There are many people who assume that the government funds that go towards higher education are helping the people who need it most.
This simply is not the case. The funds coming from the federal and state government are not helping the less fortunate get a quality education that leads to a successful career. It’s actually doing more harm than good.
Total Spending on Higher Ed From the Government
The government spends enormous amounts of money every year on higher education. Here are the numbers based on a 2017 study from pew research.
Federal Government: $75 Billion
State Funding: $87 Billion
Local Funding: $10 Billion
Total Government Funding for 2017: $172 Billion
The Money Isn’t Going to Education
Where is all of this government money going? Doesn’t it seem like college should be less expensive with all of these government funds supporting it?
While the government and universities would like you to be lead to believe that this money is going directly towards improving education, it’s quite the opposite.
This money is being used to cover much of an institution’s expenses which allows the universities to use their money from students to improve the “college experience”. This government money is the enabler that allows them to do this.
The college experience is everything that makes people want to go to college. It’s the beautiful landscape and architecture. It’s the big football games at their 100 million dollar stadium. The parties, dorms, rec centers, activities, etc.
Colleges are spending all of this money to improve this experience which allows them to attract more privileged students who want to be part of that experience. Not get an education.
What Happens When We Remove Government Funds?
If all $172 billion dollars got removed from higher education, then colleges would be forced to very quickly cut their spending by removing nearly everything that isn’t absolutely required to teach students.
However, the quality of education would remain about the same or perhaps even better in the long run. This is because once all of the extras are removed, then the only thing schools will be focused on and measured on, is their education.
This can be proven by comparing ourselves to other countries that spend much less on a per-student basis. Currently, we are spending $30,0003/year per college student on average. In Germany, this number is nearly half that at $17,036/year.
They are spending 44% less than the US to give students a very high-quality education. As seen in the graph below, about 40% of our colleges’ revenue comes from the government.
This proves that we could completely cut all government funding and tuition could remain the same to give students the same high-quality education they’re getting in countries like Germany.
Sure, privileged students won’t have the luxurious experience they’ve become accustomed to. Building huge libraries and recreation centers to show off the wealth of your university would be a thing of the past. There won’t be any more lazy rivers on campus and not every college will be able to afford a massive football stadium.
Perhaps this is a good thing. College shouldn’t cater to privileged students at the cost of the less privileged being forced to pay for it. This is like forcing all students to pay for the Ritz Carlton when all they want is a place to sleep. The privileged students from wealthy parents could care less about the extra cost, but for the less privileged students, it forces them into years of debt for something they would have rather gone without.
How Women and Minorities Will Benefit the Most
The people who would benefit the most from the government removing funding from higher education are minorities and women. Currently, minorities and women are getting the worst end of the stick. They are the groups most affected by student loans and have the worst job prospects.
This shows that the increased cost from college disproportionately affects women and minorities since they have a harder time paying the debt off after graduation.
This $172 billion could be instead used to help fund different programs that would benefit minorities and women instead of already privileged, often white, students.
There are currently about 20 million students enrolled in college. If you divide $172 billion by 20 million students then you get $8,650 per student. If you remove the privileged male students from this, then it’s over $10,000 per student.
This means that this money could be redirected to support all of the disadvantaged women and minorities post-graduation. Each graduate could be supported by $10,000+ in benefit each year for 4 years. This would allow women and minorities to pay off their student loans and have a fair chance in our economy.