This Is The Kind Of Waste We Need To Eliminate, And The Advocate Celebrates It

There’s a really heartwarming story the Baton Rouge Advocate ran over the weekend about a local woman who graduated from LSU over the weekend.

For the sixth time, which is quite an accomplishment.

For thousands of LSU students, graduation this weekend will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But for Sharon Pol, it will be a sixth-in-a-lifetime experience.

Pol, 72, will add a master’s degree in liberal arts to the five LSU degrees she had already acquired over 50 years, starting with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1971.

Hey, that’s awesome. Six degrees! Sharon Pol is one highly-educated woman, for sure.

Six college degrees seems awfully expensive, though.

It turns out that this last one wasn’t expensive at all – at least, not for Sharon Pol. For you, though, well…

By 1986, Pol had her fourth degree and was able to retire with more than two decades of educational experience. She had time on her hands and was only 30 credit hours away from earning a doctorate in educational administration and research.

So she figured she might as well keep going to school.

“It took me seven years to get the PhD,” Pol said. “And that was 25 years ago.”

Pol said that of all six degrees, the doctorate proved to be the most difficult.

“Classwork is easy,” she said. “I like to go to school, but it took me the whole seven years to do class and to write the dissertation.”

With all of her experience — and five degrees — in tow, Pol went on to become the executive director of the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center after volunteering at one of their fundraising events. Pol said the center, which helps children and their families by providing child-focused services after they experience violent crime, physical abuse or sexual abuse, ended up being her most fulfilling job.

After taking a few classes for fun following retirement from the Children’s Advocacy Center in 2021, Pol said the ability to take most of the courses online — and a little tuition help from the Council on Aging — pushed her to earn a master’s in liberal arts as her sixth LSU degree.

“The Council on Aging pays for tuition for anybody over 65 and so I wanted to take some fun classes,” she said. “Not even particularly for a grade or anything, just fun classes. But then, I started taking the classes and said if I’m going to take them and get a grade, I might as well get a degree.”

No offense to Mrs. Pol, who didn’t create the opportunity to collect college degrees for free and ought to be lauded for her resourcefulness in pursuing her hobby, but this is insane.

Why are tax dollars flowing through Councils on Aging to pay for senior citizens to attend college? What indispensable societal goals are met with that decision?

We’re not saying seniors shouldn’t take college classes. If you’re interested enough in a subject that you want to take college classes in it, or even to pursue a degree in it, good for you.

But public dollars should be spent on public purposes, and public investment in higher education has a specific purpose, which is to train a productive workforce for jobs a society needs to fill – and the payoff comes in taxes that workforce will pay as they earn handsome salaries.

You get none of that paying for retired senior citizens who will put none of that training to use.

Sharon Pol is retired, and her passion is school. That’s a perfectly cool thing for her to do. But the point of retirement is that you’ve racked up savings that you can then spend doing what you want to do.

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One would think she could have paid her own tuition. For a sixth degree. After she’d already gotten a PhD. Instead you paid for it.

Louisiana’s state budget is $46 billion. Millions of that goes to Councils on Aging across the state to pay for this.

How is that not waste? How are we better off paying for this when people are getting shot in the streets multiple times a day, the roads are full of potholes, people are leaving the state in droves thanks to our poor economy and worse tax climate and the kids who are supposed to be getting education and training with our tax dollars are barely learning anything?

It’s embarrassing. And it shows up in the Advocate like this is just the coolest thing on earth.

We saw a survey taken a few weeks ago in which one of the questions asked of the Louisiana voters polled was whether they think they’re getting good value for their tax dollars in this state. The numbers were so massively lopsided toward the negative you’d be shocked.

Or maybe you wouldn’t, given stories like this.

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