Pennsylvania's higher education woes

Last week, I wrote about a proposal by Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella to create universal automatic, from-birth savings plans for college or vo-tech training — something done in just a few other states.

Savings would be kick-started not with tax dollars but with philanthropic money, and could include bonus contributions along the way tied to certain grade levels or academic achievement, especially for lower-income families.

I praised the idea (you can read the column here), noting our state ranks very high nationally not only in the cost of public college but also in the amount of average college debt.

Well, this week, I came across some data that could serve as an argument to push Torsella's plan.

An op-ed piece in Sunday's New York Times notes a stark decline in state financial support for public colleges over time (from 2008 to 2016) and says that among the 15 largest states Pennsylvania has the third steepest decline — a 33 percent drop.

The U.S. average drop was 18 percent.

The state's decline ranks sixth among all states, and steepest in the northeast.

The data's based on research by the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities. You can read the Time's piece here and the center's original report here.

In addition, I came across results of a new study by the personal financial website WalletHub titled "2017's Most & Least Educated States."

Findings are based on multiple metrics including gender and racial gaps, overall educational attainment and overall school quality.

You'll likely not be surprised to learn Pennsylvania finished just below the mediocre middle with a national ranking of 28th.

Neighbors New York, New Jersey and Maryland rank higher.

You can see the full study here.

Point is, Pennsylvania's dragging when it comes to higher education. Higher education, either college or technical training, can lead to fuller lives. And state leaders, starting with Torsella but (hopefully) including many others, should do all they can to better provide funding and opportunity for as many children and families as possible. Good for them. Good for the state. Good for us all.