Higher Education Should Not Be Political

Everybody likes to mention what America’s Founding Fathers believed, so we thought we would research what their views were on the public funding education. Specifically, we wanted to explore what the beliefs of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (founding fathers with complete opposite political views) were on this topic and what today’s politicians have done in this arena.

John Adams believed in a strong federal government and Thomas Jefferson believed in a limited federal government. Both of these men were strong advocates of public education.

John Adams wrote much about the need for public schools:

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

Thomas Jefferson was the founder of America’s first public university (University of Virginia) and was quoted saying:

“The tax which will be paid for this purpose [education] is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”

We researched for days and could not find one founding father statement that devalued public education or was against education of the public. The arguments that we found were over who should control education: federal government, state government, or municipalities.

2008 to 2014 State Budget Cuts in Higher Education

Over the past few decades every state (both Republican and Democrat) in this country has made cuts to higher education. The biggest consequence of this is an increase in tuition for the family. Today, all states but Alaska and North Dakota, are spending less per student on higher education than they did before the 2008 recession. Every state in this country needs to stop shifting the cost of higher education to families or college will become unaffordable.

The Federal Government has tried to help the States and Families out by increasing Federal Aid, but there is still a gap in funding tuition. Also, based on research done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in July 2015, it appears the Federal Government is making the situation worse because by increasing Federal Aid to students, schools respond with higher tuition costs. The study found the following:

  • For every new dollar a college receives in Direct Subsidized Loans, a college raises tuition by 65 cents.
  • For every new dollar in Pell Grants, a college raises tuition by 55 cents.

It is a perfect storm for higher college tuition costs when states cut higher education funding, federal aid increases, and the fact that student enrollment in a 4 year public and private university is increasing.

Benjamin Franklin, once said:

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

All politicians should reflect on our Founding Father’s beliefs and the current state of affairs. They should make a bipartisan effort to change their policies to reflect the dynamics of today’s higher education free market system.

Below we have provided fantastic interactive data visualizations from CNBC using Tableau Public.

July 17, 2017

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