Phi Beta Cons

The Public Good Is a Shaky Foundation for More Funding

The days when state governments blindly shoveled piles of money into their higher education systems are over. The academic establishment is scrambling to justify why they should continue to receive continued largesse. One of the most common reasons they give is the economic development argument: universities drive state economies through innovative research and training high skill workers, so give the universities more money.

Also popular is the “higher education as public good” argument. More investment in higher education, the argument goes, will produce many “goods” such as lower crime, better health, and so on, so give universities more money.

George Leef takes the public goods argument to task, showing that it relies heavily on the correlation between higher education and the absence of social pathologies while ignoring the lack of evidence of causation.  

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