Favorite

Needed: more college graduates 

According to Census Bureau statistics, Arkansas ranks 50th among the states in the percentage of residents older than 25 with a bachelor's degree.

Arkansas's perpetually low position in national education statistics is among our worst problems both in terms of perception and economics. Employers and business people look at these statistics not only to determine where to make investments, but also to gauge where they themselves want to live and raise their families.

Our low standing reinforces damaging stereotypes. It wasn't until I began spending time away from home that I truly learned how widespread and widely-believed these stereotypes are. During my time as staff in the United States Senate I met and came to know people from every nook and cranny in the country. It still surprises me to recall how people denigrated, to my face, the state I was there to represent.

Recently I spoke at a conference of tax professionals in Atlanta. After my presentation, one of those in attendance went out of his way to suggest that I had overcome a burden, being that I was from Arkansas, by attaining three degrees and being able to give a good talk. Rather than the thanks he expected, I informed him that, though statistically undereducated, none of the people of Arkansas were stupid enough to make such an utterance. Less than a month before this incident, a member of Congress representing a plains state made a similar comment to me. When I was introduced to him he suggested that my language was more refined than my accent, but that that was a “good start” for an Arkansan.

While it would be easy to shrug it off as ignorance, it is in our best interest to work to change the stereotype. Why are we at the bottom of the statistical barrel? It isn't that we lack brains. What we lack are resources.

The best way to change the statistics is to make sure that every Arkansan who wants a college degree has the resources to get one.

In 2006, I announced my candidacy for Arkansas state treasurer against the backdrop of my alma mater, the University of Arkansas College of Agriculture. As I said at the time, I chose that location because I wanted to show my gratitude to the people of Arkansas for the investment they had made in me in the form of scholarships and a state subsidized college education.

I also chose that spot because I hoped to make the issue of college savings central to the treasurer's race.

I believe that most Arkansans don't seek higher education because they can't afford it. Many people simply cannot forgo a paying job, and put down a good chunk of cash besides, to spend four years in the classroom. Many Arkansas families are trapped in a cycle of financial stress that makes it impossible for them to get ahead generation after generation.

I proposed that every child born in the state be automatically enrolled in a tax-advantaged 529 College Savings Plan. If every child were enrolled, and the state made contribution matches, by the time a child was ready for college he would hopefully have an account of enough size to change the math in favor of at least a few years of college. If the program was statewide, financial institutions could justify marketing to attract the accounts and competition for the long-term deposits would ensure higher rates of return.

Communities, businesses, churches, foundations and individuals could also be encouraged to support and personalize the efforts by establishing tax-advantaged contribution or matching programs. The El Dorado Promise program has become a model for community and corporate partnership. It will no doubt help El Dorado grow and prosper over the long term.

It is time for our elected officials to ensure that every advantage is given to the El Dorado Promise program and that the legal and financial infrastructure is in place that would make it easier for other communities to replicate their efforts.

Imagine a state where a child is born and is automatically vested in a college savings program. Imagine if that child's church helped raise the initial deposit needed to obtain a state match. Imagine the competition between civic-minded banks and brokers trying to offer the best program with the highest yields. Imagine corporate and community partnerships designed to build the workforce and economy of Arkansas. Imagine a stronger Arkansas.

If you are proud of the Arkansas, call your state legislators today. Talk to your friends. If 18 years from tomorrow our state is climbing up the ladder of college statistics, climbing away from generational poverty, and climbing in national esteem, you will have yourself to thank.

 

Mac Campbell is a seventh-generation Arkansan living in Little Rock and Washington, D.C.  He is a partner of the law firm McKenna Long and Aldridge.

 

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Guest Writer

  • A better now

    The Boys and Men Opportunity Success Team (BMOST), an initiative led by a coalition of local stakeholders that includes the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, city of Little Rock, Arkansas Baptist College, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pulaski Technical College and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas, is determined to show you that what you see and hear about black and brown boys and men isn't the whole story.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Intro to ANNN

    The Arkansas Nonprofit News Network is an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • Help all veterans

    Veteran-specific bills often miss the mark on helping the most sympathetic military families by focusing on retirement income.
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Indian Rock House at Fairfield Bay

Indian Rock House at Fairfield Bay

Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Hillbillies

    • Why Mr. G - harsh words - oh, how I do love to get you…

    • on January 17, 2017
  • Re: Hillbillies

    • Yes, Nanc, it makes her feel good. She's a petty, mean, vindictive, one-issue crazy woman…

    • on January 17, 2017
  • Re: Hillbillies

    • You sound just like your hero, does it make you feel good to be so…

    • on January 17, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation