As state legislatures around the country start cutting budgets, they face a puzzler—what is the proper subsidy (if any) for higher education?The CSU and UC systems have raised tuition each year, and sometimes even mid-year, much higher than the rate of inflation. When they do, students in those systems raise quite the stink--acting as if they're entitled to a low-cost education. I'm willing to listen to arguments that say that California's master plan for education, now 50 years old, could use some adjustments.
The answer to this question may hinge on another: whether higher education can be considered a “public good.” Two writers for the Chronicle of Higher Education recently weighed in on the issue. Sandy Baum, an economist, and Michael McPherson, a former college president, say that education is partly a route to a job and to personal satisfaction and therefore a private good, something that most individuals should pay for themselves. But they argue that it is also a public good—they do not want state legislatures to shirk their responsibility to support education.
I have a rather iconoclastic take on this question, one that I shared recently in an article in Independent Review. Perhaps higher education, as currently provided, is indeed a public good—but a bad one.
Friday, February 04, 2011
Is Higher Education a Public or a Private Good?
This is an interesting opener: