Our prompt for this week is to write about one thing we think should change in higher education, and the first thing I thought about was public funding. We have talked in class a good deal about how public funding for higher education has deteriorated over the past several years and as a result, tuition has skyrocketed. Of course, the cost of tuition may be dictated by a number of factors (it has skyrocketed at private universities as well) so it might be a difficult problem to tackle directly. Public funding on the other hand is more straightforward, and it’s been on the downswing lately. A quick look at this Chronicle of Higher Education article shows how public funding is a much smaller share of public university budgets than it used to be: http://www.chronicle.com/interactives/statesupport
I think that as our economy continues to develop and becomes more automated in the future, higher education will become even more important than it is today. There are probably a lot of things that universities/colleges need to do to adapt to that future, but they’re going to have a hard time doing much of anything if they continue to lose state support. Research needs to continue on as well, if we are to tackle the problems of climate change, new diseases, etc., and it will also be well-served by public funding.
Higher education and research definitely provide private benefits to those that acquire them (individual students and firms), but they provide public benefits as well. If our workforce is well educated, our economy will be more productive and innovative, and fewer people are likely to need public services. The same goes for research of many different kinds. For these reasons, higher education should get a good deal of public funding.
Policy makers, as well as the public who votes for them, need to realize the importance of funding for higher education. Without it, our educational system will have difficulty making positive changes and progress in the future.