It's Not About Tuition, It's About Mo' Money
Over at PA Independent, Stacy Brown has an important story on the ongoing fight over Gov. Corbett's budget proposal. There, Duquesne University professor Antony Davies, a member of CF's Council of Scholars, makes an important and almost-never-confessed (particularly by those on the "inside" of higher ed) acknowledged statement: Colleges hike tuition no matter what governors do. "Cuts like Corbett announced have no bearing on tuition," Prof. Davies says.
As my colleague Elizabeth blogged the other day, the data bear Prof. Davies' point out. So does last year's experience: After its now-departed president Graham Spanier hyperbolically proclaimed that President Lincoln was crying about Gov. Corbett's cuts from beyond the grave because they would produce skyrocketing tuition and irreparable harm, Penn State approved...its smallest tuition hike in years.
The more temperate, but similarly inaccurate, claims you're hearing from the higher ed establishment right now (including from at least one member of Gov. Corbett's new advisory panel) are not based in reality, and they're not about students or their families. If that were truly the concern, these wealthy institutions would have found ways eons ago to keep tuition down—or even decrease it (which is, but should not be, a foreign concept in our innovation-heavy, iPhone world). This is about preserving the status quo, because cutting college costs would require real change and real courage from those on campus—and because beating legislators up until they cough up more of other people's cash is easier than raising dollars the old-fashioned way, namely by asking people to give you their hard-earned money voluntarily. (Take it from one who does the latter regularly!) No, this is about one thing and one thing only. To quote one of the high points of American culture in the 1990s, it's about "mo' money." As the movie poster said, why settle for less?
(As a reminder, PA Independent began as a project of CF but has been a completely separate entity since January 1, 2011.)
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