Crisis in American Higher Education, and who's to blame

October 02, 2019

Sometimes facts can seem "partisan."  This is one of those times.

In my adult life, the constellation of institutions forming American public higher education, once the greatest in the world, has been systematically hollowed out by GOP funding cuts, especially in state governments but also in Federal spending (where they blackmailed the Obama administration starting in 2010).  I suspect it's because of the rise of the Tea Party and the ideological zealotry of the post-GWB GOP.  It's definitely reached down to the GOP's voters, not just the elites.

Consider this one example, drawn from the attached review:

"In 2009, President Obama asked Congress for $12 billion to revitalize the country’s community-college system. He didn’t get it. But between 2013 and 2018, a lone American university — already the richest in the world — raised$9.6 billion in a single fund-raising campaign."

There is hardly anything so disastrous to our future--politically, economically, technologically, culturally, humanely--as the turn away from the intentional ambition to dedicate a very small proportion of our collective wealth to our collective education.  At least, that is my view.

The system is still quite strong; but the gutting of public higher ed has been one of the most disastrous features of political "climate change"--changes so vast and yet so slow that they don't necessarily get noticed as discrete changes unless you know where to look. But once you look, you immediately see; and when you see, you want to cry.

And again, this is primarily and centrally and crucially the fault of the Republican party.  I'm not trying to be partisan in saying this--it's just where the facts lead me.  This is not about sticking it to English professors, or even humanities professors; we make up a fairly small proportion of this sector.  This is community colleges and research universities and everything else.  Who the GOP is hurting with this behavior is all of us, including engineers, nurses, teachers, welders, librarians, lab technicians, plumbers, citizens, moms and dads, children, humans.

The decision on the part of one of our political parties to effectively embrace a "know-nothing" ideology is terrifying to me.  A decent conservative party is eminently possible; hell, in many ways I'm personally kind of an "Eisenhower Republican" myself.  Someone must find a way to construct such a party.  Or so I think, and hope.