13.4.16

WHAT IS THE COMPELLING STATE INTEREST?

Kentucky's lieutenant governor Jenean Hampton is not confronting the regressive transfer implicit in public funding of the state universities.  "(College is) not a right, it’s a privilege. Those of us who go to work must give part of their earnings to put you through college, and I disagree with that."

No, she's doing a very un-Republican thing, suggesting that governments be actively picking winners.
Hampton has been receiving criticism since the Governor imposed a 4.5 percent budget cut to higher education. She has insisted that students who are prepared to work hard can still find a way to make college affordable and college should be moving funds away from programs that won’t help students get a job after graduation.

Comparing colleges to private business, she said that they will innovate to attract new customers and competition between universities will also drive down costs overall.
There is competition between universities, which is why U.S. News sells those rankings, and state universities have among their methods of competition the sub-prime party school strategy, which is commonly enough deployed.  But the privilege of higher education is the privilege of gaining the good of the intellect.

But calling out the state universities for producing unemployable humanities majors, as the governor is, whether because too much of the humanities is extended illogic, or because an instrumental approach gathers votes, might only be part of the legislative strategy of picking winners.
While there has been a narrowing of the affordability gap, public schools remain more affordable and provide a college education to nearly four times as many students as their not-for-profit private counterparts. Public universities also offer programs that are often uniquely attentive to the needs and complexions of their home states -- think the University of Wisconsin and the study of dairy farming.
Instrumentality has always been with us. But that same University of Wisconsin stood up to instrumentalist legislators of another era.  The instrumentalist legislators keep coming.
From requirements of prior approval for major purchases to obtrusive financial rules that perpetuate perverse spending habits, draconian state management rules hinder almost every aspect of public university operations. In state after state, we have witnessed high-profile and damaging clashes between political entities and leaders at public universities over budgets, day-to-day operations and even academic decision-making.

Public university presidents lament that they spend as much time currying favor, managing crises and forestalling political intervention at the state capitol as they do running their universities. Even more distressing, according to a study of institutions by the American Association of Universities, the presidents of public universities turn over at more than twice the rate of their private peers.

These encroachments exacerbate the challenges public schools have experienced while also making it increasingly difficult for them to compete with the private institutions for students, faculty and research funding.
Perhaps the legislators perceive the public interest as better served by cracking down on expense-preference behavior by administrators, and defunding recondite, transgressive, or propagandistic scholarship.  But to do so in such a way as to make help U.S. News sell those rankings and boost the premiums attached to private university degrees doesn't sound like fostering competition, let alone protecting the public interest.

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