RonMandelbaumI know everyone, including myself, is consumed with the Presidential election. However, I would like to change the focus to a subject brought up by Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign. The subject is free college tuition. Bernie Sanders has been ridiculed for pushing this issue. It has been called socialistic and unrealistic because of costs.

I was born and raised in New York City. In retrospect, I realize I received a wonderful elementary and high school education fully funded by the government. Even more striking, residents of New York City had the opportunity to attend City College of New York for FREE if their grades were high enough and they passed the entrance exam.

Growing up I was programmed to maintain good grades so I could qualify for admission to CCNY. I had no plan B. If I was not accepted, I would not have had a college education pure and simple. Luckily, I was accepted and received a wonderful college education.

I owe my success to a government-sponsored program. Without the free education I received, I doubt I would have been able to achieve the status I enjoy today. The government’s investment in me and others like me has paid off handsomely. We are law-abiding citizens who have started businesses, pay taxes (unlike a presidential candidate) and contribute positively to society.

The New York school system, from the early 1900’s, provided tuition free higher education to thousands of low income students including, future supreme court justice Felix Frankfurter, Jonas Salk, Colin Powell, Bernard Baruch, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bella Abzug, just to name a smattering of the students who went on to distinguished careers in science, government, business and the arts.

How was it possible to provide tuition free higher education through horrific economic downturns including the great depression of the 1930’s? The answer I believe is priorities. The elected officials felt that investing in education was a worthwhile investment.

If the government had the money for tuition free college when this country was less prosperous, it certainly has the funds for this kind of program today, if our elected officials choose to make it a priority. Perhaps investing more in educational programs and a little less in the military will produce a healthier and more robust economy for all our citizens.

– Ron Mandelbaum

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