Monday, February 11, 2013

The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education: A Call for a New Funding Model

In the United States, quality public higher education was once accessible to most Americans able to benefit from it. The way it worked was simple—taxpayers funded public colleges and universities sufficiently so that students who were prepared to work a few hours a week could complete their degrees in a relatively short time with a minimum amount of debt. For those with even greater need, government provided state grants and Pell grants. This system worked well for decades and opened the door to opportunity for millions of Americans.

Now, we are told we can no longer afford this. We believe that is wrong.

The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education has begun a drive to involve our nation’s college and university faculty in the search for better solutions than funding cuts, privatization, soaring tuition and academic shut-downs. Our nation has arrived at our current quandary for a variety of reasons. One is surely a failure of imagination, a set of assumptions that profoundly limits our ability to think about possibilities.

Three working papers released by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education aim at stimulating a more thoughtful, fact-based, national conversation about paying for higher education in this country. Two of the CFHE working papers address the common assumption that funding higher education through public means rather than through skyrocketing tuition is simply impossible.

My paper explores the notion of free higher education and examines what the actual cost to provide such an ideal would be. I argue that we could make big strides towards free public higher education by reallocating current governmental expenditures for higher education and by eliminating regressive tax breaks. (More at: http://ucaft.org/category/issues/why-college-education-could-be-free)

The second paper, using the state of California as a test case, looks at the real magnitude of returning to recent, more adequate levels of state funding for higher education. Stanley Glantz, a professor at UC San Francisco, describes that “reseting” higher education funding to more adequate past levels would require only very small adjustments in the median income tax return.

The third paper explores a currently unused tax revenue source that could be tapped if there were the political will to provide adequate public funding for higher education. Rudy Fichtenbaum, an economics professor at Wright State University in Ohio and national president of the American Association of University Professors, explains how to achieve vastly improved funding for higher education through a miniscule tax on selected financial transactions.

Members of the news media, including campus/student reporters and bloggers on education issues, are invited to a news briefing on Tuesday, February 12 (10 am Pacific/1 pm Eastern) to hear a short discussion by the three authors and to ask them questions about their proposals.

To join the call:
• Call (800) 553-0273 / Ask for “Campaign for the Future of Higher Education”
• You may dial up to 5 minutes for the start time

To see the papers in advance:
• Send an email request to dchernow@calfac.org
• Go to www.futureofhighered.org/workingpapers.