Pearl River Many tout education, especially higher education, as the ladder to success and equity in society. This notion of general uplift is widely shared by liberals and conservatives despite precious little evidence under girding such belief, quite the contrary. Both sides cling to the exceptions, so that they can avoid dealing with the rule.
They also keep gripping this fiction, even as legislatures, red and blue, have steadily clawed back public investments in state colleges and universities. They have sought to transfer costs to students through higher tuition and related costs, forcing more and more of them to strap on student loans and the debt that follows, while many of the same legislators also want to block them from any relief. When not blocking the progress of the students, to make up the shortfall, they go hat in hand to private donors who have their own special interests. Now with the latest strike against a more equitable educational system with the Court decision crippling affirmative action, universities, already hamstrung financially, will need to spend more to achieve social goals, which have alluded them for decades.
The whole higher education system just seems broken and failing. Even as I try and understand how it might be fixed, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for them. Take sports for example and the millions some schools make off the backs of their students and their mostly free labor. Decisions that allowed student athletes to make some money from their names, images, and likenesses still didn’t get them paid, but let them make some money on the margins. Rather than pay the athletes out of their revenues, many created NIL collectives to get private boosters and donors to pay them. The IRS put an end to that scam by saying donations to the collectives could not be tax-exempt because these outfits didn’t exist for charitable purposes, but, no duh, to pay athletes. Others tap donors, like McKenzie Scott to boost up private and state institutions for underserved populations, in order to level up on social equity, which is fine and dandy, and good for her, but once again substitutes private philanthropy for the public purse. Many realize that to achieve equity the investments need to be made earlier in public education, but there we see the same legislators privileging charter schools and boosting private education.
The beginnings do prejudge the ends, and both lower ed and higher ed need a Marshall Plan worth of money to create equal opportunity and real equity, while dealing with the weight of hundreds of years of the opposite. The rest seems like begging and Band-Aids. Those who claim education is the great equalizer need to be called out and told to put their money where their mouths are or to shut up and get out of the way, so that what needs to be done can be done now.