College Costs and Other Sharp Bites

COMMENT

June 18, 1995|By MIKE BURNS

Graduation marked a new passage for nearly 2,000 Harford County high school seniors this month, more than two-thirds of whom are on their way to college as the next stop in their life's adventure.

To ease their journey to that way station, school officials proudly announced at commencement ceremonies for the nine public high schools scholarship awards for these youngsters of more than $12 million.

Twelve million dollars! It's a cause for celebration in the academic achievement of our youth. But perhaps also a cause for bemoaning the astronomical cost of college today. If the scholarships were divided evenly among all Harford grads (including those not intending to matriculate), the awards would average about $6,000 -- enough for four years of tuition at Harford Community College, or about one-quarter the cost of one year at an Ivy League institution.

(Graduates of private John Carroll High were awarded another $2.2 million, with 98 percent of the 144 grads going on to higher education.)

Now the numbers aren't exact, and they include multiple scholarships offered a single student. Some kids get scholarship offers from several schools, and can only accept one. Whether a student actually accepts an announced scholarship and attends college, or whether the college actually pays out the award, are also unknown variables.

But the amount of money is encouraging in that it will enable increasing numbers of young men and women the chance at higher education. It's help that is ever more necessary. Fewer youngsters nationwide are able to attend college on their own, without some help from scholarships, loans and campus employment. Tuition rises keep outstripping the cost-of-living rate.

The percentage of Harford County public school grads planning to attend college has stayed at a relatively high level of about 70 percent over the last four years, up from 62 percent in 1990, according to the county school system's annual surveys.

About half those continuing their education plan to attend Harford Community College, which continues to attract the highest rate of local graduates among Maryland community colleges. (More Harford grads eventually end up enrolling at HCC than indicate they will do so in the school survey.)

The number of kids applying for college admission, and for college scholarships, has jumped considerably over the past 30 years, notes Donald R. Morrison, the Harford schools information director. This year, 57 percent of all Harford County seniors took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) that is required for application to many U.S. colleges and universities. In 1965, only about 10 percent took that national standardized test, he said.

We congratulate all the new graduates, whatever their next destination, and wish them Godspeed. You make us proud.

*

"DON'T bite the hand that serves you." That's not a message for Father's Day. It was meant for last week, which you probably didn't notice was National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

Promoters of the observance, you may have guessed, are the U.S. Postal Service and the Humane Society of the United States.

Last year, dogs put the bite on 2,700 letter carriers. All told, more than 2 million dog bites are reported in this country each year. To say nothing of the untold numbers of nips and gnashes that get dismissed with alcohol and a Band-Aid.

In Harford County, 345 dog bites were recorded last year. It's a serious problem that requires the attention of dog owners and the public. The dog bite prevention sponsors offer the following tips:

Owners are advised to keep dogs away from the door when the postman (or other visitor) calls; to prevent children from taking mail from the letter carrier in the dog's sight (provoking a protective attack); to neuter dogs and give them obedience training. To which list we would add, give the dog required rabies vaccinations to prevent tragedy if it should bite someone.

To avoid being bitten, don't run past a dog; let a dog see and sniff you (check you out) before petting the animal; don't approach a strange dog; if a dog threatens you, don't scream, try to remain motionless until the dog leaves; and avoid eye contact.

Harford has 10,600 dogs licensed, and the number is growing: a year ago, the figure was 8,600. County dog licenses are up for renewal next month; $5 or $10 a year, depending on whether dog is neutered, with senior citizens paying half price.

The fine for letting a pet dog run loose ranges from $20 to $75 and hasn't changed in recent years. So that can't be the cause for the sharp rise in numbers of canine licensees in the county. Free roaming dogs can do more than bite humans. They can kill livestock, too.

At a County Council meeting this month, two farmers presented petitions for compensation for loss of cattle allegedly killed by stray dogs. That's part of the county code, although the council has grumbled in recent years about this quaint obligation to livestock welfare.

The legislators turned down a claim by one Jarrettsville farmer who said she lost three animals to roving dogs, but awarded $250 to another farmer who claimed the loss of a cow. However, the council does not provide compensation for humans bitten by unleashed dogs. So, cave canem, as the Romans used to say.

Mike Burns is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Harford County.

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