Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Goldwater Institute: Napolitano's higher education proposals are off the mark

Ready, Shoot, Aim!
Napolitano's higher education proposals are off the mark

By Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

Governor Janet Napolitano called for the doubling of the number of college graduates by 2020 in her 2007 state of the state address and paying the tuition for students who graduate high school with a B average. How fast can you say grade inflation?

What's important to note, however, is that there isn't any reason to think Arizona needs such a doubling. In the Carnegie Foundation's publication Change, Paul Barton wrote that the notion that the U.S. has a dire need for an ever increasing number of college graduates is a myth. "Confusion about the demand for college graduates runs throughout discussions of national workforce needs," Barton wrote.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 29 percent of all jobs actually required a degree in 2004. But the U.S. Department of Education's National Education Longitudinal Study reports that 40 percent of its sample attained a two- or four-year degree or higher. Many people with college degrees have jobs that do not require them.

Of course, Arizona's universities can and should do more to improve their abysmal graduation rates. The National Center for Education Statistics lists Arizona State's four year graduation rate as 28 percent, the University of Arizona at 30 and Northern Arizona University at 27. The six year graduation rates for these three schools stand at 56%, 56% and 47% respectively. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like Arizona taxpayers are already subsidizing a good deal more than we should.

The crisis in our public universities is effectiveness, not affordability. They need focus, reform, and competition, not new subsidies and a continued lack of accountability. Massive new taxpayer subsidies will simply turn today's farce into tomorrow's tragedy.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute.

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