In a recent visit to Eastern Kentucky University, Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton voiced a central tenet of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, best summed up as: I’ve got mine; you’re on your own.
Like so many who espouse an anti-government form of rugged individualism, Hampton seems blissfully unaware of how much she has benefited from opportunities provided by others, mainly taxpayers.
And now that she’s climbed the ladder of opportunity, she seems to want to pull it up behind her.
In defending Gov. Matt Bevin’s cuts to higher education during an interview with The Eastern Progress, Hampton said: “But if you say college is a right, what you’re saying is somebody must provide that. The taxpayers must provide that. Those of us who go to work must give part of their earnings to put you through college, and I disagree with that. It is not a right, it is a privilege.”
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In the same interview, Hampton, without a hint of self irony, recounted how she worked her way through college with help from “grants and scholarships and later the GI Bill.”
Hampton, 57, earned her undergraduate degree at Wayne State University, a public university that voters brought into Michigan’s system of taxpayer-supported higher education in 1959, the year after Hampton was born. She served seven years in the U.S. Air Force — also supported by taxpayers — becoming a computer systems officer and gaining experience that boosted her later career in the corrugated packaging industry. She earned an MBA with help from the taxpayer-supported GI Bill.
Her advice to students’ worried about spiraling tuition: “There are other schools. You know, let’s inject some competition in there. If you guys decided, ‘hey you know what I think the tuition is too high here,’ and if enough people decided tuition was too high and started actually shopping your dollars, what do you think will happen? Tuition comes down.”
The students explained that Kentucky has no four-year colleges with lower costs than Eastern.
Hampton advised students to seek a degree in an area where graduates are in demand, saying, “ I would not be studying history.”
If she did study history, she would learn that this country’s middle class and many of the 20th century’s great scientific and technological breakthroughs were built on taxpayer support for higher education.
An earlier version of this editorial included a quote attributed to Hampton that should have been attributed to the staff of The Eastern Progress.