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As the pharoahs built pyramids in their own honor

by: Eric B.

Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 10:39:01 AM EST

Rick Haglund, today.

There was a time when we believed a college education was so important to the future of Michigan that our tax dollars should pay most of the cost of operating public universities.

Coincidentally, this was when the nation as a whole was at its most prosperous.

Not anymore. Michigan and most other states have slashed support for higher education over the past couple of decades.

We're also not all that prosperous anymore. What do you suppose changed in that time to where we're not as prosperous as a whole and don't regard higher education all that important when it comes to writing budgets?

But Duderstadt, who is involved in a number of efforts to transform higher education, says the public perceives something different.

“Universities have million-dollar football coaches, and sushi bars and climbing walls in the residence halls,” he told me.

“Some of them have edifice complexes. They build these fancy buildings to satisfy a donor who is paying 10 percent of the cost,” Duderstadt said. “They need to get their house in order.”

Eric B. :: As the pharoahs built pyramids in their own honor

Central Michigan University is currently pursuing a medical school. The fund raising effort to get the thing off the ground went horribly and eventually the university administration had to hem and haw when asked if it needed to divert student tuition dollars to subsidize the thing. Most people in the CMU community interpret all this as driven by the ego of CMU's president, George Ross, who just got a pay raise and not earns a third of a million dollars a year in salary, plus the perks. He's an accountant by trade, like our benevolent overlord Rick Michigan, and appears to have very little appreciation for the education side of higher education. That's a shame because, ya know.

Such spending has contributed to a wider disdain for higher education. Last week a research associate at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy said the state should stop subsidizing higher education because there is no evidence that the funding boosts the economy.

Written by a college graduate employed by a think tank that almost universally employs college graduates and in a city with one of the highest concentrations of Ph.D.'s in the nation.

Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger said support this year in his caucus for colleges and universities will come in the form of demands for “accountability and results.”

The party that least appreciates higher education and has repeatedly tried to impose its rightwing agenda on the state's constitutionally independent university system (indepedent to prevent political medlling) now plans aggressive oversight of university appropriations. What results can we expect? These are basically the same people who decided that oversight of Wall Street required cutting funding for oversight agencies, relaxing regulations, and letting the foxes guard the henhouse. What did we get last year? Idiotic demands for reams of paperwork involving stem cell research.

Bolger said in a recent column for MLive.com that supporting those who don’t want a college degree is equally important “because we value the men and women who work with their hands every day to literally make, build, and grow our great state.”

When is the last time Jase Bolger applied for a job? Unless you want to be a fry cook at Denny's, your employer -- including in the private sector -- will toss your resume in the garbage can unless you have some kind of advanced learning on it. But, perhaps this is something Bolger might want to consult with private sector employers on.

But universities are too important to cast aside in an increasingly “hypercompetitive” global economy that will demand more knowledge, innovation and better-educated workers, (Duderstadt) said.

In other words, in a hypercompetitive global market, workers without college educations will be increasingly left behind.

Still, I have to ask ... why are we tying higher education continuously to economic growth? I realize it's how Babbitt Nation has conversations with itself, but there is value in an educated populace that stretches beyond mere money issues. If more people understood elementary atmospheric physics, for instance, we might elect fewer people who believe that climate change is a communist plot.

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