Publicly funded higher education

Equal public funding for higher education is a bad idea for several reasons:

  1. Academic institutions are full of inefficiency; public funding is indirectly funding people who sit on a chair and collect a salary, similar to how landlords collect rent on “having” a piece of real estate (while “providing a service” is often a much smaller factor).
  2. Citizens should not be forced to pay for something that is not useful to them. Want to study Sanskrit (or in my case French and Swedish)? Great, of course you can, but why should the rest of society pay for it?
  3. Academic inflation: it is increasingly difficult to find a job without a degree, but the need for that degree is not realistic. A degree is something that HR departments use to cover themselves when hiring (“It’s surprising that X is not doing their job well. But we’re not to blame because they had a degree, we couldn’t have known.”). This creates a dynamics of the tragedy of the commons, where the public good is the time that people would otherwise spend on something more useful, but are now forced to go to college because all their competition is going to college.
  4. Related to 3), publicly funded education is an indirect government subsidy to corporations (the company does not have to train its workers because they come pre-trained, and the company then covers the last X% of necessary education). In other words, taxpayers bear the cost of the company, a cost that the company itself could hypothetically cover.
  5. So corporations generate demand for degrees, taxpayers bear the cost of those degrees, and the end result is (due to the inefficiency of higher education institutions) that the degree itself is not worth as much as it could be, so even corporations do not benefit as much as they could. People throughout society lose time and money.

If society decides to publicly fund higher education, it makes much more sense to define exactly what we want to encourage in the next period and then only subsidize that, and if someone really wants to study something that is not so useful to people, they can, but at their own cost. For example, if we need more metallurgical engineers in the next 5 years, that can be subsidized, but if you really want to study French and Swedish, go ahead, no one is stopping you.

What is problematic is that people often choose a college because they failed elsewhere or they don’t know what else to do with their lives. But that’s not a good reason. There’s an argument for publicly funded “self searching”, but there’s gotta be a better way than studying something random and wasting three to seven years there.