Phi Beta Cons

Higher Education Spending Below Radar

Why do many consider so much spending on health care a scandal but cast a blind eye on huge spending on higher education?
In part, writes Vincent Carroll, “the health-care system is studied, analyzed and dissected by a scholarly community that simply isn’t willing to apply the same critical perspective toward the institutions that sign its checks.”
To the contrary: The self-interested consensus among academics is that this country needs to spend far more on higher education.
“It takes more resources today to educate a postsecondary student than a generation ago,” writes Richard Vedder. “That is not true for most goods and services . . . . Relative to other sectors of the economy, universities are becoming less efficient, less productive, and, consequently, more costly.”
Vedder adds acerbically that “with the possible exception of prostitution, teaching is the only profession that has had absolutely no productivity advance in the 2,400 years since Socrates taught the youth of Athens.” Adding to the problem, the nonteaching staff at universities is ballooning; growing third-party payments are eroding consumer cost-consciousness (just as they have in health care); and universities lack any equivalent of the bottom line by which to measure executive performance. (Rocky Mountain News)

Candace de Russy — Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

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