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Op-Ed: Voters Who Want Thoughtful Progressive Should Vote for McGrath

The following op-ed is written by Milly Diehl, a volunteer education advocate who lives in Ft. Mitchell

One of the biggest challenges facing young people getting started in life is the exploding cost of higher education. 

High school graduates wanting to improve their prospects in life through further education face competing realities: the proven value of higher education in achieving a better quality of life; and the increasing costs of such opportunities that are placing them out of reach.

Amy McGrath, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, takes this problem seriously. 

She notes that higher education costs increased eight times faster than wages between 1989-2016 (Forbes).  

While students used to make it work with part-time jobs, grants, and modest low-interest loans, they now must go deeply into debt with high-interest loans to achieve their goals.   If they finish, they face many years of large debt payments that can cause marriage and/or purchase of a home to be long deferred. 

Amy proposes a solution that addresses both the cost problem and a separate but equally compelling issue, citizenship development and national service. Students would have their tuition covered through service to their communities.

A national service program is not a new idea. Aside from military service, both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) have been with us for many years.  But fewer than 1% of Americans have served in them combined. That is not because of lack of interest. In 2012, AmeriCorps VISTA had to turn down 80% of the 600,000 applicants who wanted to serve.    

 Students performing national service could undertake many needed services in our communities, from infrastructure improvement, environmental protection, caretaking of vulnerable persons, mentoring, tutoring, tracing of those exposed to the coronavirus, etc. Every community has many pressing needs that could be addressed by those paying back the costs of their education.

As Amy notes, through the G.I. Bill our country already provides assistance to veterans to help pay for education and vocational training in exchange for their military service.  Following WW II, the G.I. Bill played a major role in expanding the middle class and growing the economy. A program extending benefits to students who want to serve in other ways could similarly strengthen our middle class today.

Amy herself is a veteran. 

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, she has performed valuable, indeed heroic service to her country as a marine fighter pilot. Yet she recognizes that many want to serve our country in other ways. 

Her proposal for national service would allow them to do so, while achieving an education at a much more reasonable cost.

Amy’s proposal for national service is one more example of her practical and realistic approach to tough policy issues. She seeks solutions that address problems in ways that are based in experience and precedent as well as creativity and common sense.

Democratic voters in this summer’s primary election who want sound, thoughtful progressivism that poses realistic solutions to serious problems should vote for Amy McGrath on June 23.