I’ve been thinking about Chris Newfield’s 2008 book Unmaking the Public University a lot lately, and I wanted to reproduce one great quote from page 182, about what he calls “the tuition trap”: how by raising tuition fees, public universities undermine the case for public funding for universities, which shortfall they make up by raising tuition, undermining the case for public funding…:
“The tuition trap goes like this: The public is worried about college affordability, but its public university raises its fees. The university thus implies it does not actually depend on public funding, since it has the private resource of higher tuition at its fingertips. The university may also deepen this impression – that it can do without more public funding – by saying how good it is in spite of public funding cuts. Even worse, it may declare strong public funding a thing of the past in order to justify tuition increases or expanded fund-raising. Taxpayers then reasonably ask, if the university does not need more money, why does it keep raising fees? And since it keeps raising fees, why should we give it more public money?”
He goes on:
“If the university is just another cog in an economic system that is about getting ahead, charging as much as you can, maximizing your returns, and buying your way to the top, why should the general public pay for it?”
Both quotes from pg. 182.
Universities could be very valuable, making huge contributions to the general development of society and accessible to all. For that to happen, public universities have to get out of the tuition trap.