Earmarking Artificial Growth

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

In an age of limits, colleges and universities are expanding, with the aid of taxpayers with increasingly limited resources. “Colleges stand to lose billions of dollars for research, facilities, and other purposes if Congressional leaders hold firm in their pledge to ban earmarks, the spending that individual members direct to their home states and favorite projects outside of the competitive processes,” Kevin Kiley reported in the December 17, 2010 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Some of the biggest losers would be colleges in states whose lawmakers in Washington hold top positions on appropriations committees, and which have traditionally received substantial earmarks.”

“In spending bills for the 2010 fiscal year, colleges in Texas, Mississippi, and California received the most Congressionally directed money for academic projects, according to an analysis of data by Taxpayers for Common Senses, a nonprofit watchdog group.”  Although the earmarks account for “about one-half of 1 percent of all appropriations in 2010,” according to Kiley, they finance spending that is beyond the wildest dreams of most businesses.

“Earmarks brought about $2.25 billion to colleges and universities in 2008, the most recent year for which The Chronicle has conducted a comprehensive analysis,” Kiley wrote. “Those earmarks financed about 2,300 projects, including campus buildings, research projects, and research centers.”

You can get an idea of how much individual universities can rake in from this process by looking at the coffers of Ole Miss. “The Chronicle’s 2008 analysis of higher education earmarks found that Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi topped the list of institutions receiving earmarks that year, receiving $40 million and $37.5-million, respectively,” Kiley recounted.

Although ending earmarks may not close the deficit, taxpayers might question the value of popping for shiny new university buildings when they themselves are struggling with grocery bills. Moreover, as economist Richard Vedder discovered, going into debt to change their economic situation has not exactly proven to be a passport to the street of dreams for many students.

Vedder found that “approximately 60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates from 1992 to 2008 worked in jobs that the BLS considers relatively low skilled—occupations where many participants have only high school diplomas and often even less. [Italics Vedder’s].”

“Only a minority of the increment in our nation’s stock of college graduates is filling jobs historically considered as requiring a bachelor’s degree or more,” Vedder wrote in a column which appeared in the December 9, 2010 issue of The Chronicle. A professor at Ohio University, Vedder also heads the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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