The Bubble Bubble

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports: Students and States Near a 50-50 Split on the Cost of Public Higher Education

Must be nice. As of right now, the large state research University where I work is coming in at around 8.9% funding from it's state benefactor. And we've barely moved the needle on tuition increases. This still doesn't stop people from complaining that tuition is far too high. It ain't easy living in a Tea Party state.

But what's annoying me today is the popular media acceptance that higher education is the next economic bubble that is bound to pop. There are (surprise, surprise) logical inconsistencies coming form those making these claims. 

When the rich talk about K-12 schools, they hold two views. One is that public K-12 should be funded minimally, and even then only when tied to nonsensical testing outcomes. The other is that private institutions should be eligible to receive taxpayer money in the form of "vouchers" to allow the rich to divert their tax payments away from schools for all and apply those dollars directly to the schools that cost more already. There is not a claim that the private schools should cost less. That's widely accepted, because if there's one thing the rich understand, it's that you get what you pay for. 

So why should that be different in higher education? Why shouldn't it cost money to deliver it properly? If our University system was the envy of the world at one point it was because we recognized it as an investment that needed to be maintained. If you just want vocational training by a minimally adequate professoriate, that's fine, but you have to articulate that. You have to say that you only want the minimum, and that you're willing to accept the outcome of that strategic decision.

ut if you want the best of anything, that cost has to come from somewhere, and if it's not going to come from tuition, it has to come from somewhere else. You do get what you pay for. But just because you think something should be free doesn't mean there's a cost bubble. The only bubble that I'm seeing is the trend to accuse any industry that is costly of having a bubble. That bubble needs to pop.