Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sunday Spin 3: Good rhetoric, questionable math

House Democrats are pushing a bill that would allow college students who drop out with only a semester or less to go before getting a degree to come back and finish for free.

There would be limits this largesse: They’d have to have been gone from the classroom for at least three years, so no dropping out in December and having the state pick up the tuition tab in January. They unveiled the proposal with several college presidents in tow, and the “Free to Finish” bill made it out of committee before Friday’s deadline.

It faces some tough financial questions from budget counters. There was one bit of questionable math at the unveiling that involved the proposal’s value, not its cost.

“A partial degree is infinitely less valuable than a full degree,” was Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, D-Seattle, said. 

It may be dangerous for a reporter – a profession notoriously bad at math – to pick a bone with Walkinshaw, who is a Fullbright scholar, but something can’t be infinitely less valuable. It can be very, significantly, extremely or, if one channels Donald Trump, hugely less valuable. But to be infinitely less, whatever value it had would have to be stripped away and taken down into the realm of negative unreal numbers.

The value of a partial college education may not be what it used to be, but somewhere there are stats that show it ain’t less than nothing.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

Follow Jim online: