Governor Phil Scott’s proposal to provide free tuition for Vermont National Guard members to attend Vermont state colleges and universities is a fine idea… but it doesn’t go far enough.
Just the other day I received an announcement from Burlington High School to an informational “Gap Year Fair,” geared toward students looking for options other then direct entry to college.
A quick review of their website reveals a wealth of options including a semester at sea, mountaineering, community service, theatrical arts and many others. Although a few are low or no tuition, many of the programs offered cost the equivalent of a year at a private college, which is to say many tens of thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile, our Country is becoming ever more divided. Social media, streaming television, gated communities, increased opportunities for those that have the resources and decreased opportunities for those that do not, continue to widen the gap.
Every family wants what’s best for their children, but often overlooked is that supporting a healthy society is just as important as supporting a healthy household. We can’t continue to ideologically segregate and isolate, intentionally or not, and expect no repercussions.
We need to find new ways to create opportunities for socioeconomic integration. This used to happen to some extent in the public school system, but that’s occurring less and less.
Military conscription during the First and Second World Wars was one place where the playing field was leveled for nearly everyone as rich and poor alike served side by side for the betterment of the nation, and the world. And while many European nations have now moved away from mandatory conscription, those that still require military service, also offer an alternative civilian service program. We used to do the same, but do so no longer.
I believe we need to institute a mandatory civilian service program for 18 months following high school graduation. Alternatively, graduates could opt for one year of voluntary military service. No exceptions, no exemptions.
Such mandatory service would open many eyes, change perceptions and get us back on track as a nation with a shared identity and purpose. It also would provide many students invaluable time for additional maturation before engaging in what should be a course of rigorous academic study. And of course with this service would come the promise of tuition waivers for all.