Thursday, June 18, 2009

The case for throwing money at higher education

I've been thinking long and hard about my home state's funding priorities as it moves into a budget crunch. The annual earnings of an individual tend to increase by about $5,000 for every additonal year of higher education; North Carolina spends somewhere in the range of $5,000 to $15,000 in educational subsidies for that year of higher education, depending on where the student goes.

And I ask myself: What sort of investment will take a series of $15,000 up-front payments and pay out $5,000 a year for each payment you make into it - for several decades? Sure, the state of NC takes a longer time to recoup tax revenues, but that is an enormous public benefit for the amount of money being spent. Where can we get more of this?

When I look at North Carolina on the long term scale, the biggest difference I see between North Carolina and its neighbors is the UNC system. North Carolina supports a large number of public universities and community colleges, and subsidizes the tuition of in-state students very heavily. There's a very bright future in continuing to throw money at higher education at every level - as much as the state can afford to do.

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