A higher education in greed

My letter to the editor on university subsidies in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Tribune Review:

University presidents and lobbyists for state-funded universities, such as the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State, have ramped up efforts to demand more taxpayer subsidies than proposed in Gov. Corbett’s budget.

But what have taxpayers gotten for their money?

Certainly not lower tuition. Over the past decade Penn State and Pitt more than doubled in-state undergraduate tuition.

Nor are the schools delivering outcomes that taxpayers would hope. Little more than half of the students earn degrees in the normal four years (58 percent for Penn State and 55 percent for Pitt at their respective flagship campuses). According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, neither school requires students to take a basic economics or history course.

And while universities claim they are the “economic engines” of the state, so do the manufacturing, tourism, film and agriculture industries — none of which merits subsidies at the expense of all taxpayers.

Moreover, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and nearly one hundred other private colleges in the commonwealth also contribute research and education — without earmarked state taxpayer subsidies.

What universities have given taxpayers is administrative bloat — Penn State’s administrators per student have grown 71 percent and Pitt’s 55 percent — and expensive new buildings. In fact, Penn State’s own strategic plan notes the university is underutilizing classroom space, while the university president celebrates fewer early morning classes for America’s No. 3 party school.

Pennsylvanians should not be fooled into thinking budget cuts will devastate the economy or college students.