Higher Education? Quit Your Panhandling

Sat, 08 Nov 2008 20:23:02 +0000

Since higher education is my industry, I thought I would take issue with the sentiments expressed by Molly Corbett Broad in today's article in the New York Times, "Tough Times Strain Colleges Rich and Poor."

With endowment values shrinking, variable-rate debt costs rising and states cutting their financing, colleges face challenges on multiple fronts, said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education.

“There’s no evidence of a complete meltdown,” Ms. Broad said, “but the problems are serious enough that higher education is going to need help from the government.”

In a word, no. Institutions of higher education already get a number of direct and indirect subsidies from the federal government, whether from grants for research, their status as non-profits, or subsidized loans to their customers. To the extent that they did not operate their businesses in a way that safeguarded against downturns is their problem, not the taxpayers'. Organizations will find tougher going in a slower economy. They should look inward for solutions. Higher education has no more claim to panhandle the federal government than anyone else; which is to say, none at all.

My home institution is no different. Here is the latest statement based on this week's meeting of the Board of Trustees.