West Virginia is one step closer to providing free community college to its residents. However, the effort has received backlash from certain critics. The West Virginia state senate proposed a bill that would cover any tuition and mandatory fees that were not covered by Pell or other grants but would require prospective students to pass a drug test before each semester to qualify.
While advocates for the legislation say the bill offers a pathway toward success for West Virginians, critics believe it wrongfully targets drug addicts in a state that has been devastated by the national opioid crisis, and that it’s also unfair when drug use is so rampant among college students.
Nathan M. Sorber, an assistant professor at West Virginia University, believes the bill is counterproductive to those trying to get their lives back on track.
“Getting into college itself can be a part of the road to recovery,” Sorber said.
Unfortunately, there’s more to college than just getting accepted. Students must be committed to learning new skills, and drug addiction gets in the way of that.
Why shouldn’t West Virginia protect what amounts to an $8 million investment of taxpayer money? Private philanthropists are able to request a drug test from candidates if they feel it is necessary, so why shouldn’t a publicly funded entity be able to do the same?
Opioids have been disastrous for West Virginia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people have overdosed and died from opioids in West Virginia than in any other state in the nation: 52.0 per 100,000. An investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that in a period of a decade, nearly 21 million prescription painkillers have been delivered to a small town in West Virginia alone.
West Virginia should be concerned about the recovery of its drug abusers, but there are more effective and less financially-risky ways to get them on the road to recovery. The state has to be cautious about how it invests taxpayer dollars. The people of West Virginia want to know that their taxes are being spent on those who are fully committed to their future, not addicts who might be more concerned about their next fix.
Brendan Pringle (@BrendanPringle) is a freelance journalist in California. He is a National Journalism Center graduate and formerly served as a development officer for Young America's Foundation at the Reagan Ranch.