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Support for Higher Education

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Jeff Madrick argues for more aid to higher education.

the case for investing in higher education is stronger than ever. We of course all know some people with a great education who earn a lot less than their peers with a lesser one. But the gaps in average income between those with degrees and those without are enormous. And the more education the better. The median annual income for men with graduate degrees was more than $66,300, more than twice the high school graduate's earnings.

In this essay, I cited Richard Vedder's arguments against state subsidies for higher education. His argument is that the benefits of higher education are primarily private, as opposed to social, and that subsidies do not make college more accessible to the poor.

For Discussion. Does Madrick address any of the issues raised by Vedder, or vice-versa?

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COMMENTS (7 to date)
Lawrance George Lux writes:

I agree with Vedder's basic thesis that subsidies are the main driving force behind escalating Education costs. I do not believe his plan for sculpted Vouchers for the Poor is workable. I have an alternative plan(actually based upon the theory of Chinese Reeducation Camps, without the loss of Civil Liberties).

There should be a Law-mandated freeze on Administration hiring for all colleges and Universities. Students would be mandated to work four hours a day, at whatever Administration deems they are best suited--those who finish early must attain a mandatory Study hall. The Student labor would cut Administrative and Maintenance costs to a minimum, while giving Students training in primary basic labor skills. Most institutions could cut their $30m a year Administrative cost to around $2m per year. Additional savings could be attained by use of Graduate students to correct Tests and Papers, and provide all Tutoring facilities as part of their work. This would save an additional $4m a year, for most institutions with Enrollees in excess of 20,000.

The Law would state all Savings from the Work/Study program must go to reducing Tuition costs, none being used for Construction costs--held to be the responsibility of the institution. lgl

Theo Lekkas writes:

I'll assume you are joking, but in case you are not are we supposed to counter one bad government policy with another bad government policy that is supposed to counteract the ill effects of the first? It seems to me that the best manner to deal with the issue is to remove the state from the education business entirely. This will remove the market distortions and allow the price of education to come down over time instead of the surplus and higher prices we have now.

It also seems to me that the Madrick piece glosses over (or rather does not even address) any criticism of state sponsored or subsidized education. It is simply an argument for more money.

Theofanis Lekkas

Lawrance George Lux writes:

I was not joking! Most people do not understand that Government will interfere in anything which provides too great a problem for too many. The law I proposed was circular injunction law, by which I mean it was up to the Courts to enforce, and then only upon complaints. Real economies of scale could be realized, and the experience would be both Instructive and profitable to the Students in the long run. lgl

Theofanis Lekkas writes:

If this approach failed miserably in the Cultural Revolution, why would it succeed now?
The problem with policies of this nature is that in order to correct the previous market distortion they further distort the market. As an MBA student, I can not work four hours a day at administrative duties (I would hope you want exemptions for night students.) The reduction in cost and compensation I would receive would end up being a net loss to the economy and would significantly reduce my standard of living. You are also neglecting the fact that many students have part time jobs, outside of school, to help them offset the cost of their educations (regardless of loans, scholarships, and grants.) Furthermore, if you remove the freedom students now have to choose whether or not to work, and where they can work, you build a disincentive into the system. The cost of going to school will increase, maybe not in tuition fees at first, but at least in opportunity costs.
I also would argue with the notion that this policy would be profitable for students. When I was an undergrad. I knew many students that had better paying jobs off campus than those that existed on campus. I was a work study student, I know my compensation vs. friends who were not on work study (and worked off campus) was less than. What a system of this type does is strip away the ability of students to make the decision which job is more profitable and whether or not it behooves them to be employed while they are in school. This would strip freedoms away from students they now enjoy. Whether or not the system is voluntarily enforced does not mean it is a good system. It is not possible for academics and bureaucrats to know what is the best course of action for a student to take in his life.

Theofanis Lekkas

Alex writes:

Am on record for stating that univs are archaic system. Basically is empire building and programs for full-employment to detriment of country for last thirty five years.

(I never have been able to get why people can't just read, think, and apply. Really dumbos not to be able to--or given pablum.) Univ ed is wasted on the too young, too inexperienced, and clueless. (over emphasis on youth has been ruining the country since Vietnam era) Univ. education should be part-time as well as staff. "Learnings" should take years over more years, with book learnings on part-time basis, and with years of apprentice, intern programs.

Also, think National Guard type training and skills should be required for all citizens (in order to be able to protect the country and for some other reasons).

Lawrance George Lux writes:

Your argument sounds good, but you are actually reducing market imperatives. Collegiate subsistence has to be maintained, at a cost to the Student in the form of tuition. Administration should opt for the most Cost-effective labor attainable, while you commentary about off-campus labor simply states Administrative policy should underwrite financially Students working off-campus. You suggest it would strip Students of some economic rights, it does not; Students would still have the right of choice to attend school or not. Administration policy would only insist that the requirements for attendance had been raised. lgl

spencer writes:

You make a lot of interesting argument that are
based on assumptions rather than data.

The GI Bill was a form of voucher in that the Student got it and could use it at any school.

Have you loked at the impact of the GI bill on the points you are making to see if it produced results similiar to what you think a voucher would? The GI Bill had massive impact on college education in the US 50 years ago. There should be some studies that provide factual arguments to support or counter your theories.

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