SATs and Any Excuse to Spend Taxpayer Money

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A quick question: Is there any expansion of the government budget that the Providence Journal editorial board wouldn’t support?

Given its importance, it makes sense that parents and teachers and schools should be encouraging students to prepare for and take the SAT. Thus, Gov. Gina Raimondo is on the right track with her plan to make the PSAT and the SAT “free” for Rhode Island public high school students — funded by the taxpayers, that is — and let them take the test during a school day rather than on a Saturday.

It stands to reason that both of these moves will encourage more students to take the test — particularly those who might find it difficult to pay a registration fee that can be more than $50. It also stands to reason that more students taking the test could result in more students choosing to attend college or further their education. According to a 2015 College Board study of Maine’s decision to make the SAT mandatory, the policy resulted in a more than 40 percent increase in the number of students taking the test and a 2 to 3 percent increase in the state’s college enrollment rate.

The one data point — that is, the one statement that doesn’t take the form of “it stands to reason” — is a study of Maine’s mandating the SAT, which study was performed by the College Board.  The editorial doesn’t happen to mention it, but the College Board sells the SAT.  It stands to reason that readers should be skeptical when a private company finds it beneficial for the government to force people to use its product.

But what about the conclusions that the Providence Journal reaches simply through reasoning?  Is the cost of a $50 test really what’s keeping students from committing to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on college?  Perhaps the editors would note the proliferation of scholarships and loans that make college “affordable” for lower-income students, but shouldn’t there be any cost to the prospective student, causing him or her to give some thought to his or her reasons for attending college?

Apparently not.  So, you and I will pick up this $50 tab.  Then, we’ll subsidize the individual students’ tuition, which very likely is a big part of the tuition inflation that affects everybody.  Then, if they live in or move to Rhode Island, we’ll pay their loans fully for a few years.  Then, if they still find themselves struggling with debt in a failing economy, we’ll cover them with food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, and a number of other welfare programs.

And all of this, by the way, is before we challenge the editors’ dubious assumption that students emerge from subsidized college, which they attend without immediate reason to weigh the cost, “well educated.”



  • Mike678

    Concur: If a student isn’t motivated enough to raise $50 and a dedicate Saturday to take the test, then it is doubtful that he/she will succeed in College. Though, as you say, success is assumed, not assessed.

    Moreover, coddling our youth is counter-productive. These people need to get used to working really hard to pay off all the debt we are accumulating for them…

  • So, Justin, your essentially making the argument that people that cannot afford it should not be given the opportunity to go to college. What is the alternative? Would you rather that people are uneducated and thereby have zero means of supporting themselves? Maybe you are just bitter because of the meager living that your degree from URI affords you.

    Maybe being employed by a group that support hate speech and racism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    • OceanStateCurrent

      Very charming, Michael. Maybe you’d be so kind as to elaborate on the libel about supporting hate speech and racism?
      I’d also ask you to explain how you come to the conclusion that I don’t think people should be given the opportunity to go to college.

      • You don’t want government to pay for SATs. You don’t want government to pay for college. You don’t want government to pay off college loans. Therefore, there are people in the state that you and your sad politics would want to prevent going to to college. What is your counter argument?

        • OceanStateCurrent

          1) So not providing somebody money for college is active prevention of their doing so? I find myself sinking money into a car that I don’t really want because I can’t find a new one. You haven’t given me any money. Are you preventing me from getting a new car?
          2) You like to go to extremes. The point of this post is the sheer layers of subsidies that remove cost incentives from young adults lives.

          • >>So not providing somebody money for college is active prevention of their doing so?<<
            If they can't afford it otherwise, of course. Even a radical libertarian such as yourself can count. Your car analogy is beneath you. This is a dollars and cents issue not a desire ("hat I don't really want "). Issue.

      • BTW. I love the “very charming”. I nice passive/aggressive way tom minimize my argument so you have to do less work in your response.

    • ShannonEntropy

      …your essentially making the argument that people that cannot afford it should not be given the opportunity to go to college. What is the alternative?

      Maybe they could to school AND hold down a job to pay their tuition & bills

      I did it … and I ended up okay if I must say so myself

  • ShannonEntropy

    2) … The point of this post is the sheer layers of subsidies that remove cost incentives from young adults lives….

    An ancient concept … See =► MORAL HAZARD

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_hazard

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