Is Free Tuition Europe’s Message to America?

Published November 15, 2015 in Tacoma’s News Tribune.

grad capsBERGEN, Norway.  Should college be free for students, as Bernie Sanders contends?

Those who take this position usually support it with two claims: We need the best-educated workforce in the world, and cost should not deter young people from developing their talent.

In other words, free tuition would lead to a more prosperous and equitable America. And since college in countries such as Denmark and Norway is free, why can’t it also be free for Americans?

Yet if we follow Sanders’ suggestion and look abroad for inspiration, it’s not so clear that “free tuition” is the take-home message. Look closely at other nations, and it is apparent that we almost excessively invest in college. Continue reading

Efforts boost college success for low-income and minority students

Published in The News Tribune, May 22, 2013.

Critics of the United States like to single out our large disparities in life outcomes as evidence of our country’s moral failures. As disturbing as differences in income and wealth are, we Americans remain wedded to our foundational story: With hard work and a large dose of determination, even the poorest among us can climb the social ladder.

We probably each can recite such a Horatio Alger story. I see them each year in my classroom, where sit immigrants who have fled poverty and conflict, having exchanged it for the security and success our country offers them. Continue reading

Higher education exploits its athletes

Published in The News Tribune, April 10, 2013.

When employers gain the lion’s share of the value created in the workplace, we commonly call this economic exploitation. Slavery is the extreme example, but exploitation can occur when workers gain something more than zero percent of what is produced.

A nation’s “wage share” provides a rough approximation of how the value of what a country produces is split between workers and employers. In the United States, the wage share is about 58 percent.

Bear with me a minute, because I’m now going to relate this to March Madness. Continue reading

In this upside-down world, public college means heavier debt load

Published in The News Tribune, June 6, 2012

With the latest news that tuition at our state’s public institutions of higher education will probably rise another 16 percent next year, it’s easy to imagine that our public colleges soon will be as expensive to attend as are the private ones.

But in fact for many students, private colleges have already become the more affordable option.  Continue reading

No country for young (and undereducated, unemployable) men

Published in The News Tribune, March 28, 2012

Over the last six months Washington’s unemployment rate has fallen from 9.3 to 8.2 percent.  That’s terrific news. The same is occurring in states across the nation as employers are now hiring at a record pace.

Yet as some pessimistic sage surely said, every silver cloud has its dark lining.

The problem with our labor market is one I’ve been highlighting this month:   too many citizens have inadequate job-market skills with few options for upgrading them, and receive too little support for navigating what for them is an unstable job market.

Continue reading

Poor public policies send desperate people to dubious colleges

Published in The News Tribune, March 14, 2012

In my last column I argued that the life line we’re throwing to those at the bottom rungs of society is increasingly beyond their grasp. Truth is, we also don’t provide them with many chances to rise up.  With neither a hand out nor a hand up, too many citizens are consigned to pretty dim life prospects.

What’s more, other efforts taken to assist them have been akin to the actions taken by Captain Renault in the movie Casablanca.  The Captain famously responded to a shooting of a Nazi by a known assailant with the unforgettable instructions to “round up the usual suspects.”  Renault hoped that the appearance of vigilance would protect him from his evil superiors, and we all hope he was right. Continue reading

Task for new UW President: Make college affordable

Published in The News Tribune, July 8, 2011

The University of Washington has made an interesting choice for its new President.  Michael Young, who this week took over UW’s realm, does not seem to fit the liberal reputation of this institution.  But let’s hope he proves successful in addressing the conservative features of the University.  Such conservatism marks most of the nation’s public colleges and universities, and poses one of higher education’s largest challenges.

Some background is needed to understand this.  Let’s take what is fast becoming one of the most challenging issues in higher education:  providing an affordable education for the state’s students. Continue reading

State must not give up its role in affordable education”

Published in The News Tribune, May 26, 2011

For the next few years at least, the Legislature’s power to set tuition at the state’s higher education institutions has come to an end.  By ceding this authority, the Legislature recognized that it couldn’t drastically cut higher education’s support on the one hand, while also prohibiting institutions from turning to students for the difference.

Now that this is resolved, lawmakers should turn to policies re-establishing an affordable system of higher education in Washington State.  Continue reading

College cartel exploits football players’ talent

Published in The News Tribune January 7, 2011

Husky fans finally have something to cheer about. The Dawgs not only won a spot in a bowl game, they even won the game!  Indeed, college football’s “post season” treated Pac-10 teams well financially; together they split over $38 million in bowl revenue.    All told, 35 bowl games played over three jam-packed weeks allowed athletic programs around the country to rake in over $250 million. 

With this as backdrop, let’s turn now to a scandal that has rocked the college football scene this year. Continue reading

Paying twice for education: We’re spending a lot of money to help college students catch

Published in The News Tribune October 10, 2010

Imagine, if you can, using taxpayer money to build an expensive stadium, then before it is paid off you implode it so that you can build an even more luxurious stadium, again with taxpayer money.

OK, too much of a stretch?  How about this:  We spend millions of taxpayer dollars to build a highway that doesn’t quite meet in the middle.

Sometimes in the public sector is seems like the adage “Measure twice, cut once” should be “Pay twice, get once.” Continue reading

“The erosion of higher ed: Dollars are slipping away from teaching to sports

Published in The News Tribune, July 25, 2010

It might seem odd that the president of a world-class institution of higher education would leave his position to head up a large entertainment conglomeration.  And Mark Emmert’s decision to leave UW for the NCAA was just that.   

Yet is it so odd?  After all, the NCAA is an association of about 1,200 colleges across the nation, with a commitment “to the highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship… and excellence in the classroom”.  But make no mistake about it:  in practice, the NCAA is best compared with the NBA, MLB or NFL, meaning that it coordinates sporting events for its members – and entertainment for the fans — with the purpose of making money. Continue reading