Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Persistent Rhetoric...

by Daniel L. Bennett

Take a moment to read the following sentences that were espoused during a Congressional hearing in support of increasing the federal government's role in financing higher education:
"Colleges and universities across the country were experiencing acute financial strains and were apprehensive about rising enrollments and the additional burdens they would pose."

"Overcrowded classrooms,inadequate libraries, deteriorating facilities...the scenario painted...in Congress by presidents and deans of institutions of higher learning."
Do these pleas sound familiar? You might guess that they were made prior to passing of Obama's stimulus plan in February 2008, or possibly prior to passage of any of the previous reauthorizations of the HEA. And that would be a great guess because similar pleas are often made by university officials as they beg for government support. But, these statements were in fact testimony made by former Congressman and president of NYU, John Brademas, at a 1985 House subcommittee hearing in describing the justification for passing the original Higher Education Act in 1965 that established the federal student aid programs. That's right, college and universities have been using the same rhetoric about financial strains, growing enrollments and deteriorating facilities for nearly 50 years to extract money from taxpayers.

One would think that enough time (and public subsidies) has elapsed that colleges would have learned how to better manage their resources to avoid such problems. But no, the public feeding continues without no fundamental change in the way that colleges operate, as they continue to hold out their hands. Yet, college continues to become less and less affordable, as its value continues to diminish. It is past time that our politicians and the taxpayers who elect them wise up to this rhetoric and hold these institutions accountable.

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