My unEducated opinion about Education. Part II: Trying to stay “In” without losing a shirt.
A Point of View © 1996
By Paul V. Montesino, PhD, MBA, ICCP.
In my recent article about the Supreme Court decision on Affirmative Action, I offered an objective mathematical model that considered all student applicants equal and their selection to the school fair. I have no idea how the powers to be take it, but it is out there for all to see, support, or criticize.
Today I want to deal with the student tuition situation. Not being able to enter a school, costs nothing financially, unless you consider the future income loss as “something.” I have no problem with that. But colleges won’t provide racially free educational opportunities until they resolve the economic differences.
It’s a discussion that requires us to evaluate the present and consider the solutions with some sort of responsibility for the outcome.
I’ll start with the cost of elementary and High School education, the early years of preparation that allow students to move up the scale of knowledge and success when they’re done. Because I am a resident of Massachusetts, I’ll use my own State in the analysis. Looking at the numbers of fifty states will drive us crazy. They are as different as their climate.
The most recent report of our state’s Department of Education that appears here, the pandemic year 2021, shows a total of In-District educational expenses of $16.8 billion supporting a total of 992,000 full-time equivalent students, or $19.1 thousand average per student. I am only using public schools data and not private schools budgets or private schools state finance if any. I suppose that adding those figures would strengthen my results and not weaken them.
I’ve only used examples of municipalities served by our Rumbo newspaper. I wouldn’t be surprised if most readers would be shocked when they read these numbers: “My child costs so much? You must be kidding.” Again, I suggest you read the Massachusetts Department of Education’s report to check my numbers. I don’t create them; I only report them. Our local Real Estate taxes pay for our education, whether our children go to school, or we have no children.
Source: Massachusetts Department of Education Per Pupil Expenditures All Funds Year 2021. The average yearly professional salary in Massachusetts is $160 thousand. All cost accounting systems consist of direct costs and overhead allocation, but I am unable to distinguish or consider them in the report. Those interested in the details of all the Massachusetts municipalities may visit: https://profiles.doe.mass.edu/statereport/ppx.aspx
Pre-college education takes a long time. A child will attend a total of twelve years from first grade until graduation. I prefer to leave kindergarten out because I am not sure if those students qualify as full-time equivalent in the numbers. I don’t consider home-learning students either.
Twelve years at $19,062 per year amount to a pre-college total of $228,700 until the student leaves for college or trade schools. From that point on, the graduates are on their own and must borrow or tap their families for funding their career ambitions. The education career of our professionals looks like a money funnel: Wide at the beginning of their lives and narrow at the end.
There is no question that we have a heavy financial burden that undermines not just the higher educational system, but our professional classes as well. When our doctors and lawyers must add the allocation of the money they spent trying to become doctors and lawyers we all have to pay a portion of that money with our fees. That is inflationary. Those professionals who exhaust their resources are less willing to make their knowledge available to the masses unless they are heavily compensated, making their services unavailable to those who have problems paying for those services. Should I start to ask my PCP how preoccupied she is with the unpaid balance of her student debt before she takes my blood pressure?
Positions of both sides of the political spectrum with the cancellation of student debt should not be a reason for electing politicians to manage the remaining problems ailing our nation. European countries have eliminated tuition as a barrier to higher education. Competition to the temples of higher learning in those countries is based on teaching skills and prestige, not budgets.
The post-high school graduates’ willingness to pursue or not a college education presents us with a quandary. If society wants to reward those who continue to college with tuition benefits, what about the ones who don’t continue? Is the cost of earlier education “a promise” of continuity or “an investment”? Should we pay their mortgages instead? I don’t think it makes sense. I am willing to ask university students to offer a semester of free public service to society in their specializations to pay back for any taxpayer-based tuition. Universities would coordinate with their communities about the type of that non-compensated work.
Part of the resistance by the American taxpayer to finance higher education is driven by ignorant and negative opinions about administrators and teachers of high-level educational institutions. They consider them elitist at best, narcissistic, and egoistic at worst.
We want to have fair institutions of higher learning but are not willing to put our wallets where our mouths are and make them tuition fair by leveling their tuitions with our tax contributions. When the Harvards of the world charge the same tuition as any other university, demand will flatten and so will supply.
So, to end my article with a short conclusion driven by a long introduction and presentation, my position is that the same society that pays so much for student learning before they are of legal age should continue its practice after they reach that age. I cannot conceive of any better way to end the controversy in a society that pays so much for the education of its young members and forgets them when they age. That doesn’t sound fair to me.
This is my solution: Every year, after completing their admission rosters, universities, and trade schools could supply their lists to their state’s Departments of Education and/or the United States Department of Education requesting the basic funds needed for the tuition of the accepted students. Universities would have to calculate their tuitions on factors previously agreed with the appropriate education or professional agencies adjusted by inflation. Tuitions would be financed with state and federal taxes. If we pay our soldiers, sailors, and flyers, there should be something left for our high-level university students. The day we do so, Affirmative Action in education will be a reality, not a dream. And all of us will be and feel better. For those who worry about opening the doors to socialism because the states pay for education, don’t give it a thought. Socialism tries to control the faculties and the content of the education programs, not the funding of tuition of what are essentially free schools.
And that is my next unEducated Point of view about Education. So Long.