Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Throw More Money at Education?

Here, Joshua Fulton provides a lot of information about why the President's call to throw more money at education in America isn't a great idea, popular though it will surely be.

I guess I must be something of a strange academician, arguing as I do that financing education more and more through tax dollars, while requiring just about nothing from the recipient of the educational services, is a really bad idea.

I have been a teacher since 1975.  I have taught high school; I have taught at major research universities, and I have taught at small colleges.  My experience tells me that what is free is not valued.  My own educational experience further confirms what my professional teaching career suggests.

Education is important, of course.  I also believe that education offers what economists call "positive externalities," which is to say that others benefit from my kids becoming educated.  In fact, many people would be willing to pay to help educate my children, because they themselves benefit from my children becoming educated.

All that noted, my experience convinces me that "free" education (an impossibility, of course) is a bad idea.  Education can be made nearly "free" to the recipient with Pell grants, scholarships, and so on.  Others pay for the educational services, of course.  That's just ECON 101.  Very basic stuff.

People who pay for their own education take their own education much more seriously than people who do not pay.  Yes, yes, I know there are exceptions; I'm not interested in setting policy by exception.  Think about it.  If you have to pay for your own education personally --- say like you have to pay for your own car personally --- do you think you will take your own education seriously?  I know you will.

But not everyone can afford to go to college, you say.  True, and fine.  Let those who cannot pay with money pay with service.  Bera College has long been a model for financing higher education through service.  Check it out here

How about providing public funding for higher education and for technical training to those who first serve, either in the military for three years, or in Ameriacorp, or in Peace Corp, or in some other  corp we might imagine.  Just don't make it free.

I also do not particularly favor debt financing for education, but I will leave that topic for another day.

No comments: