On Friday the P-I reported that the University of Washington has stopped accepting transfers from community colleges due to over-enrollment. [No more transfers to UW]
Let’s get straight to the point: we’re not spending enough money on higher education!
And if we don’t fix this, our economy is eventually going to go to hell in a hand basket.
Cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and even rust-belt poster-child Pittsburgh, survived the collapse of their manufacturing industries — and prospered — due largely to the influx of talent attracted to their prestigious colleges and universities. The best and the brightest don’t just grab their degrees and leave; many settle in their adopted cities, creating new businesses and industries, or attracting existing ones to the growing pool of qualified workers.
My question is, which schools are going to be the economic engines for Washington, when we won’t even spend the money to educate our own children, let alone attract talent from out-of-state?
I moved to Seattle as an adult about 12 years ago, so I don’t have the same provincial pride in local institutions as most of you natives. And I’m not ashamed to admit that from my snobbish, east coast, elitist perspective there is not a single undergraduate program in the state that I could brag to family about my daughter attending.
Or rather, I am ashamed to admit this, because I’m a Washingtonian now, and I’m embarrassed to see my neighbors talk about how hard it is to get into the UW — like it’s some kind of west coast Harvard — when in fact increased admissions competition is due to declining funding not rising academic standards.
I grew up outside Philadelphia within 20 minutes of 4 schools — Haverford, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr and the University of Pennsylvania — where on its own, 1450 on your SATs and an A average would elicit a collective yawn from the admissions office. You show me the Washington state equivalent.
Now you can dismiss this as academic snobbery (and as President Bush proves, you can get a crappy education anywhere.) But show me a parent who wouldn’t want their children to gain all the advantages of an Ivy League education?
For whatever historical reasons, Washington is never going to have that kind of private college infrastructure. So we have to pick up the slack with our public university system.
Don’t get me wrong, the UW is a good state university… but it is only that.
And it is not going to get any better unless we fund it properly. That doesn’t simply mean more tax dollars. We also need to build the kind of multi-billion dollar private endowment that all the best schools rely on. And we need to move away from subsidizing all students equally, towards a means-tested system where tuition approaches market prices, and students receive generous financial aid based on need.
Either that, or we can continue exporting our best and brightest out-of-state.