Sunday, March 14, 2010

Elliot Parker, economist, points out why quality public higher education levels the playing field

In contrast to Bruce James's illogic, Elliot Parker makes a case for how quality public education complements the work of a free market by evening the playing field and giving everyone a fair chance to succeed. As he explains in today's Sun, "Nevada undercuts its future" by cutting funding for public higher education."

why do we need public universities in the first place? Free markets are wonderful at giving more to those who already have, and private universities such as Harvard and Stanford are among the best in the world. But as my colleague Maureen Kilkenny, a respected economist in a department slated for elimination, says, “markets can do nothing for people with nothing.” For those who lack education, skills or family wealth, the free market offers little hope for improvement. By paying taxes to provide education, we help to level the playing field.

Universities provide the best education to students because most of their faculty actually create knowledge. The more people learn, the more capable they are to make good decisions and find good jobs, and the easier it becomes to turn hard work into a better life. Those who become educated usually earn more, and contribute in turn to the revenue necessary to run the state and educate others.

Other states have a large number of private universities, which on average pay their faculty roughly 20 percent more than public ones, spend significantly more per student, and serve a larger share of those who already have. These same states make more significant investment in their public universities.

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