A free college education for all? That’s been the dream of many an idealist. President Obama certainly shares this goal— a year ago he said “The single most important thing we can do is to make sure we’ve got a world-class education system for everybody. That is a prerequisite for prosperity.” State university systems, particularly in New York and California, are tasked to provide all students— even those of limited means—access to higher education. Many, especially on the political Left, view public support of education as a cornerstone of a free and prosperous society.
Thus the current economic hard times have produced great distress. Both SUNY in New York and the three California state systems, along with many others, have been forced to dramatically raise tuition. Many states have cut back on support—the sad and familiar joke being that public institutions have gone from being state supported to merely state located. Federal funds are also threatened: graduate students will no longer receive interest deferments, earmarks (a traditional source of money for higher education) are no longer available, and government grant money is increasingly harder to come by. More financial woe looks likely in the near future.
On top of this many questions are raised about the value of higher education. Is college teaching what students really need to know?