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.