At both the state and national level, Republican and Democratic elected officials are trying to figure out ways of increasing government spending on higher education without asking themselves whether or not the transfer payments are worth the expense.
“Our commitment to education does not stop upon a student’s graduation from high school,” according to an e-mail message from one of Virginia’s most conservative Republican state representatives. “We are increasing funding for higher education, including a new initiative—promoted by Senator Allen and former Governor Warner—to expand research funding at our colleges and universities.”
“State spending on our colleges and universities will hit record levels during the next two years under the House plan.” The U.S. House of Representatives, meanwhile, is working feverishly to pass the Higher Education Reauthorization Act that will pump more billions of taxpayer dollars into American colleges and universities.
Not to be outdone, Democratic lawmakers are cobbling together their own proposals for higher education assistance. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., recently proposed cutting interest rates on student loans.
In a recent conference call on the plan, both lawmakers rebuffed three attempts to get them on record explaining why college and university administrators have nothing to do with the exploding cost of higher education. It’s a valid question: Economist Richard Vedder finds that the ratio of college administrators to students is at least three-to-one. That gives collegians more bureaucrats per capita than they have biological parents.
And what of the service that American colleges and universities deliver? “Over half of students graduating from four-year colleges in the U. S. lack the literacy to deal with such ‘real life’ tasks as understanding newspaper editorials, comparing credit card offers, or summarizing the results of a survey,” reads a quote from David Schaefer in the latest issue of The American Enterprise. “Nor do they have the math skills needed to balance their checkbooks, according to a new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts.”
“LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, is a scandal waiting to explode,” a visitor to this site claims. “You are invited to visit http://www.LaGuardiacorruption.com to see the deleterious effect of administrative corruption and, in particular, how political cronyism and anti-Semitism destroyed the Mathematics Department.”
“With more than 87,000 visits to date, the website aims to inform all colleges, education associations, interested taxpayers and elected officials and news media in the New York City vicinity.”
But that’s from another disgruntled professor. What do the recent college grads themselves tell us? They are, according to most college and university promotional literature, higher education’s ultimate customer.
“You think, six months ago I had a great on-campus job and social life,” recent graduate Nicole Relyea told msn.com’s M. P. Dunleavy. “Now, I’m living at home, I have two friends and no academic stimulation for the first time in 20 years—sitting in the basement, surfing the internet, looking for work.”
“It’s like, wow, I was just studying the cultural history of the aborigines and now I’m looking at jobs where the main duties are answering the phone and typing. How are you supposed to make that shift? It’s really something nobody prepares you for.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.