This Is the Problem with Higher Education Funding

America wants more students to go to college. America is also devoting less and less public money to pay for people to go to college. There’s no way this can end well. According to a piece by Derek Spellman in the (Joplin, Missouri) Joplin Globe:

That Catch-22 is not lost on state and higher education leaders, although it has been aggravated by a prolonged recession that has magnified the importance of work-force development and yet left states with fewer resources to support that development, including a college education.

Missouri’s governor, Jay Nixon, like President Obama, eagerly discusses the importance of “boosting” higher education attainment. Missouri, however, will have a budget deficit of at least $400 million next year. So who pays for that boost?

This is not just a problem in Missouri. It’s increasingly true all across the country (and apparently now in the United Kingdom too). As Mike Konczal writes in the Washington Post, when we say more people should go to college, the implied assumption is that they’re going to go into a lot of debt to do so:

The battle [is about] the actual idea of education as a public good, the idea that someone can develop their full capabilities in the wealthiest nation on Earth without entering debt peonage. That right now is the moment our country is turning toward the idea of massive indebtedness as a prerequisite toward participating in the 21st-century economy is incredibly cynical.

Exactly. Don’t we understand yet that buying the good life through personal debt isn’t a financial strategy so much as a colossal risk?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer