Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More Anti Higher Ed Heresy

Along the lines of my earlier rant about higher education, got this little gem in today's National Center for Policy Analysis daily e-mail that suggests spending on higher education isn't the great benefit that educrats say it is:


The plea from all university presidents is the same: more money please.
They argue that if the government invests more money in higher education
the economy will grow. In a sense this is true; but, increased funding
for universities does not lead to greater prosperity, in fact, it may
even reduce it, says Richard Vedder (Forbes).

A comparison of the growth in real per capita income of states that
spend more on higher education than states that do not supports Vedder's

o Low-support state New Hampshire surpassed neighboring Vermont on
nearly all economic measures, even though Vermont spent more than
twice as much of its personal income on higher education (2.3
versus 1.15 percent).

o Missouri, another low-support state (1.32 percent), grew faster
than its neighbor Iowa (2.41 percent).

o Additionally, Vedder compared 10 states with the highest state
funding with the 10 lowest and found that the low-spending states
had a median growth rate of 46 percent in real income per capita
versus 32 percent in high-spending states; the median income for
low-spending states was found to be $32,777, or 27 percent higher
than high-spending states.

Vedder says colleges have devoted little funding to the core mission of
instruction. Instead, they prefer to "assist research, hire more
nonacademic staff, give generous pay increases, support athletics and
build luxurious facilities."

o In 1976, three non-faculty professional workers were hired for
every 100 students; since 2001, that number has doubled.

o Additionally, nearly 40 percent of students fail to graduate
within five or six years.

Moreover, he says, taxes reduce private-sector activity, so increasing
funding to universities would move resources from the relatively
productive private sector to the less productive and efficient sector of
higher education. The cure, concludes Vedder, is for state governments
to slash their support.

Source: Richard Vedder, "College Is a Bad Investment," Forbes, June 20,

For text (subscription required):

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At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me understand the logic. Government gives corporations human rights, lets them merge and become economic superpowers in their own right, lets jobs be exported, devalues the public education system at all levels, and is happy as long as its citizens get "low, low prices" at the local chain store?

Work for the company. Buy from the company store. All we need to fit the Great Depression model now is to live at the company camp sites, too.

With the U.S. exporting assembly line jobs (skilled and unskilled) and exporting skilled jobs (especially computer programmers and telephone tech support), what type of jobs do our leaders expect average Americans to be doing 10 or 20 years from now? It seems like extensive education is our only hope, jobs that require such a high degree of skill that they are too advanced for folks earning 20 cents an hour on the other side of the world.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Jeff said...


Your premise is that making money is the primary positive activity. And as I said before, I can't logically dispute that; it's a matter of personal values. But let me make the case for the value of non money-making school driven contribution to the greater good. This very internet that we communicate with was created by the educational institutions, and not for profit. The net worth of a person isn't necessarily the best measurement of their contribution as a citizen to our community.

I need to see the study to comment. I'd want to see how confounding variables were accounted for. Did College grads relocate to the states that the better growth rates in per capita income? I have seen stats showing that the east and west coast states contribute more per person in federal taxes, the receive less per person in federal subsidies. Did Vedder's study show a direct relationship between investment in college and lower per capita income?

At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

About the birth of the Internet, while research institutions were involved, the Internet began with ARPAnet, which was made possible by the Department of Defense. The internet exists today not because of any lofty goals, but because of the telecommunications corporations supporting its infrastructure and related government subsidies. If all universities disappeared tomorrow, the Internet would still exist.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Vache Folle said...

These subsidies to higher education help a lot of people who probably shouldn't bother go to college. This detracts from possible private training programs driven by demand.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

vache folle,

It's very true that there are those who shouldn't be in college. I'm not sure that the subsidies detract from the private training programs, but you may be right. I don't think there's enough emphasis put on vocational training. Pols talk about college incessantly, but rarely about vocational programs. They sell fantasies instead of reachable goals.


Yes the internet would continue to exist without the universities, but it wouldn't be available to the public virtually free without the university involvement in is start. Yes, ARPAnet was first, but the internet grew out of it to allow acadamians to share research and other information. Some of the early founders, whose names I'll look for when I find time, were determined to make it widely available to all the public with anarchist governance structure. Neither the military nor the corporations would have done this. It is definitely the involvement of the institutions of higher education that have made the internet, and it's spinoff, the WWW, the free forum it is today. I doubt it will remain so free much longer, but I sure hope so. It's a great boon to democracy.

Not everyone should go to university, and there must be fiscal oversight, but without a strong higher education system, we would be a culturally poor nation.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Ok, a little humble pie, the name in particular I was looking for is Dr. J.C.R. Licklider. He was not a university guy, but rather from Bolt, Beranek and Newman, (BBN) in Cambridge. He was the one with the vision that "The ARPA theme is that the promise offered by the computer as a communication medium between people, dwarfs into relative insignificance the historical beginnings of the computer as an arithmetic engine." (ARPA draft, III-24)

Licklider shifted ARPA's contracts from "...independent coroporations towards 'the best academic centers'"

See for a good history.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

"J.C.R. Licklider may well be one of the most influential people in the history of computer science. As Director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), a division of the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), Licklider from 1963-64 put in place the funding priorities which would lead to the Internet, and the invention of the "mouse," "windows" and "hypertext." Together these elements comprise the foundation of our networked society, and it owes much of its existence to the man who held the purse-strings, and also created a management culture where graduate students were left to run a multi-million dollar research project." [emphasis mine] from


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