Americans implicitly accept that higher education is a “good” thing. It’s just not always good enough to fund. This has interesting implications for the state of Nevada, which, while theoretically awash in cash from services and activities that only Nevada allows, now says it has run out of money for higher education. The state’s higher education system is getting $91.3 million less than what was authorized by the legislature.
Nevadans, however, are not outraged. According to an article by Emily Richmond in the Las Vegas Sun, that may be because people don’t really see higher education as a public service:
“When you start to ask questions about who should pay for it, that’s where the controversy comes in,” says [Villanova University Philosophy Professor John] Immerwahr…. “People see higher education as an individual good — something you need for yourself.”
In short, according to Immerwahr, people don’t think of state universities the way they think of highways or elementary schools; they’re more like a McMansion; nice if you can afford it, but not really the state’s business.
Nevada is something of an expert in McMansions. For most of the 2000s, Nevada was growing fast. Millions of people fled to the state for lucrative jobs and construction and tourism exploded. It was money from that growth that fueled the state (Nevada has no has no personal or corporate income tax). Now that the days of growth are over, Nevada is struggling just to break even.