More Investment Out of Your Pocket

Speaking of public sector investments on your dime, Rhode Island’s Board of Governors for Higher Education is looking for a 22% increase in the public funds that they receive. Of course, part of the plan might be to hit lawmakers with a large requested increase — requested as if absolutely essential, naturally — so as to make even small increases, let alone decreases, seem like an attack on their institutions. Not being uniquely hostile to public higher education, I don’t begrudge the board recourse to common gimmicks of budget negotiation, but this cliché merits comment:

Michael Ryan, chairman of the board’s finance committee, said, “Public education is the engine that drives economic development.”

Public education is manifestly not the engine that drives economic development. Individual motivation and the well-being of families is. At best, colleges and universities provide the readily accessible expertise necessary to put entrepreneurial impulses to good use and supply an educated (if inexperienced) workforce to move businesses along.
The point of emphasis is critical: If there are no businesses to supply jobs and if public policy derails inventiveness and creates disincentive for economic risk, then the best public colleges in the world will do nothing to move the state’s economy out of the mud. Indeed, I’d go so far as to suggest that they could exacerbate recovery, inasmuch as pouring highly educated young adults, with concomitantly high expectations, into a flooded economic engine will only make matters worse.

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10 years ago

One point to agree with you…I’ve looked for reasons why Brown’s endowment is so much lower than other Ivy League Universities. Clearly one reason is the size of the graduate and medical programs compared to a Harvard or Yale.
But another thing that I noticed is when you work in Boston, you bump into Harvard grads walking down any street. They work everywhere, so they’re in the neighborhood of their alma mater.
Many fewer Brown grads stay in the Providence area, so when it comes to donation time, it’s out of sight, out of mind. So why do Harvard grads stay in the Boston area, but Brown grads don’t stay in Providence? Hmm, maybe it’s jobs.
So that would certainly be the opposite of what Michael Ryan is saying. We have an Ivy League institution, pumping out very smart scholars, yet we have a problem with our economic engine. If it was all about education, we should have Brown grads all over the place, driving the RI economy. We don’t.
We need to have an economy that has jobs and a state where people want to live, thrive and grow their families.

8 years ago

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