Editorial: Postsecondary education lacks attention in the election

Sunday’s issue of the St. Petersburg Times ran a feature about a high school student who dreams of pursuing an education at MIT but lacks the finances.

“My mother was notoriously known to everyone who knew her for her extreme asthma. Instead of purchasing the medicine she needed, my mother bought food to feed us everyday,” Michael Rodeman wrote in his essay for MIT, which was published in the Times.

According to his letter, Rodeman has lived in a motel, an RV in someone’s backyard and many relatives’ homes. Rodeman, like many other Americans, has faced homelessness as well.

In the middle of a big economic crisis, a historic election and a historic season for the Rays, Floridians seem to have forgotten about the most important thing that plagues this country — the lack of equal access to a quality education.

In the same issue, the Times ran a series of polls comparing what Floridians thought was most important in 2004 and 2008. The top issue for 2004 was education at 18 percent. The economy stood at 11 percent. In 2008, 60 percent responded that the economy is most important in the election.

And education? Well, it didn’t make the list. Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, however, terrorism shows up at 7 percent.

While it is understood that the economy is an important factor this election season, the fact that education didn’t make it onto that list is ludicrous. Education — the easiest, simplest way to dig the country out of the economic hole it’s slipping into — doesn’t register as a critical concern for most Floridians.

Meanwhile, universities and schools are receiving less state money and Bright Futures’ unbridled growth has the program gobbling up more and more of the Florida Lottery’s funds as it indirectly anchors Florida public school tuition — universities’ other main source of income. This leaves post-secondary institutions struggling to come up with ways to educate the growing number of people seeking a higher education.

When education is out of voters’ minds, it’s out of state budgets.

The best way to increase access to education so that people like Rodeman can better themselves is by increasing funding, so universities and colleges can afford to hire more professors and open more sections of various courses.

It’s time for college students and Floridians alike to ask themselves how many more budget cuts they can take. It’s time for people to start thinking about higher education and start considering how these cuts could prevent them from gaining it.

It’s time for legislators to care about education. University students — and aspiring ones — deserve it.