There exists a great tension in keeping education affordable and providing quality instruction. At the collegiate level, affordability is a significant factor affecting retention. Yet, the fact is not everybody is a suitable candidate for traditional colleges. Even among those who are suitable for college, there is often a lot of indecision that wastes both time and money. Therefore, I propose a system where businesses receive a dollar for dollar credit for the educational expenses of their workers provided that they give part time employment while the student completes their studies and will give the student a fair chance at post-graduation employment. This benefit would be given for any workplace skill the employer can justify the additional training expenses for. This will help solve the post-graduation employment reality and remove the incentive from colleges to admit poorly qualified students just for the tuition money.
As far as improving the quality of education in K-12, I am a big believer in the magnet concept as I personally went to a magnet middle school. The way my magnet operated was that the school district set up their buses in a network of hubs so that students could go to a school specializing in their interests even if they were not within the enrollment boundary. Sure, some students had really long bus rides, but they were better able to pursue their interests at a crucial time int their lives. Originally, the magnet programs required a B average and no major behavior problems to remain eligible. Students were selected for the magnets by a lottery system so that the additional resources could be used regardless of race, gender, or economic status. The magnet students all had overnight field trips available provided students did enough fundraising or had the financial means to pay the fees. The magnet programs counted as electives but the scheduling allowed high school length science classes. Now, I do realize the model I have just described is expensive and better suited for larger cities. However, I feel that all but the smallest of schools should try to implement some sort of magnet program where a math class is taught with more examples from science or a history class taught more through the analysis of art.
As far as helping marginal students graduate, I’d like to see more practical instruction. For instance, a basic algebra class should be offered in a format where students have to beat the store by solving equations. Chemistry might be offered alongside a cooking class. I’d also make online course equivalents available in high schools since some students may be forced to drop out to support their parents or they have had kids early and need to support them. Bullying is also a factor which is why online courses are so important.