- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Kansas City Star, Oct. 8

Avila University is right: Colleges must cut tuition costs or face extinction

Avila University said recently it will drop its tuition by about 33 percent, joining a growing list of colleges and universities reducing their sticker prices.

The Avila price slash may mean less to some than to others. With scholarships and other discounts, many students are already paying the new reduced amount. For those students, the actual savings may not change much.

But the announcement is welcome nonetheless. Avila is trying to be more transparent, offering students and parents a realistic view of what they’ll have to pay. It’s like the car dealer who sets a lower-but-firm sticker price so buyers don’t have to haggle.

Transparency and honesty are always important, but they are particularly welcome in higher education.

Because when it comes to tuition costs and benefits, the day of reckoning for colleges and universities is fast approaching.

A recent poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News explains why. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed - almost half - said a four-year college degree is not worth the cost.

The number is even higher among young men and women. Fifty-seven percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34, the poll found, believe a college education is no longer worth the investment.

A majority of working-class Americans and a majority of Republicans think college is a waste, according to the poll.

That view is worrisome enough if you run a college or university. But it also sets off a vicious political cycle, in which voter support for higher education spending plummets. Missouri and Kansas are just two states that have slashed taxpayer subsidies for post-secondary schools in recent years.

That, in turn, has led to increased tuition costs, which further depress demand for those degrees.

Private colleges aren’t subject to the same pressure, of course. But private college costs are already sky-high, pushing those institutions out of range for many students.

“A moderate budget at a private college averaged $49,320,” a recent report said. Student loans? Total debt exceeds $1.3 trillion, a staggering number.

Colleges and universities must provide a value equation for students: What will the buyer get for the money? That starts with transparency, which Avila embraced, but it goes far beyond that.

The real cost of attendance must go down. Institutions must offer alternatives, including online courses that can reduce costs. And massive sports facilities will have to take a back seat.

Higher education deserves strong support. But colleges and universities must do a much better job of controlling costs and improving outcomes, or they will go out of business, and deservedly so.


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct. 8

Helping women prevent unintended pregnancies will decrease abortion rate

Missouri’s Planned Parenthood affiliates expect to expand services across the state following a federal appeals court decision last week reversing state regulations on abortion. While they do that, abortion opponents should turn their attention to helping women prevent unintended pregnancies instead of continuing to fight against reproductive rights enshrined in federal law and upheld repeatedly by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Better methods of birth control, primarily long-acting, reversible contraception, and improved sex education have already sent teen pregnancies plunging to their lowest rate in decades. Unintended pregnancy rates are only about 5 percent for adult women who use contraceptives, compared with a 45 percent unintended rate among all women, the Guttmacher Institute reports.

Reducing unintended pregnancy rates is the best way to reduce demand for abortions. Challenging abortion clinics is not the most effective way to bring down the abortion rate. The smarter way is to continue providing useful information, support reproductive health research and make tools available to help women make smart decisions about family planning.

The U.S. Supreme Court has seen through the false assertion of protecting women’s health as the justification for imposing strict regulations on abortion clinics. A year ago, the court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down Texas laws requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and demanding that abortion clinics have facilities comparable to ambulatory surgical centers. In a 5-3 ruling, justices said the laws were an obstacle for women seeking a legal procedure and violated the Constitution.

In her concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “It is beyond rational belief that (the Texas law) could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.”

She added, “Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws . do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion . and cannot survive judicial inspection.”

Even after the ruling, abortion foes pursued regulations in Missouri that were nearly identical to those in Texas. Planned Parenthood challenged the rules, saying they left only two facilities providing abortions across Missouri’s 70,000-square-mile expanse. That imposed enormous burdens on low-income women or those with medical conditions or pregnancies resulting from abuse.

A federal district court temporarily blocked Missouri from enforcing the requirements, citing the Supreme Court’s ruling. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley asked a federal appeals panel to freeze the lower court’s order, but it denied the motion last week without comment.

Reducing demand for abortion matters to us all. Women who have made the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy deserve fair treatment under the law. Better sex education and fewer barriers to birth control are the most effective ways to bring down the abortion rate.


The Springfield News-Leader, Oct. 7

Children in low-income families the victims of health care fight

As politicians and voters in the major parties debate the value of welfare programs, there’s likely room for both to adjust, inevitably moving closer to the center.

Some programs are probably more expensive and cumbersome than warranted. They may be inefficient. Others may need further investment because there’s still untapped potential.

When Republicans and Democrats work together on solutions, they’re likely to come out looking like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP.

The program is designed to provide health coverage for children who don’t traditionally qualify for Medicaid. That’s an important group, because there’s a wide gap in cost between free government health coverage and private coverage.

CHIP offers coverage that families pay for on a sliding scale based on income.

It’s the kind of program that encourages families to work hard and improve their lives professionally.

Unfortunately, funding for the program lapsed about a week ago when Congress failed to reauthorize the program.

Without a scaled program like CHIP, low-income families are under threat of the so-called cliff effect. It occurs when a modest increase in income is offset by an even greater loss in government benefits. It discourages families from making the stair-step improvement that is almost always required for long-term financial improvement.

For a family just outside the threshold for Medicaid, private insurance likely still proves too expensive, regardless of the parents’ thriftiness.

What then is the expectation? Turn down a better job or promotion? Lie to the government about income? Roll the dice without coverage for a child?

Surely, the better answer is to ask these families to pay a little more each time their income improves. It allows them to improve their lives financially and protect their health - both things that are beneficial to the children’s development.

Those benefits are seen by about 25,000 kids in Missouri and 1,300 in Greene County alone.

As far as welfare programs go, CHIP is understandably one of the more popular.

Unfortunately, it’s potentially fallen victim to congressional arguments about the larger health care problem. At question is how to fund the program.

Some Republicans want to make cuts to a public health fund established by the Affordable Care Act. Some Democrats want to increase subsidies to insurers for reducing costs for low-income customers.

In the battle to improve, repeal, protect or replace federal health care laws, lawmakers are jeopardizing a program that’s working.

By all means, legislators, keep working on health care solutions. Just don’t ruin the solutions we already have.

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