The Importance of Funding Public Colleges | Opinion

In the United States over the last 10 years, our university system has been thrown into great peril. This is for a wide variety of reasons. On the one hand, the cost of tuition for students has gone up, while the quality of education provided by universities has remained the same. In many ways, the quality of such education has actually decreased during such tuition hikes.

There are two fundamental reasons for the above-mentioned state of affairs. The first pertains to rises in tuition costs. Tuition has gone up as a result of the rising costs of administrators in universities. There is surely a debate to be had as to the utility of hiring more administrators in universities, but it's undeniable that hiring them is driving tuition prices up.

The second pertains to decreases in educational quality, and this is generally seen in the humanities. On the one hand, there has been a growing perception that the humanities lack value—that majors in the humanities have no utility. Despite my personal experience of the humanities as having profound practical and intellectual utility, there are good reasons to believe the humanities are diminishing in their value.

Not only are resources being stripped from departments in the humanities, but there is a growing bias present in these departments. This bias is essentially the left-wing version of something similar to the One American News Network (OANN). Which is to say, there is a pressure on campuses—both socially, and in curriculums—to adhere to a progressive narrative—even if verifiable facts point in a different direction. If you are a conservative on campus, you generally learn to keep your mouth shut when politics or cultural issues arise, as the likelihood of being scolded for speaking your mind is pretty high.

Universities needs to be a place of open discussion, with a good admixture of pluralism and skepticism, regardless of one's personal political disposition. Philosophy departments do a good job of continuing to facilitate such pluralism and skepticism on campus, and I believe more departments ought to take a few notes from their philosophically-disposed colleagues.

Despite the prevalence of these issues, the university system should not be done away with. When it works correctly, it produces responsible citizens who are well-educated, practically informed, articulate and ambitious—the sort of citizens which are necessary for the advancement of civilization.

Where the university system fails, is precisely on this matter. Half of our young population are enrolling in universities at record lows, and are performing poorly in universities in record lows. The result of this entails young men who are more likely to spend most of their time playing video games, abdicating responsibility and struggling to find purpose in life. There is nothing sustainable about this, especially in a world that strictly encourages going to college, over equally valid paths such as taking up a trade.

Students walk on a college campus
Students walk on a college campus. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

This must start by ending the notoriously frequent budget cuts made toward public colleges. Millions of dollars have been cut from CUNY—New York City's public college system—as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was merely the nail in the coffin of a trend of budget cuts that have been continuously worsening for decades—which ironically, coincides with the worsening of the university system as a whole. None of this is exclusive to New York: It has been occurring nationwide.

There is a direct relationship between these budget cuts and increases in tuition. Likewise, there is a direct relationship between these budget cuts and the worsening of quality education. In light of these facts, it is fair to state that spending more on public colleges will increase the quality of education and reduce tuition costs.

Will spending more on public colleges decrease the prevalence of bias? It's very possible. Much of the progressivism we see in universities now arise due to the increased influx of administrators. Effective budgeting, wherein less is spent on administrators and more is spent directly on students, professors and the process of learning may diminish the existence of bias in universities. Doing so would make higher education something worth encouraging young people pursue.

Our economy and culture depend on having a populace that is educated. In order to ensure the sanctity of this fact, we need to stop defunding public colleges. Instead, we need to either reallocate resources from administrators—who are largely involved in tuition hikes and decreases in education quality—or fund universities more sufficiently than we currently do. The bias and tuition crisis currently present in universities does no one any good, but budget cuts make the situation much worse.

To do nothing about it—to instead continue bolstering administrators who taint campuses with dogma and drive tuition prices up—will drive more and more of our population away from attaining a proper higher education. All this will serve to make our population less educated and poorer—which will effectively diminish their ability to contribute to our society, making it less vibrant. Perhaps this is optimistic to say, but there is only good to be found in properly budgeting and funding public colleges.

Daniel Lehewych is a graduate student of philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center, specializing in moral psychology, ethics and the philosophy of mind. He is a freelance writer, powerlifter and health science enthusiast.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.