Larry Wright,

Nurturing Intellectual Capital

What Price Higher Education?

Thursday, April 18, 2013
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Germany is one of the world’s leading economies, even rivaling powerhouse China despite having less than 14% as many people.  Modern Germans, unlike too many Americans and Californians, do comprehend just how vital an excellent public education system is both to their economy and the health of their culture.  We would be wise to follow their example by regarding our own young as a form of “intellectual capital” as well as, of course, vital, creative human beings.

In a February 2011 piece for the Independent I compared the costs of a young relative attending UCSB with my own fees 44 years earlier — my niece paid 105 times what I forked over in 1966! I’m naturally pleased that voters had the wisdom in the November 2012 election to pass Proposition 30, adding financial support to public education in California. This led the UC Regents to drop their plans to increase UC student fees yet again this year.

However, Prop. 30 did not go nearly far enough, and costs for UC students are still amazingly high, often equal to what students at private colleges pay – and Californians still face the growing reality that UC is being quietly “privatized.” One proof of this is State Sen. Sternberg’s ludicrous bill to introduce online education courses, given by private for-profit pseudo-educational companies, into UC. This idea, which oddly enough is from a Democrat, has been lambasted from all around, for example in a recent Sunday New York Times masthead editorial.

In modern Germany, with its 17 federal states (Laender), the state governments a few years ago followed the UK in raising student fees.  While they might seem like small impositions (in Bavaria, fees were about the equivalent of $1,100 per year), they were new and aroused great opposition, not only from students but also from thoughtful, forward-looking German citizens. (Disclosure: A close relative attended the University of Munich and paid these fees in 2010 and 2011).

In a development which should amaze some of us in California, and which also proves that German citizens truly believe in and want to support their public universities, most of the 17 German Laender, have recently moved to eliminate those student fees.  This is a clear and vigorous statement by average Germans: Don’t make it hard for students get an advanced education.

The coalition government in Bavaria recently honored the collection of over 1.35 million voter signatures demanding the dropping of student fees beginning in the 2013-2014 academic year. Please note that the Bavarian fees are dwarfed by our own UC student fees, which were almost $12,000 per year in 2011 and have since gone up. How is it that Germany, with few natural resources, realizes that it pays to proffer quality higher public education to its young, while the great state of California currently charges students right around $15,000 per school year? Where is the wisdom in this, and the nurturing of bright young minds?

A recent Brookings Institution study has revealed the permanence of poverty in our country. One way out of poverty and dead-end jobs is an excellent and inexpensive public education, including a reduction of fees for students at the University of California.

Dan McCaslin graduated with a BA in History from UCSB in 1969. 


Independent Discussion Guidelines

UC fees for legal California residents are not even close to the vast majority of private institutions so that point is untrue.
Germany's economy rivals China? Huh? Perhaps their narrow ethnocentrism mirrors China's equivalent bias.
As usual, comparing us to what the Germans did, or Europeans did, or the Chinese or anyone else did or did not do has zero relevance to our situation as the vast majority of factors have no linear comparison. But picking and choosing to make an isolated point is awesome in bolstering a half baked argument.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
April 19, 2013 at 10:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

DrDan is onto something. The College Board has been tracking college costs for a long time and issues the annual report, "Trends in College Pricing":

While the average cost of attending a private university is still higher than the aveage cost of attending a public university (for an in-state resident), an interesting trend has been noted.

From the early 1980's till 2000, tuition & fees for public & private universities rose at the same rate.

But after 2000, tuition & fees for public universities began to rise much faster than private universtities. As it stands today, compared to 1982, tuition & fees at private universities have gone up 2.7 times while public universities have gone up 3.6 times. These stats are inflation-adjusted and are an average so may not reflect exactly the severe hikes going on @UC.

The College Board has loads of data for those who want to get smart on the topic.

As for italiansurg's half-baked comments ... huh? Germany and China have top-5 world GDP's so there's nothing wrong with DrDan's opening line:

And sure italiansurg, let's not take a look at how other countries do things. There couldn't possibly be anything we could learn. That's the same failed thinking US automakers had before they began sending engineers to Japan for training.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
April 21, 2013 at 11:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I should add my comments are also related to the parallel thread here:

Regarding online delivery of higher education, Warren Olney covered that topic last year, might find in the archives:

I recall the founder of said he felt only a narrow range of technology-related courses were appropriate for online delivery.

Olney and his excellently produced show, To the Point, has also done a number of shows on education-related issues. All available in podcast format now (mp3 audio files).

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
April 22, 2013 at 12:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's very, very simple: stop subsidizing college tuition with government money.

If you are poor a minority and only have $1000 and want to buy the best computer for that price but as you walk in the door of Best Buy a government employee hands you another $1000, you will shop for a $2000 computer - which sends the prices of computers through the roof - just like a college education.

This is so simple and so obvious.

But if you STOP subsidizing college, the tuition will plunge to levels that are affordable and students can rely on limited grants and scholarships - or get a 2nd job and college might take a bit longer to complete.

willy88 (anonymous profile)
April 22, 2013 at 9:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Computers are only vehicles of information they are no substitute for a classroom situation at all. Education is more than information, it's thinking. This is why teaching to tests results in a less educated population; it only encourages memorization, not understanding (and thus little retention of facts.)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 22, 2013 at 11:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't claim to have all the answers but it seems to me that if one has the desire and ability to be a doctor then it is in our best interest to subsidize their education.

It makes no sense that such people should be burdened with having to pay back loans. Think about all the people that have not gone onto pursue medical careers because the cost of education? The irony of this is that even though I'm hawking a socialist idea, with more doctors available, the free market would flourish because there would be more competition--not to mention that the lines in the emergency rooms would be much less. (Same rule for nurses)

I would however agree that subsidizing education should be for courses that would serve a purpose. Courses such as underwater basket weaving or the mating habits of bottle-nosed dolphins in pre-Victorian England would have to remain privately subsidized.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2013 at 2:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We'll always have Post-Colonial French Literature. :)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2013 at 2:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Indeed, it may make sense on some level to subsidize what are perceived to be "needed" professions, doctors etc., while those who choose so-called "area studies," the humanities, fine arts and so on are required to find other means of financial support, but it's not going to happen nor should it. I do agree that the present loan/tuition structure is essentially a scam that will enrich the schools and banks while creating a burgeoning generation of well-educated paupers. Quite frankly, not everyone needs to go to college nor should everyone strive to do so. The idea has been greatly oversold as a societal leveler and gateway to wealth and happiness. Here too the European model of good trade schools and practical post HS education and training could serve as a model.

zappa (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2013 at 6:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

EB- in your flurry to comment have you forgotten to educate yourself about how the German system actually works? Or are you comfortable picking and choosing details that support your apparent point of view without any sense of practicality? By the way, I too am for lowering the cost of higher education; shocking.
Take 5 minutes and you will realize that:
The rigid German education testing system does not accommodate nor incentivize under-performing individuals or groups like our system;
Their testing regimen is objective and does not tolerate outliers for any reason;
Their career tracks are rigid and not amenable to change or amelioration.
I happen to like their system but it is intolerant of diversity and their drop out rate is a drop in the bucket compared to ours. Oh yea, their teachers don't make crap for salaries. If you want low cost like Germany you need to vastly limit the options, under performers, and labor cost. Good luck.
According to your not even partially baked logic should we pick and choose a couple more ideas from fantastic Europe:
Mandatory adult gun ownership like Switzerland;
Rigid immigration control with rapid deportation like Sweden?
Hey, maybe I agree with you after all...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2013 at 6:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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