Our Voice: Thumbs up to Leadership Tri-Cities Class XVIII

Members of Leadership Tri-Cities Class XVIII left a legacy that will help generations of veterans transition to civilian life.

Class members raised $16,600 for major upgrades to the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition's student veteran home, but they also invested considerable sweat equity in the project.

The effort included new landscaping, an updated kitchen, remodeling a downstairs room into a study area and dividing one large bedroom into two, for a total of five.

Homeless veterans -- men and women -- can apply to the coalition to live in the 2,300-square-foot house for up to two years if they're enrolled in college.

With the help of donated materials, the project came in under budget. The $9,000 in savings was given to the coalition as seed money for another group home.

Leadership Tri- Cities is an educational, nonprofit program, in which graduates are challenged to be catalysts for positive change in the community. There's a new class each year and each chooses a project to improve the community.

Family feud

Thumbs up to the Robitaille family of Kahlotus for their willingness to serve the rural Franklin County community.

Molly Robitaille of Kahlotus is one of three women running for at-large Position 2 on the council in the rural northeastern Franklin County city.

Also in the race are Sharee Beckner, recently appointed to the council to fill a vacancy, and Marcia Robitaille, mother of Molly's husband, Michael.

And for good measure, Michael is running for the at-large Position 3 council seat against incumbent Scott Williams.

It's common for small-town political races to draw a single candidate, and almost as common for no one to file for an open seat.

Thanks to the Robitaille family, Kahlotus voters will have plenty of choices to make this year. That's good for the community.

Michael Robitaille told the Herald that he hasn't yet decided whether he will vote for his wife or his mother.

We can't imagine that there's a bigger fan of the secret ballot than Michael.

Sticker shock

Thumbs down to the rising cost of college tuition.

Watching year after year of increases already had most of us worried about pricing deserving students out of the market, but a new study provides some insight into just how tough it can be to pay for college.

The study, which analyzed data from the 2010-11 school year, found the full cost of attending college minus scholarships can be frighteningly high for families that make $30,000 a year or less.

Many public colleges and universities expect their poorest students to pay a third, half or even more of their families' annual incomes each year for college, according to a recent report for the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan group that examines the effects of rising inequality and other trends.

Public four-year schools in Washington were in the middle of the pack nationally when it came to net costs for low-income students. Federal data shows that Washington State University had the highest net price at $9,810, while the University of Washington came in at the lowest at $6,128.

WSU challenged some of the statistics on file with the federal government on tuition and attendance costs that were used in the study.

No deserving student should assume higher education is out of reach. WSU and other schools help students obtain federal Pell Grants and other financial aid.

WSU also has the Cougar Commitment, College Bound and other programs that can help fill in any gap that remains.

The numbers are disturbing, but don't give up.