealth. et is not a simple matter of on it becomes a multigenerational return on investment. i found your story quite inspiring. she is a strong character who had to overcome a lot. and i would like to hope that her children will return some of that promise as well. host: is there a limit to the promise from the donors themselves? is there a year at which this promise will end or a dollar limit they have put on this donation? simon: no. this is a gift in perpetuity. so far, they're just find it year-by-year from their own income or their own capital. and they're also going to create
an endowment fund, which would pay out over the years. similar to any endowment fund university or whatever. of course, if kalamazoo's population doubled in the next 20 years, you can see how it could be stretched if there was a massive increase in the school-age population, but demographically, that is unlikely to happen. most midwest cities, the democratic trends -- the demographic trend is fewer children. i do not think it will be tapped out anytime soon. as far as i can tell, the donors to not seem to be feeling the pinch at atll. these include some billionaires and some old money. they have something put away and they can afford it for now. host: let's get a few more calls than before our time is up. let's hear from arlington, virginia, who makes over $50,000 a year. what are your thoughts? caller: i wonder if you would please address an issue that is larger than the particular area
that you're involved with, and um, probably among manyum, idea people that there is a great deal wrong with the public school system at this time. first, the united states is around 19th below many other industrialized nations in the quality of their education. and second, we pay more per student than i think any other country. host: from virginia. simon montlake, your thoughts? simon: i am not an education
reported i cover economics and economic opportunities. abouta very complex issue whether schools are failing or what the results are. a veryaggregating across large numbers of school in a country like the united states. a variant to singapore or finland seems unfair to me. the variety of schools and experiences and income levels. these aref kalamazoo, clearly schools that have struggled in the past. they're now starting to get better. we are talking about, if you look at urban schools, school district, the graduation rate of 60%. 6% go on to college. that is not bad, 60% go on to college. if you go back 20-30 years. public education is not working, i think that is a very complicated question. i think there is plenty that suggests it can work. and that the schools that are
failing or often fail because the communities and cities around them are failing. inv not think it is as simple as saying the schools are at fault. host: our next caller, go ahead, gary. caller: good morning. i would like to respond to the caller several callers back. she said a word that did not surprise me, being socialism. i want to say,, lose the drama on that. there is nothing socialist about people helping of health. rich, poor, go in there, they get well trained. they get older benefits. some of them go to college for free. there is nothing socialist about that. your response? from our finalr caller from this segment and then we will let our guest have the last word. lisa from oceanside, california is our final caller. lisa, go ahead. caller: hi, good morning. so happy to have the news of any -- to be discussing this.
it is unfortunate. it is very early on a saturday morning, because, you know, the demographic is probably not watching. anyway, i will get to the point. i think it is a nice idea to unquotee quote college. veryer, in east be specific. for example, i have a bachelor of arts degrees from you see santa barbara 2002. i'm 41 years old, so i have been out there in the work world for the past 20 years or so, not including high school. i'm extremelyell serious with this world -- furious with this world and the public education system. extremely furious. only freecollege, the bachelor's degree should be a bachelor of science in computer science or computer engineering. all -- of arts degrees are
practically worthless. i work for minimum wage part-time. it is disgusting. host: that is lisa from oceanside, california. simon montlake of the "christian science monitor," your final thoughts. simon: i have a bachelor of arts degree. so as do many other people. to suggest that you should only put money into things like science and technology which seem to be -- in this day and age, i think it misses the idea of education. and it underplays the choices that people make. families and students will decide what they want to enroll in. and a lot of them are thinking about how much money they can earn. i thinking he to let people decide what they want to do if no one wants to study latin or poetry or literature, then demand for those courses will dry up. the idea that scholarship should be restricted to stem or computer science, i do not get
that. you are teaching people how to think and open you up parts of them and people will change that path. they will change their major and switch around to the idea is just to make sure that higher education for those that want it is accessible. i think that is a very simple idea that works, frankly. i don't see that as socialism. i do not see that as wasting money. united states government wastes a lot of money on many things every day, as you can see if you look across the whole budget. a lot of this is going to draft a from cities and communities and states. i think that is where the education reforms will come from. and i think kalamazoo is doing it cap -- a remarkable job. and i would personally like to go back in 10 years and to see quite what the economic impact is. i think we don't know yet how these young people transform their community. host: simon montlake
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