As we struggle in Philadelphia to keep our Catholic and public schools from closing due to expense and changing values, a small liberal arts College is Offering Free Tuition to change its course and offering hope. As President Obama pledges support to colleges that are affordable, this extraordinary measure by Antioch College may create a trend of success that will change alumni’s and tax support forever.
Antioch College was Horace Mann’s dream. Horace Mann deserves the respect of any American who believes that education is the avenue to create social and economic change. The latest move by Antioch, a school with a history of reform as an abolition save haven, was necessitated by financial desperation in the recent years. It is an appropriate measure of originality because this college was one of the first to educate teachers and provide women and African Americans educational opportunities that were never available. But with a strong alumni and a passion for its cause, the school has been able to find new funding to keep its doors open.
The same thing has been occurring in the local Philadelphia area as Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast raised 1 million dollars to keep the schools open. This is an incredible show of alumni and friends' support in an economy rife with despair. In the same spirit of Horace Mann, a strong belief can make anything possible, and a strong belief in education can motivate people to do greater things. If that million dollars is used to create free tuition, Bonner and Prendie will be filled to capacity.
The cost of colleges and their affordability for the middle class will be a hot topic this election year. In fact, the rising cost of all education is causing many Americans to abandon Mann’s dream. But perhaps it is the alumni support that can change this. For years, many Americans gave back to their schools with blind faith that the school would use the money to keep the school alive and prospering. Colleges should use state and federal funding, as well as alumni money, to help create a thriving and potentially free tuition environment.
But as federal tax dollars disappear, perhaps the growth model can change to support model. The recent support in the local and national level to make college affordable is in the hands of common Americans. The alumni must hold schools accountable for making tuition affordable and give money for that purpose. We can be aware of the money that we use to support education and create opportunities in our state and private schools just as Antioch is doing in Ohio.
There is hope in taking control. There is faith that change is possible and we are not just pawns to be moved by economic forces. It is a belief in a core message and innovation through imagination that can make things possible. A small liberal arts college is doing it, just as Horace Mann would want, and examples of the changing ideas of education, from the insular to the communal, are taking shape throughout our area.
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