Posts Tagged ‘education’


The answer: when state funding is declining and universities go elsewhere (out of state and out of the country) to recruit students.


As Randy Olson demonstrates, state funding per student at U.S. four-year public universities has been on the decline since early in the new millennium.*


And, as Kevin Carey argues, since 2000, student enrollment has fundamentally changed, especially at national public universities.

Most students attending public universities stay in the state where their parents reside, in large part because in-state students have traditionally received a steep tuition discount. Out-of-state students have long been in the minority and pay tuition closer to that charged by private universities. As recently as 2000, national and regional public universities were similar in this regard. That year, 80 percent of national public university students were in-state, compared with 86 percent at regional public universities.

But in the years that followed, the two groups began to diverge. At regionals, little changed. College enrollment swelled in every state after 2000 as the baby boom echo generation finished high school and a larger share of high school graduates enrolled in college. The additional students at regional universities looked much like the old ones. From 2000 to 2012 (the latest year of available federal data), nine out of 10 additional regional public university students were in-state.

The pattern at elite national universities was very different. There, the majority of additional students were from other states. Instead of extending their traditional mission of providing an affordable, high-quality education to local residents, national universities focused on recruiting students from other states and nations, many of whom paid much higher tuition rates. As a result, the number of in-state spots relative to the college-going population as a whole declined significantly at national public universities.

In other words, national public universities are increasingly behaving like private universities, and regional public universities are attempting to educate in-state students with less and less public funding per student.

That’s why the public university system in the United States is quickly becoming public in name only.

*To be clear, overall state funding for public universities actually increased in real terms until the 2007-08 financial crash (and fell precipitously since then) but an even larger increase in student enrollments means that state funding per student has fallen dramatically in comparison to the late 1980s and early 2000s.


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Finally, attention is being paid to how much workers have been hammered over the course of the last couple of decades.

Neil Irwin, based on a report from the Hamilton Project [pdf], focuses on workers with less education (with either no high school diploma or with a high school degree or perhaps some college). And for good reason. As a result of a double shift—a shift away from manufacturing and other jobs that once offered higher pay to lower-paying food service, cleaning and groundskeeping jobs and, simultaneously, the fact that pay levels are declining in almost all of the fields that employ less-educated workers (so even those who have held onto jobs as manufacturers, operators and laborers are making less than they did a generation ago)—less-educated American workers saw a dramatic deterioration in their real wages from 1990 to 2013: a decrease of 20 and 13 percent in median wages for the respective groups of men and a decrease in 11.7 percent for women without a high school diploma (and only a 3.2 percent increase for women with a high school degree or some college).

Clearly, the majority of American workers (69 percent of men and 64 percent of women age 30-45) are being left far behind.

But so are more-educated U.S. workers. While they’ve seen their wages rise in real terms over the same period (6.5 percent for men with a bachelor’s degree, 12.8 percent for those with an advanced degree, and even more for women: 12.8 percent and 21.2 percent, respectively), it is still the case that their wages have not kept up with the enormous increase we’ve seen at the very top: 56 percent (which is the gain in average real income, with capital gains, of the top 1 percent from 1990 to 2013)!


So, even though there are clear differences in the path for workers with different levels of education, their respective gains and losses over the past 23 years pale in comparison with the real winners: the tiny group at the top.


The endpoints data probably also miss the fact that the wages of more-educated workers have stagnated since 2000. See these numbers from the Economic Policy Institute.


My article, “Contending Economic Theories: Which Side Are You On?” has just been published on Taylor & Francis Online for the journal Rethinking Marxism.

The first 50 interested readers (actually 49, since I downloaded a copy for myself) can download the text of the article here.


We hear it all the time: higher education is the best solution for economic inequality.

Well, as it turns out, not so much—at least according to a relatively simple and straightforward simulation exercise conducted by 

Imagine a situation in which ten percent of non-college educated men aged 25 to 64 were to immediately obtain a bachelor’s or advanced degree. (As the authors explain, “this would be a tremendous accomplishment. It is only slightly less than the observed increase in the college share over the entire 34-year period of 1979 to 2013.”)

Here’s what they found:

1. Increasing the educational attainment of men without a college degree will in fact increase their average earnings and their likelihood of being employed (but it still wouldn’t make up for what they’ve lost, at the 50th percentile and below, since 1979).


2. Increasing educational attainment will not significantly change overall earnings inequality (as measured by the Gini and Theil indices). (The reason is that a large share of earnings inequality is at the top of the earnings distribution, and changing college shares will not shrink those differences.)


3. Increasing educational attainment will, however, reduce inequality in the bottom half of the earnings distribution, largely by pulling up the earnings of those near the 25th percentile (but that still doesn’t improve overall inequality)


Hershbein, Kearney, and Summers are in favor of increasing the level (and, I would add, the quality) of education of workers at the bottom of the distribution of income. Who wouldn’t be?

But, they warn,

additional and separate measures will be needed to address rising levels of overall inequality, which, as we have shown, is mostly driven by changes at the top of the distribution.

The lesson: we’re not going to solve the problem of growing inequality unless and until we go beyond the suggestion of more education and begin to imagine and create radically different—more democratic and equal—economic institutions.


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