Sunday, July 4, 2004

Ky. leaders' smart idea about college


Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson and State Treasurer Jonathan Miller have a novel idea to encourage higher education - and then encouraging graduates to bring the benefits of their education back to Kentucky.

Called "Cradle to College," their basic idea is to provide children born in Kentucky with a college savings account on the day of their birth. The notion is to fund these accounts to a level that would allow families to pay for at least a community college or technical college education for their children. High school graduates who use the funds would then be required to pay the state back with a period of service.

Grayson, a Republican from Boone County, and Miller, a Democrat from Lexington, have been friends since they met while students at Harvard. They have formed a nonpartisan commission of educators, business, government and community leaders to flesh out the broad idea with specific proposals over the next year or two.

Grayson and Miller readily acknowledge there are many questions that have to be answered before this idea could become a reality, the chief one being how it would be paid for.

The commission also will need to figure out how the program would mesh with existing programs such as Kentucky's Affordable Prepaid Tuition and the Kentucky Education Savings Plan Trust, which now allow families to save for college tuition in tax-free accounts.

And, the panel will have to sort out the notion of repaying the grants with service to the state. How long a period of service? Will those engaged in the service be paid a wage? What kind of service will they provide?

Grayson and Miller suggest service could be in teaching, social work or other public service jobs, but perhaps it could also entail a pledge to just spend a portion of a career working in Kentucky.

These are serious questions, but they are by no means insurmountable, and we congratulate Grayson and Miller for an outside-the-box approach to dual problems - making education affordable, and keeping the brightest young people from leaving the Commonwealth.

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