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Falling Behind March 5, 2010

Posted by Dwight and Lynn Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Education.
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In light of the protests yesterday regarding cuts to education budgets, this story from Inside Higher ED is particularly disturbing.

The United States is hardly the only country facing tough economic times right now. But a survey of the worldwide response to the recession suggests that American higher education may be uniquely disadvantaged by the way state and federal governments are responding in the U.S., compared to how the rest of the world is dealing with the crisis.

Most governments elsewhere have avoided the “uncoordinated cutting of funding for higher education that we generally see in U.S. state systems,” says a report being released today by the Center for Studies in Higher Education, at the University of California at Berkeley.

In part, the study says that is because the rest of the world — including many nations facing severe cash shortfalls themselves — embrace the Keynesian idea of using government investment to push an economic recovery. But John Aubrey Douglass, the author of the report and a senior research fellow at the center, also sees problems in the structure of higher education finance in the United States.

The vast majority of students in the United State attend public colleges and universities, which are depending on state governments for operating support for education (even if the research universities among them receive substantial federal funding for research).

What this means, Douglass writes, is that in the United States, most colleges are dependent on units of government that lack the authority to borrow – and so are severely constrained in their ability to pump more money into the economy (at least barring tax increases that aren’t politically popular). That’s not true in much of the rest of the world, he notes, where federal systems for supporting higher education are more prevalent.

The story goes on to describe what other countries—China, Taiwan, Netherlands, and France—have done to avoid the draconian cuts to education that California and other states are experiencing.

The sad fact of the matter is that we simply do not value education much in this country, at least not as a social good to which the nation must be committed. Many people are pleased with their own education and are perfectly willing to see others go without.

In a knowledge-based economy that spells disaster. It is hard to see how the United States will maintain its position as a beacon of freedom and opportunity without a functioning educational system.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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