19 September 2006

Paying for School

I meant a while back to comment on Andrew Halcro's idea to take a part of minors' PFDs to pay for education or houses or what-have-you:

Halcro, who is running for governor as an independent, told the Anchorage Lions Club on Friday that part of his plan for tweaking the state education system is to sock away three-quarters of every child's dividend check.

Once they turned 18, the only way kids could get their hands on the money would be to use it for college -- or some kind of schooling -- or to help buy their first home.

The program wouldn't be optional, Halcro said.

I'll put myself in Sarah Palin's camp and say I don't like it, but not for Sarah reasons.

I don't like it because it doesn't add any new money to the system. The permanent fund money is already floating around the state and if parents want to save for their children, I say go for it.

Meanwhile, let's focus on helping everyone get the education they want and need. The state and federal governments already do that but we clearly need to do a better job - more money for loans and grants, lower tuitions, easier access, programs that appeal to a wide variety of students at different walks of life, and so on. Halcro's proposal would help people afford education but it wouldn't do so with money they couldn't already spend on it. We need more money (and more ideas) to confront the educational challenges this society faces.

So here's a proposal that riffs off of Halcro's. Create savings accounts for every child at birth (definitely not my idea - in fact, it's been done in several other countries) and put in a certain amount every year on the child's birthday. The child can't touch it until they turn 18 (or graduates from high school) and then can use it for a variety of specific purposes, most notably education.

But I agree we should be encouraging people to save. In these accounts, parents would have an option to deposit part of the child's PFD. This has to be as easy as possible, like checking a box when you sign up for the PFD. Before you know it, high school graduates have money for school, we're not taking anyone's PFD away from them, and there's more money out there to increase educational opportunity.

The next step is to increase the amount of money adults save...

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