–Salary for attending school

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.

Generally, I prefer to state a problem, then propose a solution. But when one solution addresses several problems, perhaps the reverse sequence is appropriate. The solution is: The federal government should pay all students – elementary school, middle school, high school, college and post grad – a salary.

Let’s first dispense with the debt-hawk, knee-jerk reaction that this will increase the federal debt and cause inflation. We have discussed the so-called “debt problem” numerous places in this blog, and don’t need to repeat the discussion, here. If you want a refresher, please go through some of the posts listed to the left.

Before we get into details, here are some of the problems the solution could address:

1. Reduce the school dropout rate. Many students enter the employment world early for a simple, practical reason. They need the money. Some families encourage their children to do this, for the same practical reason. Even with scholarships, many families simply cannot afford to send their children to high school, let alone college and beyond.

2. Grow the economy I: During a recession, an economy is starved for money. Unquestionably, the various stimulus payments have helped us recover from the recession and have increased economic growth. While there is substantial disagreement about how much these payments have accomplished, there is scant belief that economic growth was not helped at all. Salary payments to students would add growth money to the economy by providing jobs. (In this case, the job is to attend school.) Even without a recession, added jobs and added salaries help the economy grow.

3. Grow the economy II: A more educated population will be better equipped to deal with tomorrow’s more advanced economies. The 30 occupations with the largest employment declines, 2008-18 all involved unskilled or semi-skilled labor, with no college education required. In contrast, the majority of The 30 fastest-growing occupations, 2008-18 required college or advanced degrees.

4. Grow the economy III: A more educated population will be better equipped to create tomorrow’s more advanced economies. Most technological advancements come from college-educated people. Nations have suffered because of a so-called “brain drain,” meaning when the most educated people leave, the country has difficulty progressing. Clearly, there is a relationship between education and economic growth. For America not to fall behind, we continuously must create more and better-educated people.

5. Improve our quality of life: America needs more doctors, nurses, scientists, chemists, architects and engineers of all types. These are the people who will care for us and who will develop the medicines and medical techniques, the medical equipment and modern hospitals to improve our lives.

6. Reduce the crime level. High school drop outs are inordinately involved in crime. One could argue this is not cause/effect, but rather the type of person who drops out also is the type who has criminal tendencies. I disagree it’s a matter of type. Rather, the high school dropout has fewer, attractive employment opportunities, and as a result, is drawn into crime. Crime may seem the only opportunity to have money. Take those young people off the street corners, put them in school and pay them money, and the crime rate will decline.

7. Improve our laws: Educated people probably read more and understand more. As a result, they may be more astute voters, more able to make intelligent judgments about the relative qualities of various office holders and candidates. They probably write more letters to politicians and to the media, and are more able to be effective members of school boards, political offices and other leadership roles. The educated may be better able to analyze political promises and activities.

As with all ideas, the devil is in the details, some of which are:

1. Pay a salary to attend what kinds of school? An accredited school as opposed to a diploma mill or home schooling. Because we suggest paying a salary to students, rather than making a payment to a school, we can include religious schools, which sometimes are the best schools in a given area.

2. How much salary? The salary can be lowest for the lowest grades and increase stepwise through post graduate. It might vary according to average local salaries, with the student’s home being the determinant. For high school and above, the salary should be above the single person’s poverty guideline for each geographic area.

Many federal programs already use the poverty guidelines as a starting point: “Programs using the guidelines (or percentage multiples of the guidelines — for instance, 125 percent or 185 percent of the guidelines) in determining eligibility include Head Start, the Food Stamp Program, the National School Lunch Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

3. Should wealth, income or other federal benefits be considered? No, the only considerations should be geographic area and level of education. Rich or poor, all Americans should receive the same benefit.

4. What about “professional students.” They will continue to exist. The salaries should not be so high as overly to encourage this behavior. We might think about time limits, depending on the student’s major. But we should not consider age limits. A person, who becomes unemployed at age 50, and who wishes to attend school, should be encouraged to do so.

5. What about scholarships?
Schools should not be allowed to consider this salary among their criteria for scholarships. I also would not allow for taxing of this salary, but that may be too much to hope for.

6. Who would administer the program? The states should administer it, and the federal government should pay for it. The states could delegate administration to specific school districts within the states. There is no need to invent a massive federal bureaucracy when local bureaucracies exist, and are most knowledgeable about local situations.

That’s the bare outline. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity

17 thoughts on “–Salary for attending school

  1. Your arguments make sense. Initially I was somewhat appalled by the idea, but my mind changed by the time I got to the end of the post. Your logic is sound. There would initially be a significant increase in federal government spending, but after some time (how much is uncertain) expenses in other areas would be drastically reduced as a result of the social benefits. I think that within one generation, such a program would reduce other expenses far in excess of what this would cost. Of course I do not have any data (or even estimates) right now to know one way or another.

    Kevin – http://www.SoleraGroup.com


    1. Thanks Solargroup,
      I had not thought of salaries for students as a federal money-saving concept, only because I don’t regard reducing the federal debt as a necessary or even wise plan.

      I suppose however, it’s inevitable for the merits of this suggestion to be debated on the basis of federal debt reduction — a debate that would involve numerous questionable assumptions and projections.

      Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


      1. Hello Mr. Mitchell,
        I am so happy I found this site. I have been formulating a plan to present to the government (state government at the time) regarding EXACTLY what you stated above. I am a 22 year old single mother of 2, currently attending college. If possible, I would really like to speak with you about this matter. I COULDN’T AGREE MORE! All your points are very similiar to my own. I am even presenting this argument in class at school, and have mentioned the idea to friends in other staes, encouraging them to try to present the idea to their state government. My email address is M_Krug111@yahoo.com and I would really like to hear from you. I am so excited to have found someone with the same/similiar ideas. Thank you for this!


          1. Sorry Mr. Mitchell, I responded via email. Hopefully you have received it, and please give me you insight.


  2. Interesting proposal. One potential danger is that inevitably there would bribes or kickbacks given to teachers (or threats) by students (or on their behalf by a third party) for a higher grade and thus a higher salary. You would have to devise some sort of standardized testing to eliminate that inevitable consequence.


    1. Jason,
      Thanks Jason,
      My thought was to pay according to grade level, i.e. 4th grade, 12th grade, post grad., etc. I actually hadn’t considered paying according to grade achieved (A, B, C) in any one class. I suspect that would result in the problems you mentioned, plus some others.

      Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


    1. Thanks Nick;
      We are so in need of new ideas and sadly, every new idea has a powerful anti-constituency. Yet, with so many complaints about lack of jobs, and going to school being one of our most important and beneficial jobs, this seems like a natural.

      We, as a society, benefit more when someone goes to school than when that person wastes his/her precious years repeating, “Fries with that?”

      Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


  3. It is unfair to non-parents who will, inevitably, have to pay more taxes to further subsidize other peoples children.

    Providing money to poor families because they have children did not work with AFDC and will not work now. The courts have repeatedly ruled against attempts to link TANF payments to good parental behavior, such as not using illegal drugs.


  4. Non-parent,
    Federal taxes do not pay for federal spending. You would not have to pay more taxes to subsidize other people’s children.

    Further, I suggest this program not apply only to children and not be income-based. You could receive a student salary, if you chose to go to school, to improve your skills.

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


  5. If you could email me that would be great.
    What about the fact that student loan debt just surpassed credit card debt? I know in my situation I have been laid off already I am only 26 3 years out of schools and have had to go on deferments sense. It is annoying and the only work I can find doesn’t pay enough to cover my payments and bills. Any advice>


    1. It’s terrible, it’s ridiculous and it’s unnecessary. The federal government never should lend money; it only should give money.

      The federal government neither needs nor even uses your money. When you send your check to the government, it will be destroyed. Your money simply will disappear and will serve no purpose, whatsoever.

      Sadly, I have no good advice for you, today, other than to tell your Congresspeople that a Monetarily Sovereign nation should not collect money from its citizens.

      You can blame your problems on the debt-hawks, who say federal government financing is like personal financing.

      Good luck in the future.

      Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


  6. From Melissa:

    Well Mr. Mitchell, I haven’t gotten to present it yet, it is something i am developing. My speech on it is Thursday, and hopefully by the middle of 2011 (sooner if possible) I will have the opportunity to present the idea to the state government (Florida).

    I am trying to think ahead and research answers for any possible objections, and I am even considering passing out surveys regarding the subject to increase input. Based on the few people I have spoken to about it, their main concern is where will this money come from.

    Based on my research, government lost approximately $9 billion dollars in 5 years(2003-2008) on students who dropped out of college. Also I’ve found that the government would earn approximately 45 billion dollars extra in tax revenues and reduced costs in crime, welfare, public health, etc, if the number of high school dropouts were reduced by half! I mean that’s extra money right there, and a good argument, but there’s millions of students too.

    What do you think? Another argument i thought may work is how the federal government was paying for certain career majors (such as teachers and nursing). If they have the money to do that, then they should have the money to do this.

    On another note, the only difference between my ideas and yours was that I was directing my idea toward eligible single parents/low income households. Someone suggested that when presenting the idea, I choose a group to direct it towards. I mean, why pay welfare where someone has the choice to not better their lives when you can invest in a way for them to do better.

    Also in support of the No Child Left Behind law, statistics say there is a likely chance that children raised in single parent households are more likely to drop out. Also, teen pregnancy, and single parents are one of the larger portions of school dropouts.

    Anyways, back to the no child left behind law…based on the likely chance that a child in a single parent household will drop out of school, it’s almost like a predetermination to pay special attention to that student based on the law.

    Do you understand what I mean? I am aiming at developing a program to pay low income families, especially single parents to attend school. However, there are qualifications and elligibility standards…Kind of like a grant program.

    Although after reading your views, if you think there is a way to push towards granting all students that benefit, I am all for it. I just figured start small, in the area of society that costs the government the most money (which includes myself, although i hate getting government assistance, I want off), and build up as the economy builds up.

    Thank you for responding to me, and I hope to hear back from you soon!



  7. Melissa, you face many problems, but two are primary:

    1. The states’ budgets are limited.
    2. Class warfare


    My three posts were in consideration of the federal government paying for this. As a monetarily sovereign nation, the United States’ spending is not constrained by taxes. The U.S. has the unlimited ability to create money, and to pay any bill. The states, counties and cities are not monetarily sovereign and so do not have this ability. So indeed you must do two things. Either:

    Show how this program actually results in monetary savings for the state, or

    Organize a program with national implications (a la a “Tea Partyesque” movement) to obtain funding from the federal government. Perhaps your Senators, Representatives and Governor to could work together to appeal to the federal government for funding as a test program.

    The idea is, a great deal could be learn in one state at minimal cost, and if the project succeeds it could be expanded to other states.

    Class warfare

    This usually will be unspoken and couched in quasi-logical terms, but the fact is that many people simply do not want to give money to poor people, and many others do not want to give money to rich people.

    So a simple idea — pay a flat salary to each student — intentionally will be complicated by extraneous considerations, such as:

    Should we give the same amount to the rich and the poor. Shouldn’t the poor receive more? Why should the rich receive any? What if the poor already receive other benefits. Should the salary be taxed according to the child’s parents’ rate? What about home schooling? What about religious schools? What if a child gets sick in the middle of the semester? Should there be an age limit? Should more be paid for better grades? What about pre-kindergarten? What about an out-of-state student going to one of our state’s colleges? What about undocumented children? Undocumented parents? Will this cause schools to charge more for books and supplies? Will this cause schools to charge for special education? And on and on and on.

    At first blush, people will object to this, just as they originally objected to free k-12 education. So they with throw in a million “legitimate” questions, to slow the process.

    But if this is positioned as a test, the questions will be answered in the execution. That’s the whole purpose of a test.

    In summary, I suggest:

    1. Positioning this as a test, perhaps in just a couple of poor, middle-class and wealthy neighborhoods (for elementary, middle and high schools in those neighborhoods) and for state residents who attend one of your state universities. That way, nothing is permanent, and you can reduce the objections, by saying, “Let’s see what the test shows us.”

    2. Meet with your Governor, Senators and federal Representatives to put together a test proposal to the federal government, to supply funding.

    3. Establish specific goals, i.e. reducing the drop-out rate and progressing to higher levels. For instance, “We wish to reduce elementary school dropout by 10%, high school dropout by 20%, progress to college by 30% and college graduation rates by 40%.” I would not make grading a goal as this would put undue pressure on teachers. Paying for grades would be a disaster.

    4. Each year, commit to evaluating the attendance results and determining what modifications would improve the program. If results are good, the program could be expanded to more areas. If results are poor, determine why. Commit to abandoning the program if results indicate it is not viable.

    Get some ideas from my three posts on this subject.

    Not only the state, but the federal government would learn a great deal of value, so it might well receive federal funding. It’s a big project, because it involves so many special interests, and you probably will need help creating a federal grant proposal after getting state interest. You can find them on Google, but you might be better to find a local professional.

    Please keep me apprised. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. All new ideas are blocked by the blockheads.

    Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


  8. That sounds like a very good idea—to pay students, at least, a decent amount of money for going to school, completing work, and doing well. It would benefit the students and the community both. I’m sure nice things would result from helping everyone.
    I’m suggesting starting out giving students a basic sum of money and if that progresses, then increases can be made per individual. Young people love to strive like all others.
    Help all the beautiful people! They give so much to us!


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