The General Assembly should make college affordable again for Virginia’s families of moderate and low income. That’s one of the best ways to help us become the Virginia we want to be.

In recent years, we’ve moved in the wrong direction, with the costs of attending college at one of our state schools having risen sharply. In less than two decades, the percentage of the educational costs borne by Virginia’s young and their families for attending the state’s colleges and universities has more than doubled.

The increased financial burden of attending college has pushed many young people into giving up on getting a college education – an education that might have given them more choices that help make them happier than they would be without it. Many others graduate under a mountain of debt that will make their lives less comfortable and their choices reduced after they get their expensive degree.

What has increased that burden on young people and their families is the choice by the General Assembly to retreat from supporting the education of our young people as Virginia had done before, for many decades.

What folly! What lack of concern for the good of our young!

“Folly” because the best way to create the Virginia we should become is to have a Virginia in which as many people as possible can fulfill their God-given potential. A society in which all make the most of the gifts they have in a society that will flourish economically, as each person brings more value to the economic marketplace.

Enabling our young to make the most of their gifts is the most powerful way of creating a prosperous future for us all. The education of our people also enhances their value to the political realm and to their communities.

Education: along with good families, it is key to molding the Virginians of the future we need. We should invest in developing the best possible public schools – not just to teach saleable skills, but also to help mold citizens of good character, with understanding of the world they live in, and with the capacity to think critically so that, as citizens, they can discriminate truth from falsehood.

It is foolish for Virginia’s legislature to let money prevent our young people from becoming all that they could be because that prevents Virginia from being all that it can be.

We should stop being penny wise and pound foolish, and make sure that our young, after high school, have access to a first rate system of education (junior college, college, university, vocational school) that brings out the best potential within them.

This is an area on which our return on investment is as good as anywhere. The money we’d invest as a state – in helping our young develop themselves in whatever way will fulfill themselves and enhance their contribution to the world around them – is negligible compared to the huge benefit to our society.

Helping people develop themselves into all they can be not only strengthens Virginia; it is also a way of making a happier society, of helping people to be more satisfied with their lives. Obviously, that’s good for them. But also, we all benefit when people become their best selves.

We’ve got to wonder about these legislators who have erected barriers to the post-secondary education of our young: are they blind to the way we’re all in this together? Are they blind to the way we all benefit from people making the most of themselves and being happy in their lives? Do they not care?

If the voters choose to have me replace Mark Obenshain in the Virginia State Senate, I will work to make sure that money will not stand in the way of anyone pursuing ways of becoming all that they can be. Having the state shoulder more of the costs of our young pursuing post-secondary education should be understood not as a cost so much as an investment.

We can see to it that those who should get more education at one of Virginia’s state colleges and universities will be able to do so.

That’s how it used to be. It worked well for Virginia. That’s how it should be again.

April Moore, a Shenandoah County resident, is running as a Democrat for the Virginia State Senate (District-26) against Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.