The more I’ve thought about it, the more Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s plan to buy votes with free tuition at the state’s government-run colleges and university (for soon-to-be-devalued degrees) has seemed like exactly the sort of policy that our representative democracy is supposed to prevent. Humanity has known for centuries that majorities empowered to take the property of minorities will do so; our political system is supposed to create incentive for elected officials to prevent such recklessness from crashing the ship of state. Of course, we’ve so eroded principles of rights and the rule of law in Rhode Island that Raimondo, having failed at actual governance, is trying to buy a second term with other people’s money.
It doesn’t help that our one-party state has sucked the vitality out of our news media. The Providence Journal’s G. Wayne Miller, for example, has such a myopic understanding of the state’s public debate that he can only turn to Twitter and his paper’s comment sections to find people who disagree with the proposal, and even there, he dramatically understates the negative reaction. (These reporters know how to reach Mike Stenhouse, as WJAR’s Bill Rappleye did, or me, but I’ve gotten the sense that it’s more important to them to be able to choose who counts in public debate than to foster public debate; sadly that goes for the Providence Journal’s commentary pages, too.)
In our comment sections, meanwhile, Roland Lavallee raises a critical issue that nobody in the local media will even mention:
This isn’t just a $30M giveaway. There is only a residency requirement so as long as you move here and have a kid graduate from a local high (as if they ever fail anyone), then you can attend for free.
What do you think this will do to the final yearly tally? Do you think this will become more of a magnet for ILLEGAL ALIENS to come her and tax our overburdened social services?
The reply that families must have three years of residence is little consolation. The point isn’t that illegal immigrants will flock to Rhode Island once their children graduate high school somewhere else, but rather that as they arrive in the United States, they’ll gravitate toward the Ocean State because we’ll fund education (and so much else) beyond what other states do.
To ensure successful implementation of this program, the proposal includes an additional investment in each institution to increase student supports, advising programs, and capacity to make sure our institutions are ready for more students and for those students to be successful.
Notice that professors aren’t included on the list: “student supports, advising programs, and capacity.” This just plugs students into government services and indoctrination practices, with more jobs for manipulative social workers and bureaucrats.
And note that the governor is assuming 8,000 Rhode Island students per year. Statewide, there are around 10,750 high school students in public schools (including charters). For the sake of argument, assume students who don’t go on to college and private school students are a wash. That would mean the state intends to shuffle 75% of all college-bound Rhode Island students into free or half-priced higher education.
In keeping with the governor’s also-reckless approach to economic development by pick-the-winner subsidy, what she and her fellow Democrats are setting up is a state to which people will come only as long as the government is taking other people’s money to buy them off. A letter from David Di Saia of East Providence is telling, in this regard:
And what about other students, such as my twin daughters, who graduated from the University of Rhode Island and are still paying their college loans? Thankfully, they moved out of Rhode Island as soon as they graduated. Unfortunately, they left me here.
If our insider elites in government and the media are intent on ignoring the many, many Rhode Islanders who object to programs like this and are objecting vociferously, those Rhode Islanders will continue to flee the state, and the recklessness will do what recklessness always does eventually: crash the vehicle, doing terrible harm to hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people.