Of course, some people growing up here do see options.
Anna Dybro’s dad has worked for decades at John Deere. Her parents socked money away for all their kids’ college educations but Anna still wanted to make a “value” decision. She toured Urbana-Champaign. Too dirty. She checked out Northern Illinois, but was turned off by their lack of transparency about a campus shooting years ago.
She thought about going to University of Iowa. But that would have cost her $30,000 a year, she said. Staying at home, working at a restaurant in Davenport, and commuting to Western Illinois, where tuition is just $9,000, struck her as the obvious financial choice.
“I’m not a person who’s going to go into debt, I’ll tell you that,” she told us. “I’m getting a great value here so it doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice.”
Kurt Pacha, 31, spent Thursday night serving ice cream at an outdoor concert in downtown Moline. He grew up in Davenport, and wanted to stay close to home for college. So after starting at the local community college, he stuck in town to finish a bachelor’s degree at St. Ambrose.
Kurt loves living here, the low cost of living especially. It’s hard not to love a night like this. Gorgeous weather. The Candymakers, a “rock n’ soul” band, playing for hundreds of people. Kids running through the fountain. Parents eating tacos, drinking beer. No one was worried about the Quad Cities’ lack of a powerful four-year public university.
For us, though, the visit was a reminder that higher education’s impact isn’t spread evenly across the nation. There are pockets — sometimes surprising ones — where historical happenstance and political forces mean college is more on the sidelines than you’d think.