Providence Moms Blog recently had a “Mom Poll” on Facebook that asked about people’s favorite diaper brands. One mom responded, “If I were a rich woman, I would buy Pampers.” I have been thinking a lot about that answer, because I do not by any stretch of the imagination consider myself a rich woman, yet I buy Pampers almost exclusively. So that comment got me wondering why I had never once considered that Pampers could be a luxury for one family when it was simply just another necessary purchase for mine.
I think I may have figured it out. On one hand, we are currently a one income family. That one income certainly does not put us in a tax bracket that will lead to Caribbean vacations or a house with a two car garage anytime soon. But on the other hand, my husband and I never had something that many of our peers do: college loan debt. Through a combination of hard work (our own and our parents), luck, and circumstance, we both graduated debt free. And as a young family starting out, not having that kind of overwhelming debt has allowed us to make choices we might not otherwise have had the luxury to make. I like to believe that we are responsible with our money. We do not take extravagant vacations and we stopped paying for cable years ago. But we buy Pampers. We always have a fruit basket full of fresh produce for our children. When we recently had our third child, we decided that I would take a little extra time out of work to make the adjustment easier for all of us. And instead of writing a check to Sallie Mae, we’re building up college savings accounts for our own children. I’m not sure we would have the breathing room to make these kinds of choices if we were saddled with college debt.
Last Thursday, Rhode Island became the fourth state in the US to make community college tuition free with the enactment of The Promise Scholarship. The four year pilot program will cover the tuition and fees at the Community College of Rhode Island for Rhode Island residents who have graduated high school the previous semester, regardless of their income. What a tremendous gift to the young people of Rhode Island!
In the very best of circumstances, being a young parent is hard work. And I would not consider having massive college debt the best of circumstances. For me, the ability to buy diapers that don’t leak overnight makes parenting a little easier. And for many young people in Rhode Island, the Promise Scholarship will do more than just allow them to buy expensive diapers at some future date. It will be the means that allows them to go to college in the first place. As a mother, I see this as a worthwhile investment in the youth of Rhode Island. It is a step in the right direction and an important statement from the state government that the economic future and well being of our children matter. And one day, when and if they decide to become parents, I hope these students will have the same breathing room to focus on the future of their children that I have been lucky enough to have.