South Carolinians go the polls today to vote in primaries and for several state office holders, and the future of school choice in the state could be substantially affected by the results. The position of state superintendent is up for grabs, with both pro‐ and anti‐market candidates. There are also several legislative primary races in which incumbent foes of parental choice are being challenged by pro‐choice candidates.
Stay tuned for an update tomorrow.
In his recent contribution to Cato Unbound, creativity guru Richard Florida argues that continued economic growth will depend on “regional, national, and global efforts to harness the creativity of each and every human being.” Fair enough. What, then, is his education policy prescription for attaining that goal? He doesn’t say –- at least, not in the aforementioned posting.
Looking for an answer, I turned to Florida's other writings, browsing them for references to “education” and “schools.”
This search quickly revealed that Florida places great emphasis on improving our education system. “What we really need in order to prepare our children for the creative economy,” he exhorts, “is a comprehensive education, something that takes them from aesthetics to algebra without pretending that the two are mutually exclusive” (Flight of the Creative Class, 2005, p. 255). He adds, “As society diversifies and specializes, more and more different kinds of education and teaching styles must be made available.”
So increased educational diversity appears to be the order of the day. Or does it?
Over at the American Prospect, Matthew Yglesias raises a question from my blog entry yesterday in which I pointed out that college tuition is rising astronomically in large part because government provides the money to pay it. Yglesias points to my observation that over the last 10 years, aid per‐student has actually grown faster than costs. He suggests that aid is therefore likely doing its job, making college more affordable by bringing aid closer to the cost of tuition.
Yglesias reaches a reasonable conclusion, but he takes one observation I made and leaps far beyond what can be surmised from it.
There are many factors that affect tuition prices, ranging from the cost of energy to rising and falling state aid to public colleges. These variables could certainly affect whether aid grows faster than college costs or vice versa in any given period. In the long term, though, it is clear that, as per‐student aid has risen, tuition too has gone up, both at rates far exceeding normal inflation.
Suppose, though, Yglesias is right and aid does eventually match costs. At the rate we’re going, would anyone want to pay the tuition bills taxpayers will be forced to fund if and when that happens? I sure wouldn’t.
It’s not the highest profile issue, but every once in a while one hears rumblings from the Ivory Tower about the exorbitant cost of academic journals.
There are, it seems, roughly a billion of these journals, and each one deals with its own microscopically narrow subject, from the Journal of Contaminant Hydrology to Husserl Studies.
According to an article in today’s Contra Costa Times, the University of California system alone spends tens of millions of dollars on such journals every year, and each year colleges get a little grumpier about the journals’ rising prices.
To combat subscription price inflation, colleges and universities are pushing for journals to switch from traditional paper to less expensive electronic formats, which is all well and good as far as it goes. It won’t, though, stop inflation in the long run; just as I wrote about tuition yesterday, journal prices skyrocket because publishers know that someone will pay for them. And who would that “someone” be? Taxpayers!
Yesterday, a House subcommittee working on the higher education portion of the 2007 federal budget approved a bill that would add $100 to the maximum Pell grant, bringing the ceiling to $4,150, and save numerous programs President Bush had slated for elimination. According to Inside Higher Ed, committee Democrats were on the warpath from the start, demanding more support for the nation’s college students:
After a few minutes of civility, House Democrats went on the attack, questioning their Republican counterparts’ commitment to helping working‐class Americans afford college education.
“Here’s the story as I see it: Families spend more to send their children to college; their costs are not frozen,” said Rep. David Obey (D‑Wis.)… “We’re not going to effectively deal with this by keeping the status quo. And this bill is worse than that. People who are supposed to be the focus wind up getting squeezed.”
Obey was right — keeping the status quo is not going to ground higher education’s skyrocketing price. But the problem is that the federal government is putting too much money into student aid, not too little! The political cycle that drives tuition is actually easy to understand: Some people complain that tuition is too high and demand that politicians make college “affordable.” Politicians, to get votes, provide student aid. Then schools, suddenly able to get more money, raise tuition. But wait, that makes college “unaffordable” again! And so it goes…
The data bear out that increases in student aid have driven tuition up. Indeed, aid has actually been increasing faster than tuition over the last ten years. According to College Board figures, between the 1995 – 96 and 2005-06 academic years, the average, inflation‐adjusted, enrollment‐weighted, cost of tuition, fees, room, and board rose 31 percent at private, four‐year institutions, and 41 percent at public, four‐year schools. Meanwhile, inflation‐adjusted aid per full‐time equivalent student — most of which came from the federal government — rose 61 percent, from $6,261 to $10,119! Tuition ballooned because politicians made sure it could… and then some!
To truly change the status quo, Congress will have to do the exact opposite of what Rep. Obey wants. It will have to cut student aid, not increase it. Unfortunately, that’s not what gets votes.
In a referendum, California voters have a rejected a scheme (Proposition 82) supported by the state teachers’ union to impose a special 1.7 percent tax on high‐income individuals to fund a government preschool program. A dangerous precedent could have been set here — that a government‐dependent special interest could rabble‐rouse a majority into the economic persecution of a minority for narrow gain. California voters soundly rejected the plan 59 – 41 in early returns.
Congratulations to California voters for keeping their preschools from becoming, well, like the rest of their schools.
Despite being the brainchild of famous director Rob Reiner, and having the support of many other Hollywood types, yesterday roughly 60 percent of California voters turned down Proposition 82, which would have provided “universal” (read: “government”) preschool for all state 4‑year‐olds.
In the past, such a touchy‐feely proposal probably would have flown through the polls. But California voters might be wising up to the fact that “warm and fuzzy” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” From the San Jose Mercury News:
Many San Jose area voters took their skepticism about the measure to the polls.
“Prop. 82 sounded really good, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized it was subject to shenanigans,” said David Yomtov, a San Jose resident who said he voted against it.
To read all about the political shenanigans and wheeling‐and‐dealing behind Proposition 82, check out the work of Lisa Snell at the Reason Public Policy Institute, who started fighting the good fight against Reiner’s initiative almost the moment it was introduced.