Thursday, March 1, 2012

PUBLIC HI ED - March 1, 2012

After finishing HS in 1947, I was awarded a tuition scholarship to Cornell. Since I had no source of money for room and board, I could have attended there only if I could obtain a job for about 20 – 30 hours a week at unskilled labor. My alternative was a New York City public college, much like 4 more years of HS, living at home and riding the subway to school. It killed the dream of Cornell, but I chose Brooklyn College , where I could expect 20 hours a week on the subway, but at least I could often read while commuting, and never paid a cent for tuition. It formed my picture of public Hi Ed and I was truly grateful to New York. When I was the Chair of Mathematics at the London School of Economics every English college student got not only free tuition but also a substantial subsidy for maintenance. That was public Hi Ed writ large, and was probably the high point of Hi Ed in that country. In the meantime, that form of education has deteriorated in that country and in this. The key to the university to this day for almost every prospective student has become family finances or crushing debt. The consequence has become a comedown in the
effectiveness in Hi Ed in both USA and UK compared with 1974 or 1947. Both countries , and many more, are suffering from lesser educational opportunity compared with earlier, more enlightened times. In a study I made in 1994, I compared the cost to USA of producing a 2d Lieutenant or Ensign at any of the service academies as contrasted to the earlier public educations supported by federal money and we must question whether the need for armed forces officers is that much greater than the unit costs in civilian and military training, and the national need for each.

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