Education & the Economy

Improving access to high quality education may be the best way to insure a stable economy. That is the premise of a book by economist Raghuram Rajan, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He argues that instead of providing access to cheap credit like sub-prime mortgages, the American government should focus on providing equity in education to its less skilled labor. According to a recent review in The Economist, “America would do well to take a hard look at how it educates its young and what safety net it provides to its poor.”
I emphatically agree with this assertion. I have witnessed the many positive results that a rigorous education can provide the economically disadvantaged. Guiding children through the wonders of learning can expand their possibilities and engender a love of learning that affects not only the individuals involved, but also succeeding generations. I have provided just a few examples of such outstanding programs.
I, myself, am an alumna of one of the most competitive parochial high schools in New York City. This school attracted middle and lower class students from at least three of the city’s boroughs as well as sections of Westchester. Students traveled long distances to attend, most using public transportation. Many of my classmates have achieved prominence nationally and internationally. Among their ranks are executives of Fortune 500 Companies, business owners, NASA scientists, broadcasters, physicians, attorneys, judges, and even a Supreme Court Justice. Certainly, they have global influence!
As an educator, one of the best teaching experiences I ever had in a school setting occurred in a parochial girls’ high school in the center of Newark, New Jersey several decades ago. The major differences between this school and the local public high school were the commitment of the parents and the dedication of the teachers. We were on a mission! Our school had very few drop-outs, and most of our students went on to college and graduate school. The school is still open, and still dedicated to educating young women in the inner city who have become leaders in their community and beyond.
The ABC Program (A Better Chance) accepts disadvantaged students from inner cities into suburban public schools. These students must display academic promise and a willingness to be uprooted from their homes to attend schools in different states. The students often reside in homes that have been converted to dorm-type housing that can accommodate at least five students and a resident director who oversees their homework and activities. Host families from the community take the girls to their homes on weekends. Upon graduation, most of the students are admitted to very selective colleges and universities, usually on scholarship.
A parochial middle level magnet school in New Haven, Connecticut, St. Martin de Porres Academy, opened its doors about five years ago. To gain admission for grades 5 through 8, students must meet the following requirements: financial need, parental commitment, and willingness to learn. The school is tuition-free. The school day extends from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. Students receive two meals a day and school uniforms. Teachers provide additional tutoring when necessary. Such assistance extends to graduates who are invited to return if they need help with high school assignments. The school is funded through contributions and fundraisers. Graduates go on to private and parochial high schools, most on full scholarship.
Many, if not most, elite preparatory schools have programs that support the underprivileged. I have first-hand knowledge of at least two different programs in one of the top schools in the country. These programs recruit inner city youth from around the country. They support the students’ tuitions, room and board, and travel expenses throughout their attendance. These students go on to selective colleges throughout the country.
Thanks to generous contributions of alumni and philanthropic organizations, these programs help to educate the economically disadvantaged. This country needs to provide high quality education to prepare our youth to be a highly skilled workforce and productive citizenry. We need more of funding for these institutions and programs like them!

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