Bill would cover two years of college

West Virginia has the lowest education attainment in the nation, by far. Bachelor’s degrees or higher are held by fewer than one in five Mountain State residents 25 years of age or older, according to the Census Bureau.

Cost is one factor, though there are many others. Community and technical colleges have helped, for obvious reasons. One is that it is far cheaper to go to college for two years than for four.

But even two years in class beyond high school is a strain for many families in our state. Something ought to be done about that.

A measure moving through the Legislature now, Senate Bill 1, could help. It is the pet project of state Senate President Mitch Carmichael, who points out many two-year degrees provide in-demand training for jobs at good pay.

SB 1 would cover tuition for two years of community or technical college for eligible applicants. “Eligible” means high school graduates who have lived in West Virginia for at least a year, and who agree to taking drug tests each semester while they are in school. In addition, they would have to stay in the Mountain State for at least two years after receiving their degrees, or pay back the tuition money.

How good a bill is SB 1? Good enough that it was approved unanimously by the state Senate. Democrats and Republicans, who seldom seem to agree on anything, were united in believing the bill, if enacted, will help many West Virginians. It also should be a boost to the state’s economy.

Now, SB 1 is being debated in the House of Delegates. There, it has critics. One referred to it as an “entitlement.”

Well, for a certain class of Mountain State residents, it is just that. It is an entitlement for those who have persevered to earn their high school diplomas, are eager for more education aimed at getting good jobs, and plan to stay in West Virginia after receiving their degrees.

Good men and women who seem to intend to help move our state forward, in other words.

SB 1 is not perfect. What, originating in the Legislature, is? But it is a good idea and should be enacted.