The importance of funding public colleges

In the United States, over the past 10 years, our university system has been in jeopardy. This for a wide variety of reasons. On the one hand, tuition fees for students have increased, while the quality of education provided by universities has remained the same. In many ways, the quality of that education has actually declined over the course of these tuition hikes.

There are two basic reasons for the above mentioned state of affairs. The first concerns the increase in tuition fees. Tuition fees have increased due to rising costs for administrators at universities. There is surely a debate to be had on the usefulness of hiring more administrators in universities, but it is undeniable that hiring them increases tuition fees.

The second relates to the decline in the quality of education, and this is generally seen in the humanities. On the one hand, there has been a growing perception that the humanities lack value – that humanities majors are of no use. Despite my personal experience of the humanities as having deep practical and intellectual utility, there is good reason to believe that the humanities are losing value.

Not only are resources being removed from humanities departments, there is an increasing bias present in these departments. This bias is essentially the left-wing version of something similar to the One American News Network (OANN). That is, there is pressure on campuses – both socially and in the curriculum – to buy into a progressive narrative – even if verifiable facts point in a different direction. If you are a conservative on campus, you usually learn to shut up when political or cultural issues arise, as the likelihood of being reprimanded for saying what you think is quite high.

Universities should be a place of open discussion, with a good mix of pluralism and skepticism, whatever the personal political disposition. Philosophy departments are doing a good job of continuing to facilitate such pluralism and skepticism on campus, and I think more departments should take some notes from their philosophically minded colleagues.

Despite the prevalence of these problems, the university system should not be abolished. When functioning properly, it produces responsible citizens who are well educated, practically informed, articulate and ambitious – the kind of citizens who are necessary for the advancement of civilization.

Where the university system fails is precisely on this issue. Half of our young people are enrolling in universities at record levels and performing poorly in universities at record levels. As a result, young men are more likely to spend most of their time playing video games, abdicating responsibilities, and struggling to find purpose in life. There is nothing lasting about it, especially in a world which strictly encourages going to university, on equally valid paths such as exercising a profession.

Students walk on a college campus.
ROBYN BECK / AFP via Getty Images

It must start by ending the notoriously frequent budget cuts to public colleges. Millions of dollars have been cut from CUNY, New York City’s public college system, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was just the nail in the coffin of a decades-long trend of budget cuts, which ironically coincides with the worsening of the university system as a whole. None of this is exclusive to New York: it has happened across the country.

There is a direct link between these budget cuts and the increase in tuition fees. Likewise, there is a direct relationship between these budget cuts and the deterioration in the quality of education. In light of these facts, it is fair to say that spending more on public colleges will increase the quality of education and lower tuition fees.

Will spending more on public colleges reduce the prevalence of bias? It is very possible. Much of the progressivism we see in universities now stems from the increased influx of administrators. Effective budgeting, in which less is spent on administrators and more is spent directly on students, faculty and the learning process can decrease the existence of bias in universities. This would make higher education something worth encouraging young people to pursue.

Our economy and our culture depend on an educated population. In order to ensure the sanctity of this fact, we must stop funding public colleges. Instead, we need to either reallocate the resources of administrators – who are heavily involved in rising tuition fees and lowering the quality of education – or funding universities more adequately than we currently do. The prejudices and the current tuition fee crisis in universities are not benefiting anyone, but budget cuts are making matters worse.

Doing nothing about it – continuing to support administrators who sully campuses with dogmas and drive up tuition prices – will keep our population further and further away from obtaining a proper higher education. All of this will serve to make our population less educated and poorer, which will effectively reduce its ability to contribute to our society, making it less dynamic. It may be optimistic to say, but there is only good to be found in the proper budgeting and funding of public colleges.

Daniel Lehewych is a graduate student in philosophy at CUNY Graduate Center, specializing in moral psychology, ethics and philosophy of mind. He is a freelance writer, powerlifter, and health science enthusiast.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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