Public Vs. Private Universities

Posted by | June 18, 2012 19:22 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

There is a fascinating back-and-forth in Mother Jones on education reform proposals.  First, Kevin Drum suggests a rethinking of financing  higher education.

  • Public universities revert to their traditional function of providing good educations at very low cost. There’s still a role for direct federal aid here, but it’s a small one. For the most part, states would fund their own university systems and ensure that they’re accessible to anyone who qualifies academically.
  • Private universities fund their own students, full stop. If you get accepted at Harvard, then it’s up to Harvard to provide grants or loans that make it possible for you to attend. After you graduate, you’re in hock to Harvard, not to a bank or the feds. If Harvard declines to provide adequate funding, then you don’t go to Harvard.

Then, one of his readers discusses the state of public university education

…funding cuts mean that most upper-level courses have no discussion sections and no teaching assistants. In other words, the real teaching doesn’t take place at all. Papers, if they’re assigned at all — and increasingly they’re not — are graded by “readers” paid so poorly that they can only spend a few minutes on each paper, are not available for writing assistance, and can’t even be required, given their meager pay for long hours, to attend the lectures in the classes they’re grading for. There’s no way readers can grade papers carefully in such circumstances: they put check marks in the margin when something of substance is mentioned, and pass pretty much everyone through. As for professor-led seminars, never that plentiful, they’ve all but vanished: they simply cost too much.

And he doesn’t even get into the growing prevalence of teaching students online or the fact that more students are demanding a college education and want it to prepare them for the workforce.  Colleges now are where media and the recording industry were a decade ago.  They will look very different very soon.


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Copyright 2012 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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