Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Public (University) Choice Theory

Robert J. Birgeneau and Frank D. Yeary offer "A New Model to Help Finance Higher Education" at the WaPo:
While America is fortunate to have many great private universities, we do not need to add to the list by privatizing Berkeley, Illinois, Rutgers, etc. On the contrary, we need to keep our public research and teaching universities excellent and accessible to the vast majority of Americans.
I might be convinced as long as the educational products, namely classes, that these public universities are producing are recorded and made freely available on YouTube or a similar service. I'd recommend using open source textbooks too. Heck, if a textbook is written by a university professor on the taxpayer dime, shouldn't it be made available electronically for free?

Let's look at incentives next:
...the federal government should create a hybrid model in which a limited number of our great public research and teaching universities receive basic operating support from the federal government and their respective state governments. Washington might initially choose a representative set of schools, perhaps based on their research achievements [ed: favor past performance and pedigree], their success in graduating students [ed: encourage grade inflation], commitment to public service [ed: genuflect to the almighty Godverment] and their record in having a student body that is broadly representative of society [ed: encourage implicit quota systems].
Wait, it gets better....
Philanthropy must continue to be an important resource. To ensure stability, the federal government should agree to match, at a rate of 2-to-1, and the state government at 1-to-1, private endowment funds raised by these public universities for 10 years. If such a public-private partnership raised private philanthropy of $150 million per year, the university would have $6 billion contributed toward a new endowment at the end of 10 years.
Ok. Give a dollar to a public university, DC will pitch in two more and your state will add another. Give a dollar to a private college, and that college wont get any matching support from the national and state governments. Someone that makes a large donation to a university often gets to direct those funds (see: Glassboro State College). So, the proposed system enables the most generous donors to marshal taxpayer dollars for the donor's pet project(s) at the public university while smaller donors will still have little say.

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