Ok, I’m motherfucking exhausted because I have just finished my 5th of 15 motherfucking Tuesdays. (Huzzah! I am a third of the way through!)
And I was going to do a big long ranty post about this, but seriously? This doesn’t need to be as long as I could have made it (though I’m sure CPP will still say it’s too long), though it will be ranty. Because it’s just common motherfucking sense. (Note: I’m only talking about public higher ed here. Private institutions will have to figure out their own shit – I am too spent after teaching at a public institution to figure out their situation, too.)
Let’s make an analogy that brings this closer to home. Imagine that your mom has a birthday coming up. And the thing your mom wants most in the world is a vacation that will cost $1,000.00. You are one of five kids. The five kids constitute the “public” in this scenario. Now, it would be a “public good” for the kids to get the mom this vacation, because otherwise she’ll make everybody feel guilty as hell and she’ll be in a bad mood and take it out on everybody. Now one answer to this question is that Jane, the eldest sister, makes the most money. She can afford it, all the other siblings say, so she should take one for the team. But Jane doesn’t feel that way – Jane feels like she wants to send her kids to camp and to get botox or something, and so she refuses. How dare she be expected to take one for the team. The middle sibling, Joey, pleads that he is raising twins and can’t possibly find the extra grand. The youngest, Jenny, would need to take a second job in order to find an extra grand. You get the picture. In other words, nobody wants to pay $1,000.o0. It’s “not fair.” But everybody wants mom to have that vacation, because it would make their lives easier in the day-to-day.
Now let’s imagine for a moment that these five siblings aren’t total fucktards. They would realize that if they all contributed to the cost of the vacation, the cost to each personally would go way down. Every one of these siblings (who works a decent job), can find $200 to contribute to the pot. Or actually, let’s say that one of the five is really struggling. Maybe that one, let’s call him Johnny, can only contribute $100. The other 4 can still find an extra $25 a piece without it breaking the bank. For the public good, each can contribute something in order to make their world better. And also to improve the life of their mom, because they want for her to have a good life, because again, they aren’t fucktards.
In the case of public higher education, the answer to the “crisis” in the “rising cost of higher education” might be to spread that cost around to the motherfucking citizenry that benefits from having an educated populace.
If we really believe that we “need” our citizens to get an education in order to have a “thriving economy in the 21st century,” then this is a no-brainer. And the easiest way to achieve this is by acknowledging that we may need to offset the increasing costs of higher education – costs that as far as I can tell correlate to rising costs for health care, essential student services like psychological services, disability services, and support for underrepresented and underprepared student populations (as opposed to nonessential services like fitness centers and whatnot, which are usually covered by fees), rising energy costs, increased costs that come out of increased technological demands (for, let’s be real: technology does not – as far as I can tell, ever - entail a cost savings, in spite of the propaganda to the contrary), and mandates from the state and federal government that currently have no funding attached to them – is to use the mechanism we already have for spreading costs around, i.e., TAXES. You want a lower tuition bill? Get everybody in your community to agree that you should have a lower tuition bill, and to put their money where their mouth is and to pay some taxes to support that opinion.
Look, I’m an English professor. I don’t really do “math,” per se. But I’m going to suggest that we’d be in a much better position in regards to funding for higher education if every taxpayer acknowledged that if we all just paid 1% or 2% more (or maybe less than that – I don’t do math remember) in their income in taxes – and if that 1 or 2% were dedicated to education and couldn’t be used to fix budget shortfalls or to be directed to other projects – then tuition would not go up in the ways it’s done over the past few years, and it might even go down. I’m saying this as a person who is done with her education and who doesn’t have kids of her own. But I believe in education as a public good. I vote yes on school levees and bond issues for P-12. I live in a town that has high taxes for its schools, even though I don’t have kids in those schools. Basically, I understand that the education of my immediate community has positive value for me – even if I don’t directly benefit from the schools themselves. And I also understand that if we spread the cost around, it has positive effects that reverberate.
The UC “modest proposal” that involves getting educated now and paying later is only more privatization. And that is only going to mean higher costs for individuals, ultimately. If what we really care about is keeping costs down, then everybody needs to pitch the fuck in. It’s not calculus. Even I can do this math, and the last math I took was something like “Algebra for the Liberal Arts.”
And finally: worrying about how to pay tuition isn’t exactly something new. Lots of people have worried about that long before now. It’s just they tended to be people who were in their first generation in their family to go to college, people who had kids young, people whose parents couldn’t help them with tuition, people who had to do time in the military in order to get the GI Bill. We didn’t worry so much about tuition when it was “just them,” did we?
The problem isn’t, actually, that education has less value now than it did then, or that public institutions of higher education are cheating students out of what they rightly deserve. The problem is that the public has stopped thinking that education is a public good and instead it’s started believing that education is a personal responsibility. That’s just fine if we want to limit access to higher education, and it’s just fine if we’re willing to get rid of some of these new essentials, like student services or like technology, in order to meet a fiscal bottom line.
But you don’t get something for nothing, as business types are fond of reminding us. So pony the fuck up, people. Either that, or shut the fuck up.