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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Talking Points for Bollocks-Free Protesting: No On Fees

Some higher education leaders are trying to head off protests by saying high tuition is good for poor folks because it means high financial aid. The San Jose Mercury News greeted Protest Day by finding a few people to sing the praises of high tuition as a Robin Hood "soak the rich" scheme to save low-income students from the injustice of low tuition.

This Kool-Aid is going to take a long time to drain from the bloodstream of the body politic.  I had some fun trying when UCOP injected its version during the protests of the 32% fee hikes last November, and here's a quick recap and extension of that analysis:
  • High tuition/high aid isn't a new system: it's the system that got us here (more students working 30 hours a week in school, booming debt etc to meet annual tuition hikes 4x the rate of inflation), and California is trying to catch up.
  • High aid never covers the total cost of attendance. Students don't just pay fees. Even UC's numbers show an $11,000 gap for low-income students.  A uniquely detailed statistical study found that low-income students have higher grants, and ongoing financial gaps, and higher loans, and larger loans with each additional year in school (Bowen, Chingos, and McPherson, ch 9).
  • Fee hikes cause further public funding cuts:  doubters should read the Legislative Analyst Office's report, which states that fee revenue means last years cuts need not be reversed.
  • Public funding cuts mean poorer universities. Fee hikes replace only 1/3 of lost state money (Regent Gould's estimate), or 2% of current cuts to core operations (my estimate).
  • Poorer universities mean lower educational levels.  The most exhaustive statistical analysis of 100 years of US educational trends showed that after 1980 US attainment rates grew at half the rate that it had during the previous 30 years - exactly when "high tuition/high aid" took over private universities and many flagship publics (Goldin and Katz, e.g pp. 19, 334).
  • Lower educational levels mean lower productivity growth, more inequality, more social problems. Sound familiar? We've already been to the promised land of high tuition and high inequality. Now we're trying to get out.
  • The US had the best educated population for the first 3/4ths of the 20th century because its schooling was egalitarian. It rested on public funding, public provision, decentralization, gender neutral, open, and "forgiving" (Goldin and Katz, ch 4).  Renewed egalitarianism is the only way out and up.
We need a new public funding model for higher education. That's one of the things today's protests are about.

1 comments:

The Constructivist said...

Chris, really love your work here and in print. I'm wondering whether you think it's possible to avoid the tuition trap. I ask because here in NY the faculty-professionals union and the administration are playing chicken in the face of a budget crisis that'll reach CA dimensions in a year or 2. But the state off the debate is pretty sad. Kind of pollyanna vs. chicken little (or maybe little red riding hood vs. the boy who cried wolf). What I'm wondering is whether you have any advice to faculty and students in New York....

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