Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Good Conversation on the Costs of College

Is it unjust that people who don't go to college pay taxes to subsidize the education of those who do? It's an idea that I've been working through since some gentle prompting from frequent commentator JL, and this post at the Chronicle of Higher Education's blog speaks directly to the point.

You could argue that since we have a need for college educated workers, it's right that we pay what we do. On the other hand, we don't need more Humanities majors, which leads to a legitimate argument that the state shouldn't subsidize those who pursue those degrees that don't serve a larger societal purpose. That's a tough line to draw, though.

It relates, too, to an article in the January 9th 2009 Chronicle of Higher Education written by Ron Knecht, a trustee in the Nevada college system. The big finish:

At the same time, however, we in education should embrace the current budget challenges as an opportunity to begin, out of necessity, to do the things we should have been doing all along. We should reorient our efforts, change operational models, lower costs, improve our product, and be more responsive to our changing markets.

We must shed the barnacles that have accumulated on our ships of educational enterprise and become efficient competitors. We should not waste time and opportunity looking backward and pining for how things used to be.
The first big step I've seen out of the Washington college system is the UofW limiting the number of spring enrollees at the Seattle campus; it'll be very interesting indeed to see what the other Universities do to follow suit.

Update: Also on the topic of financial efficiency at the higher ed level, this commentary from William Massy of Stanford is worth a read.

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