Federal-State Partnership? Or Extortion?

In a post in these pages last week, I mentioned president Robert Duffett of small Eastern University making a pitch that Hillary Clinton’s “free” college tuition proposals be expanded to include private schools, not just public colleges and universities. Eastern, of course, is private and would benefit greatly from this enhancement to the Clinton program.

Now comes F. King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University, to opine in The Washington Post that the real cause of spiraling tuition is that states have cut back on their own subsidies to the public system, and the schools have had to hike tuition to remain solvent. He has an answer, though, and it’s fairly straightforward. King contends that we need a federal-state partnership that “leverages federal dollars to incentivize states to maintain a base level of funding for their public colleges and universities.” Pretty simple — if states do not cough up a specified level of funding, the federal dollars disappear, and presumably are allocated to more compliant states. Some would call this extortion. In fact, so would I.

The arguments by King at LSU, and Duffett at Eastern, struck me as odd in another way. In begging for more federal and state dollars, why don’t they at least pay lip service to the need for their institutions to do their part, by cutting costs? Businesses do this every day to remain competitive, but the concept doesn’t seem to have found much of a foothold in the academy.

But this is understandable if one considers that the funds are being requested from government bureaucracies, and politicians don’t have the words “cost cuts” in their operating manual, either. With few exceptions, the federal and state budget process is an exercise in deriving increased tax revenue to fund increasingly expensive government programs. State cuts to public higher education run counter to this general trend, and King’s immediate response is to fight back, to compel increased funding through the threat of withholding federal dollars.

Since government policy makers and bureaucrats seldom talk about true cost reductions (real decreases, not decreases in the rate of growth), why should the presidents of these schools even go there? Better to remain as long as possible in this parallel universe, where all that matters is revenue from the taxpayers. Eastern’s president looks for “new” federal dollars, LSU’s president wants to use existing federal dollars as a cudgel against state lawmakers who would dare to reduce funding.

Vic Brown — Vic Brown had a thirty-year career in the chemical industry with FMC Corporation, where he held senior positions and worked internationally in sales, marketing, manufacturing, information technology and procurement.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More