Revolution in the streets
Two days of my holiday were spent in the lovely city of Madrid. We witnessed there, just outside our hotel, the now daily mass demonstrations against the austerity cuts in Spain. Spain is no Greece, but it has been hit particularly hard because their banks over-extended themselves in silly, unsecured loans that drove mainly the construction industry. Now public servants such as teachers, civil servants, and health workers are being told their salaries and pensions will be cut, and there will be reduced funding for post-secondary education, in order to pay off the massive debt the government has occurred in bailing out their banks. As Gordon Gekko, the character played by Michael Douglas says in ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’: ‘This is the perfect solution: privatize the profits and nationalize the losses.’
Change the rules
Meanwhile, the British government, having increased undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000 ($14,000) a year resulting in a 30% drop in enrolment applications in England and Wales, is also planning to make it harder for children to pass the school exams, thus reducing the ‘demand’ for higher education even further (under 40% of a cohort in Britain currently go on to post-secondary education – Ontario is currently at 63% and aiming for 70%). I care about this because I have four British grandchildren, and a son and daughter-in-law who are professors in a British public university.
Don’t pay taxes
Then I read the following:
National Science Board (2012) Diminishing funding and rising expectations: trends and challenges for public research universities Washington DC: National Science Board.
The NSB ‘supervises the collection of a very broad set of policy-neutral, quantitative information about U.S. science, engineering, and technology.’ It found:
- State support for public research universities fell 20 percent between 2002 and 2010, after accounting for inflation and increased enrollment
- Ten states saw support fall 30 percent or more
- State funding has fallen from 38 percent of university budgets two decades ago to 23 percent now
- Many are losing their best faculty to private institutions
- Tuition increases in response to the budget cuts threaten the affordable access students have enjoyed
- Private universities increased spending on teaching 25 percent over the same period, and now spend more than twice as much per student on teaching as their public counterparts
- Revitalizing public research universities requires action from a range of players — more funding from Washington, more autonomy from states if they won’t maintain funding levels, and more productivity from universities themselves.
Of course, if you refuse to pay for or vote for state taxes, then the state can’t support public universities.