Compound Interest

at 12:35 AM

Jen is a medical assistant. She's a nurse, phlebotomist and secretary, all in one. Despite her youth, she's an oasis of calm in a churning sea of doctors and patients. Moving fast and thinking faster, she's perfect for the job.

Actually, she's perfect for my job. I'm a physician at Stanford University. I'm the first doctor in my family and a product of public education: two universities, and two community colleges. And I would not have earned my place as a tramp in the palace of Stanford without affordable tuition.

Jen wants to be a doctor too. She has intelligence, compassion and dedication fueled by her own difficult upbringing. What she doesn't have is money. The California budget crisis is prompting hefty tuition hikes at public institutions, possibly as high as 39 percent. And with it, Jen's opportunity to follow my path is evaporating.

Another tramp in the palace, Albert Einstein, famously said, "The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest." Money spent on education today pays off with interest tomorrow. But the opposite also holds true. Raising tuition prices an entire segment of our population out of the market and relegates them to unskilled, low-wage jobs.

Poverty is expensive and unhealthy. The poor are more likely to smoke, to lack health insurance, be chronically ill and be both victims and perpetrators of crime. They are more likely to consume public services than support them as taxpayers.

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Separating Jen from me is educational opportunity. I never would have made it if tuition had been 39 percent higher. Raising tuition doesn't solve the budget crisis, it perpetuates it.

Placing higher education out of reach for the Jens of California pays for our present by mortgaging our future. None of us can afford that compound interest.

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With a Perspective, I'm Dr. Robyn Rogers.

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