http://chronicle.com/img/chronicle_logo.gifTo the Editor: Roger Pielke Jr. ("The Problem With In-State Tuition" The Chronicle, July 24) suggests closing his state-university budget gap by raising in-state tuition to out-of-state levels.
Not included is a proposal for raising the family incomes of the in-state students proportionately; his suggestion is that a state might subsidize its resident students directly. It seems doubtful to me that a state will prefer a complex program of direct evaluation and subsidy to the simple expedient of funding its university to do the job for it, or that a state has the money in any case (the states are hurting too).
The original logic of state universities was that they would be accessible to the less affluent of a state's citizens, increasing the state's employable talent pool in areas not reached by private education, and thus eventually paying the state back for its initial subsidy—or, rather, investment. That logic is violated at the point where a student cannot combine summer work with a campus job and emerge every June tired but debt-free. Many "state" institutions passed that point years ago, and what we are currently seeing looks to me a lot like the privatization of public higher education. Professor Pielke's suggestion amounts to one more step down that path. Some will undoubtedly be inclined to follow him. I wish them well.
But the whole situation seems to be in flux: there are a lot of ideas out there (some of them you report in that same issue) for connecting education and students. What the future will be like, or how many educational futures there may be, I don't know.
But for consideration: if the typical state university were founded de novo next week, would it have its present shape? Would it include such high-ticket items as facilities for industry- and government-sponsored research? Spectator athletics? Or might these and other functions be differently distributed across the economic landscape? I suspect they might, and I sense from reading the newspaper that they are already beginning to be. Should be fun to watch.
E. Bruce Brooks, Research Professor of Chinese, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst, Mass.