Bailing Out Stupidity

September/05/2010 16:33PM
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California keeps begging Washington for financial aid. Sooner or later they will get some help. It’s just another form of redistributing the wealth.

We tend not to look at education as a way of redistributing wealth. But, why have college tuition’s gone up so much during a financial downturn? Students who qualify for loans and come from families who can pay, pay tuition. This cash flow enables scholarships for students from low income families. The bar for getting scholarship help keeps getting raised. By doing that, it assures that only the poor get scholarships and educational aid. But, by raising tuition to do that, it puts pressure on students and families who are paying tuition or getting loans.

Meanwhile, upper level universities hoard cash and ignore expenses since they have an inelastic product. At almost any price they get to pick from hundreds of applications. Elite country clubs used to be able to do that. But, the recent economy has ended that. Clubs with eight-year waiting lists now cut initiation fees and dues to get members. Will it ever be that way in the elite universities? Will they find the tuition ceiling?

The entire educational system in this country is a mess. The government keeps throwing money at it, no child left behind and race to the top, but it keeps getting worse. Like most things that are run by the government or board members who have little experience running anything(see: community organizer becomes president), they make bad decisions.

The classic example: the Robert F. Kennedy Learning Center in California, the state of bad ideas. Built for a mere $578 million or, $140,000 per student, it’s a monument to something. Maybe Robert F. Kennedy, or to prove an inner city school is the most expensive in the world, or to the fools who run the budget, or to the 3,000 teachers who were laid off because the district is $640 million in the red. Or, just to liberal politics, hence the Kennedy name.

The school, despite the cost, will continue to produce sub-par test scores. Bricks and mortar don’t substitute for bad processes. Bad teachers, low expectations, and no accountability. The annual upkeep will be millions, since the school will be trashed by 2011.

Why do the people of California tolerate this? Any bit of common sense says this is a bad idea.

Why do all the people of this country let the universities hose them on tuition? For profit universities are coming on strong. In a matter of time, they will have accreditation’s as high or higher than many top level universities. How? Because those top-level universities are resting on their laurels. Most professors, particularly the highest-paid, don’t really teach. I expect there will be more choices, like Hillsdale College in Michigan, that advertise they are conservative colleges.

The entire educational system is failing us from top to bottom. Without young people who can compete in a global economy we will fall behind and lose jobs.

Is there anyone who can fix this problem? It’s hard, you have unions, tenure, ingrained resistance to change, and little help from some parents. It won’t be fixed by building more $578 million dollar high schools, that I know.

Comment: Doug Gordon

True, true, true.

Here is Massachusetts we have “Newton North High”, at only around $200 million. Because of the smaller town sizes, we do get $112,875 per pupil, but I guess we’re still just California wannabes.

Back in 2008, out of curiosity, I tried to do a personal spin on college tuition inflation. I attended the state school, University of New Mexico for my undergraduate degree. In the spring of 1974 my tuition and fees for the semester were $200. (I like to tell that story in the Tufts University dental/law book store I frequent for my mid day soda purchase when the students are dropping $200 on a couple books these days).

So, using best numbers I could find, this is what I came up with:

Cost of a galllon of gasoline – 7.4 times higher (this was at the time of $4/gallon gas)
Cost of typical new car – 7.7 times higher
Cost of a new house – 6.5 times higher (maybe less now the bubble has burst)
Cost of books at UNM – 4.0 times higher
Change in US median income – 3.6 times higher

And the winner:

Cost of UNM tuition and fees – 25.5 tiimes higher

(This number also basically parallels the inflation in medical care costs as well.)

How exactly incomes rising 3.6 times justifies tuitions rising 25+ times is beyond my limited capacity to understand, but I’m sure the government will explain it to us all as they re-distribute the income to the liberal loons that infest higher education instutions.

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