PA Vouchers for Higher Ed is an Idea for the Future

Another interesting conversation over at Community College Dean’s blog.  He notes that here in Pennsylvania the Governor is considering having state funding for some higher ed follow the students rather than funding the state “affiliated” schools in large blocks. My brother (whom you may know is also a Dean–at a Pennsylvania university) and I have been going a few rounds on this one as well. Perhaps he and I should record one of our podcasts. That said, I wanted to address a few of the points made by Dean Dad.

First, a couple things need to be made clear. For instance, the most recognized PA “State School” (Penn State) is actually not a State School, receiving less than 4% of their funding from the state. Most other private schools are the same. In fact, the article points out that the schools Gov Corbett is considering funding through vouchers are the schools that are specifically NOT the state schools. He believes that the state schools should have institutional support.

Now, for the real “State schools” (those that are part of the Pennsylvania university system, such as Indiana U of P, Mansfield, Bloomsburg, Shippensburg, etc…) Their funding is about 30% from the state. There is already a significant distinction between these schools. That is why the governor is not willing to cut those loose.

Let’s think about how these things could break down if the vouchers were to be across all schools (DD’s assumption but as noted, not the one contained in the article).

As it stands now, the money that PSU, Pitt, Temple, etc receive is a small percentage not only of the budget, but of the costs of having the students. Their tuition is significantly higher than those of the real state schools. So if you are a student that is paying attention to your tuition costs, you are currently choosing between a higher cost “state affiliated” school or a lower costs “state” school. There need not be a reason for a distinction.

So that addresses the first point: There remains a distinction because they have priced themselves with a distinction. (and I will skip the second point–it’s included in the first).

For your third point, at no point was there ever any consideration that the state funding would pay the costs of providing education? The funding levels don’t now (as mentioned above).

Point four: There is no real distinction between the Publics. The publics are part of the Pennsylvania State University System, which does NOT include PSU, or Pitt, or Temple, or any of the schools often seen as ‘prestigious state schools.”

Point five: actually collaboration will continue at the R1s, since the reward structure there is based on research and not on teaching/education. Expect this: if anything the R1s will provide less “higher education” and will tout more and more “collaboration” with other schools to bring in even more research grant money.

Point six: The adjunct trend really isn’t an issue at the “state” schools. Why? They are unionized. Among other things. And at the R1s (I refuse to say (“prestigious”) why use adjuncts when you have TAs?

Point seven: The only way admissions offices would grow is if a) anyone really understood how businesses and markets work and b) they actually found themselves facing declining enrollment. That certainly isn’t happening at the R1s, and as the economy tightened, the state schools became the more affordable choice.

That’s enough… for now…


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