It didn’t take long for a room full of seniors asking questions of a sitting congressman to ask if the government was going to address issues related to higher education.
When U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, opened his talk Tuesday at Minooka Community High School to students in the government class, the first question was about the high cost of higher education, and what the government can do about it.
“It’s really bad, isn’t it?” he said. “When I went to college, it was costly, but it’s gotten even worse.”
Kinzinger said there were a few things that need to happen to control costs. First, he’d like to see colleges held accountable for how they spend money.
“It’s nice to have the biggest, the coolest gym, but if that’s adding to student fees, we need to be analyzing that,” he said.
He also said cost savings can be found by promoting community colleges or online courses, rather than having to go to a four-year school right off the bat. He also suggested the government make more student loans and student aid available and to have low-interest rates and fair repayment plans.
“A lot of it comes down to the fact that we need to figure out how to keep costs down and maintain the high quality of education,” Kinzinger said.
Kinzinger has spoken at MCHS for the past several years, and government teacher Nicole Bolek said the school has a good relationship with the congressman.
Before the question-and-answer portion of the day, however, Kinzinger told students how he got to where he was. Even though he is a congressman now, he said, he had challenges to meet. For example, he failed out of Illinois State University at one point after getting a 0.8 grade point average his second semester.
“Let me explain what a 0.8 is; that is four Ds and an F,” he said. “Obviously, I didn’t try very hard. So, the college kicked me out.”
At the time, Kinzinger was living in Bloomington, and after failing out of school he said he went to work in a furniture department store. He said the six months he worked there were some of the best and, after ISU let him in again, he had straight As the rest of his academic career.
“I usually don’t tell people this story, but I think it’s important for you to see what people who get to somewhere go through and things you can learn from challenges,” he said.
A Minooka student asked if there were any plans to address the recent college admissions scandals, where wealthy people were charged with crimes in schemes to bribe school administrators and coaches to get their kids accepted.
“It’s wrong. If you come from a rich family, you should not be able to buy your child’s entrance into a university,” Kinzinger said. “When it comes to universities, people should compete on their merits.”
He said lawmakers are just getting a grip on the situation, but he supported passing new laws or regulations if it were necessary.
As for President Donald Trump’s proposed budget that suggests cutting spending for education, Kinzinger cautioned against overreacting to such draft proposals.
“Don’t take budgets too seriously,” he said.
Lots of people propose budgets, but the president cannot appropriate money, that’s the role of congress, he said.
The Minooka students were not only concerned with information related to their education and future, however. One asked about the state of Illinois’ roads and whether the federal government could help.
Kinzinger said he thought infrastructure was the responsibility of the federal government and there should be more of a push for fixing roads. He said the federal gas tax is too low, as it hasn’t been increased from 15 cents a gallon since 1994.
“Infrastructure is essential to economic growth,” he said.
But he also cautioned it wasn’t the federal government’s responsibility to fix the state government’s mismanagement.