Anybody expecting bold gestures or a call for shared sacrifice from our state’s civic “leaders” should think again, at least when it comes to funding higher education:
A task force charged with finding stable money to pay for higher education in Washington state has some ideas it wants the Legislature to consider.
At the top of its list announced Monday: Find someone other than state government to pay the bill.
That’s right, the last thing the panel, chaired by Microsoft executive Brad Smith, seems to want to propose is that we should adequately fund our state college and university system by raising adequate tax revenues. Instead, they suggest the state hike tuition, and then raise a new scholarship fund via donations from individuals and corporations.
Uh-huh. I myself have long advocated that the state consider moving to a high-tuition/high-financial-aid model in order to more efficiently target state subsidies at a time of tight budgets, but I’ve become increasingly concerned that we’re on the verge of embracing the former without implementing the latter. And the apparent reluctance of this panel to consider taxes as a legitimate revenue source, well, it only adds to my unease.
Other bold proposals include saving money, by doing more with less:
— Eliminate underused majors and courses.
— Offer more online classes, particularly for large introductory courses.
— Create three-year bachelor degree programs.
— Limit state support for students taking credits beyond what they need to earn a degree.
— Test students on prior learning experiences and give them credit.
— Recognize college work done during high school.
Do any of these six proposals actually make the educational experience at our state colleges and universities any better? No. Of course not. They make it cheaper… and in every sense of the word.
I haven’t yet read the task force’s report, so I don’t mean to entirely dismiss it out of hand, but I’m disappointed by what appears to be a relentlessly free market approach to the problems at hand. Soviet-style controlled economies ultimately failed; I understand that. But there must be something in between that, and pinning the educational aspirations of the children of the working and middle class on the voluntary generosity of wealthy individuals and corporations, right?
Of course there is, and I’m guessing it looks something like the taxpayer funded state college and university system upon which much of the economic gains of the past half century were built.