Phi Beta Cons

The Academy and Economic Myths

Mal Kline provides two provocative pieces on the topic.

In the first he cites economist Richard Vedder, who takes a contrarian stance on the commonly held view that higher education produces economic growth. “Expenditures by state governments on higher education do not have a positive result in economic growth,” states Vedder. “The evidence suggests the opposite.” Vedder relates a yet more contrarian opinion offered by Milton Friedman:   

“When I asked [him, Friedman], who said [in an earlier book], libertarian that he was, that we should be funding universities, about this, he said, ‘I’m beginning to think that’s right [that we shouldn’t be subsidizing higher education] and maybe we should be taxing universities.’”

In the second, Kline blames ballooning tuitions on high-spending campus administrators and what Vedder (again cited) labels the “’country-clubbing’” of the university – all aided and abetted by increased federal funds:

Of all the myths that the higher education establishment has perpetuated, perhaps none is more pervasive, or contributes as much to the preservation of the status quo, as the notion that the blame for tuition hikes lay somewhere other than the central offices of universities.
…the federal government is moving to increase its support. Margaret Spellings, the U. S. Secretary of Education, has moved to raise the amount the feds confer in Pell grants and the new Democratic Congress is trying to increase the funding of rural colleges by about a half a billion dollars in earmarks.
“The ‘country clubbing’ of the university is all being financed with this,” Dr. Vedder said. “Who knows where the money goes—athletic programs, climbing walls?”


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