Ready, Fire, Aim.
Do you remember the GEIDC? The Greater Erie Industrial Development Corporation was given an unsecured loan for $3 million dollars by Erie County because county council and the county executive were convinced, we needed a big rail terminal. It turns out we needed no such thing and the money was lost when the GEIDC went bankrupt just a few years ago and began auctioning off lots of property, trying to recover some of your money.
Now, the same players who previously knew we needed a rail terminal, plus a few more, are ready to spend lots of your money on a community college. Unfortunately, their reasons for why we need one are a bit vague, “We need one because we don’t have one” pretty much sums up what they’re telling us.
A few simple questions are in order
It’s hard to debate someone until you both agree on a few basic definitions, otherwise what they’re promoting and what you’re questioning may be two different things, so in the interest of furthering the conversation, here are a few questions:
- Is the college intended to be an academic institution, a trade school or both?
- If focused on academics, what will it teach, what sort of degrees will it confer?
- If a trade school, what trades, specifically? To what level of skill or certification?
- Employers are often cited as requiring the trained workforce this college could supply. What employers, specifically, are we talking about and what training is necessary to fulfill their needs?
- Who is the target student? Age range? Income level? Education level? Member of specific community or group? How many students are there?
- What percentage of students are expected to require tuition assistance, to what extent and financed by whom?
- What alternatives to the classes and training proposed for the college already exist?
There are many more questions, but some of these are fundamental. You can’t decide if the college is necessary until you know if there are good alternatives which you can’t know until you specify what you plan to teach. All of the glowing stories about education and students and workforce training mean nothing until you lay out the plan in considerable detail, and details, to this point, are practically nonexistent.
What’s the plan? What’s the goal?
Some of us believe there are a great many options for potential students, perhaps far better, than anything a community college can deliver, but before presenting any of those, we need to know what this college being proposed is supposed to be, what they plan to teach, who the students will be and how much it will cost the students and taxpayers. Promoters of the plan seem puzzled that there is no widespread support, but they haven’t given us any details or tried to convince anyone, in fact a recent Erie Times/GoErie editorial took the condescending route of attacking those who would dare question the plan:
It’s been my experience with such big-ticket issues that the vehemence of the opposition tends to be inversely proportional to opponents’ understanding of what’s in play and why. Just check out any hot-button thread on Facebook. Part of it is just human nature. A lot of people aren’t inclined to invest in anything that doesn’t directly benefit them and theirs.
Of course, he didn’t offer any details either, you need to read their minds to understand “what’s in play.” That writer never learned that intelligent debate isn’t an option when you smear your opponent as selfish and uninformed.
A simple conversation can accomplish a lot
For those of us who wish to get a clearer picture of what’s being proposed and also, in the hope that some supporters do wish to have that conversation, how about providing some details as outlined by the questions above. The people of Erie County deserve at least that much, don’t you think?