Civitas Review

"Seven Years of College Down the Drain"


More thoughtless hyperbole is on display in today's N&O. This time, its focus is on higher education.

How many young North Carolinians must see their futures dimmed because our legislators have failed to put up enough money to meet the genuine needs of schools, universities, community colleges alike? Sadly, that's the road down which the General Assembly now is heading – a betrayal of the trust that one generation holds for another.

Wow – "dimmed futures," "betrayal of trust"? Sounds grim. So what are they talking about?

I wrote before about the growth in state funding for the UNC system, which swelled by two-thirds from FY 2002 to FY 2010 – at a time when enrollment increased by less than half that rate. Hardly sounds like the UNC system is being neglected. The current year budget proposals are merely a more sensible correction of the outsized increased from the previous 8 years. How many "genuine needs" do the N&O editors think the colleges have?

The N&O's commentary is not only short-sighted, but intellectually lazy as well. The mindless mantra of "government must spend more money on education, period" overlooks the actual results of that spending, nor the system into which that money goes. All the N&O editors had to do was to search their own archives in order to be reminded of the unnessessary and wasteful proliferation of middle management bloating the UNC system. And not to mention countless redundant study programs and research centers that should be reduced.

Moreover, this blind worship of college education is misplaced. Somehow the N&O has missed the recent news suggesting that more than 8 of 10 college grads are moving back in with their parents because of a lack of job opportunities. And these broke, unemployable grads are strapped with mountains of debt. If anything, there is a glut of college grads in the labor market, with millions of young adults assuming hundreds of thousands of debt to obtain an unmarketable degree and to end up in jobs requiring minimal skills, like movie ticket-takers or restaurant hostess.

Encouraging more young people to go into debt results in negative savings. It is savings that is key to fueling productive investment – and it is productive investment that generates economic growth and improvements in living standards. And of course more government subsidy of public degree mills further erodes the available resources for productive investment. Moreover, it is government subsidies that insulates colleges from serving their customer (students) and allows for systemic bloat of redundant and low-value academic programs and unneeded middle managers.

But the N&O editors can not be troubled with critical thinking or thoughtful reflection about the flaws in the government-run higher education system. Rather, they pen another mindless screed decrying why the ruling class doesn't pump yet more taxpayer dollars into the flawed status quo.

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