- College Promise Coalition of Washington
- College Promise Coalition on Facebook
- My live tweets from a College Promise Coalition event held in Spokane March 31, 2011
- Site created by Greater Spokane Inc. that allows you to contact your state legislators to express your opinion (the form has some prewritten messages; you can just write whatever you want to send and it will find your legislators for you to route the email appropriately)
The Promise of College
I tell two family stories when I talk about the importance of higher education.
The first story covers three generations of teachers in the family. My father’s mother, born in 1897, became a teacher because when she graduated from high school that made her one of the most educated people in her tiny North Carolina hometown of Boone Township, Watauga County.
My mother, born in 1921, became a teacher by going to a two-year “normal school”—teacher’s college—in Lewiston, Idaho (now Lewis-Clark State College), in the years just before World War II.
My older sister, born in 1952 (whoops, I told!), became a teacher with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho and continuing education every summer in order to stay credentialed.
The second story is about my dad, who started out sweeping floors at Potlatch Forest Incorporated (PFI) in Lewiston in high school. He went to war, became a bomber pilot flying B-24s during World War II, then returned home and went back to work for Potlatch.
He didn’t take advantage of the GI Bill; he and Mom had already started their family (hi, Eldest Brother!). By being accepted to Officer Candidate School, which back then was pretty much a college-boy gig, he proved he had the smarts and ability, but it wasn’t in the cards.
Dad rose to become manager of the lumber mill in Lewiston with supervisory responsibilities for a number of smaller mills, which explains why I’ve been to places like Santa, Idaho. He took plenty of continuing self-improvement courses, such as Dale Carnegie public speaking training, but no formal degree program.
At some point Potlatch’s management approach shifted. They moved their headquarters to San Francisco for a while. They became Potlatch Corporation instead of PFI. And Dad—who, unlike their corporate honchos, had never gone to college—was approaching retirement age. He was given a transfer to Spokane and finished out his time as a vice president of sales and shipping. Fancier title, but I’m betting less responsibility.
Dad’s life represents a success story. He worked hard, rose through the ranks, and supported a family of six children.
He also represents the importance of higher education, because at some point, without it, he topped out. And his career arc is not one you’d be able to repeat today if you graduate from high school but don’t go on to some sort of postsecondary education.
He knew that, and his life dream was to have every one of his six children graduate from college. We all did. Two of us have master’s degrees.
The older kids worked their way through college. He was able to pay for my undergraduate education and my younger sister’s, joking all the while that his “second litter” of children (born when he and Mom were in their 40s, which made them “old” parents!) prevented him from taking early retirement. He actually went on after retiring from Potlatch to work for Gabor Trucking Company for a while running their Spokane dispatch office, which I’m sure was driven by the tuition pressure.
And today—facing the worst economy of my lifetime and cuts in state funding for higher education that could represent a four-year total reduction of close to 70% of state support for Washington State University (where I work) by the time they’re done with this legislative session—I don’t know how I will pay for my daughters’ college education.
Highly Related Reading