It seems fashionable these days to say that not everyone needs a college education. Actually, that’s true. We need people with vocational training — electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics. We need people with specialty training – jewelers and clockmakers. But, we also need college educated people to do research, to teach, to help run our businesses, to be chemists and biologists and anthropologists and financial analysts. It is also fashionable, it seems, to cut the funding for institutions of higher education to the bone and the programs and people right along with them.
Let’s focus on higher education. I was a college professor for 27 years so I do have a bit of insider information and understanding. What happens when funding is cut for a state university? First, tuition goes up for the students. That is one of the primary sources of funds for universities. Of course, there is always fundraising from donors to the university but that money is far less certain than tuition increases. Every time there is a funding cut, if you have college-age children, the money it takes to run the university comes right out of your pocket.
What actually happens inside the university with funding cuts? In the state in which I live, state universities are experiencing funding cuts. The university where I taught had to eliminate some faculty and staff positions. Some were vacant. Some had actual people teaching and serving as support staff in them. There goes the unemployment rate – up. Academic and sports programs were eliminated. There were times when we were under a budget crunch at my university that we had a hard time scrounging up paper and pens, let alone the newest technology. Do you know what happens to faculty and staff morale when that happens? It starts a downward spiral. How effective do you think the faculty are at teaching your children under those circumstances? I can tell you – not very effective. The faculty and staff are worried about losing their jobs and they don’t really have the materials they need to do their jobs. Your children suffer when there are funding cuts to higher education.
Cutting higher education funding is a short-term strategy for state legislatures to use in order to save money. Some think supporting higher education is not a good strategy for stimulating economic growth. Some think that a better strategy for economic growth is enacting tax cuts for the wealthy or for large corporations while raising money by cutting higher education funding. That is a very short-term view. In the long-term, allocating money to reduce tuition and student debt and improve graduation rates would benefit the economy more. There seems to be a disconnect in the minds of our legislators between the value of college-educated young people and what they contribute to our economic growth. Unfortunately, we seem to have entered a period of time in our society in America when we can’t see the forest for the trees. We can’t see that we diminish our future if we don’t invest in education — all education. After all, people clapped and cheered when one of the Presidential candidates this year said that he loved the poorly educated.
So what’s the answer to states looking for money? It seems obvious! Cut something else. Don’t cut education. Education is the future. Education is not only your children’s future, it is our country’s future. Cut the legislators’ travel budgets. Or their expense accounts. I just bet I could find a number of non-essential line items if I went through the state budget and I bet you could too. Cutting education seems to fly in the face of good reason. In fact, it is not only a short-term solution, it is selfish. Would the legislators who vote to cut education rather satisfy their lobbyists, and reap those benefits, than adequately educate their children and contribute to the future of America? Right now, the answer appears to be yes. Let’s elect some legislators who will answer a resounding NO to that question. #amwriting #writing #blogging #bloggersrequired #GdnHigherEd
*Image acquired from Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net