The Right Way to Fix Universities

from NYTs

Tax universities? The unthinkable is now a live possibility. Congressional plans to tax the endowments of wealthy private schools and the tuition benefits of graduate students have elicited outrage from universities and schadenfreude from Trump supporters. Missing in this outcry — and in the pending tax legislation — is a recognition of the long history of reciprocity between academia and government that has incalculably benefited society.

The nation’s founders nourished great aspirations for higher learning and pined for a research university in the European mold rather than the British. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were so desperate to do this that they considered transplanting Switzerland’s Genevan Academy wholesale to the nascent United States.

The economic and military demands of the Civil War finally presented the conditions for us to establish versions of a European-style university in America. To fund them, the government offered a quid pro quo in which universities were granted federal money and exemption from direct oversight in exchange for providing a service to society. The Morrill Act of 1862 charged the so-called land-grant universities to “promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes.”

The nationwide introduction of tax exemption for both private and public universities in the early-20th-century tax code formalized this reciprocity. The sad irony is that while political leaders fought hard for universities years ago, their latter-day counterparts now seek to dismantle them.

The deal between universities and government now on the table was negotiated in the years after World War II, when American pride in military victory commingled with anxiety over how to manage the stateside return of millions of soldiers. The result was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, popularly known as the G.I. Bill, which would eventually send more than two million veterans to college and remake the American class structure. In a single generation, college access was transformed from an option only for the affluent and a minority of industrious students into a broadly accessible avenue of social mobility.

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5 Responses to The Right Way to Fix Universities

  1. Jimmy Bedoya December 1, 2017 at 5:39 pm #

    The essence of academia is to help society excel in a social, intellectual, and economic manner. By educating the youth, the future can consist of endless amounts of success in all forms. The youth will in return lead and teach their youth, formulating a newly found link of success in the many years to come, completely changing the fate of an individual and most importantly the society. In America, the founders pushed an idea to mold an educational system that reflected that of the British and almost took into consideration the possibility of bringing the famous Genevan Academy to the United States. After the civil war an environment demonstrating the potential to place a European-style university motivated the government to make an offer that granted federal money to universities and exemption from direct oversight in return of establishing a service to society. This service to society would be developing a generation of intelligent individuals to benefit the United States in every aspect. The Morrill Act of 1862 gave land-grants to universities in an effort to assist them in the promotion of liberal and practical education of the industrial classes. In the early 20th century, there was an introduction of tax exemption for private and public universities. This introduction, however, was short-lived in the sense that after World War 2, America was looking for a way to readjust the lives of soldiers after they came back home. Thus, as a result, America passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. To help soldiers who came back to be put through college. From this point on is where the increase in college students surpassed the amount of federal aid available for people. The government of the country as well of the government of every state started putting a stop to the aid they were given college students. In an effort to replace the declining government assistance, administrators started increasing college tuition. Now the issue resides in the sense that college is becoming unaffordable for everyone and only affordable to the kids of rich backgrounds.

    The author strongly suggests that this should not be the case and instead of a question of what good and service can be derived from sending kids, regardless of upbringing, to get a college education. With this question can be the determination of granting aid for the social welfare of American citizens let alone humanity. To tax students can be seen as a destructive manner for the fact that it puts a restriction on the capability of America excelling in scientific discovery and potential of an educated public. I agree with the author in the sense that universities should be able to convince donors to donate to students so that there can be a future of Americans that aspire both financially and mentally. An educated public is great for not only the individual but for the welfare of the public. If the Labor and Education Departments could create grants that will be established off competitive grounds could help universities deliver training programs to people who are most affected by financial issues and find themselves in low-income environments. If only the privileged can go to college, it in a sense restricts America from finding its true geniuses and humble, resilient leaders.

  2. Shiyun Ye December 1, 2017 at 8:17 pm #

    As we all know, higher learning in United States is always been encouraged although many people choose to drop out of it. Still, there are a large number of population who wants to get better educations and especially, with less tuition. However, the decision initiated by Congress recently that they plan to tax the endowments of wealthy private schools and the tuition benefits of graduate students have greatly impact this group pf people. Before this initiation had brought up, the cost of a four-year degree has already increased so much that typically a family has to mortgage their future finance to support their children or even the child himself or herself has to go for a huge amount of student loan. With this crude, destructive mechanism for extracting goods from academia would diminish both scientific discovery and the size and scope of the educated public that has been improving United States for generations. There already exist three major problems in the educational area, which are the soaring costs, educational inequality and school’s resistance to change. Nonetheless, with the idea of taxing tuition benefits, it does not solve even single one of these questions.
    Moreover, with the change of taxing policy in universities, they have to think about new proposals to attract more students than before. They can reserve their models but the wealthy families would be a much better target and the priority, or they can look for people who never have the idea of coming to college. Apparently, for the case of saving energy and cost, the first method seems more reasonable. However, it may strength the problem of education inequality, which already exist for a long time. Furthermore, another great idea is promoting as many online courses as possible. These online courses can for the working classes who are willing to take a few more certifications and do not mind to contribute their salaries. From a positive aspect of this initiation, it forces the university to commit to what they should be doing – education, but people are smart enough to find a way to slack off. Therefore, as mentioned before, finding elite families could become these universities’ priorities, which create more unfairness in the area. The universities can also cut down the investing for the science and research projects so that they can save more money or to decrease the salary of their employees even professors. It may occur the low quality of education and low involvement from both students and faculties.
    In the end, this new initiated policy has its own reason, which is to increase the universities involvement on education area because most of them do not seem like they are doing this. However, as discussed, the disadvantages seem more then the advantages if the policy really come out. The worst can be another round of increasing college tuition, which can easily destroy the current already fragile determination of people who wants to get a better education. The congress needs to think through the choice again.

  3. Vincent Scorese December 8, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

    Everyone can agree on the fact that higher education is a very good and important way for us not only as a country but as a population to progress into the future. It has been practiced for years not how parents and grandparents insist their children or grandchildren to apply for college and continue their education at a university. I remember as a child always being told to make sure my grades were good and one day apply for college and become something one day from graduation. I’m happy for that upbringing. However, everyone is very aware of the cost of college and the cost of trying to increase that higher education. The cost has continuously rose year after year from universities getting away from charging students extreme amounts of money for tuition and those associated with it. Everyone can agree that the price for college is getting out of control with the fact that student debt has outgrown credit card debt and that’s saying a lot. College has been argued for a long time whether or not it is kind of sham with how they make students take 2 extra years of introductory courses that most seem useless. There has to be something done about the cost of college by making it less and that is where as Americans but also individuals we will disagree or have different opinions on how we could accomplish that with as little issues as possible. The way the government feels right now is to tax these institutions and the graduate benefits the were receiving form these universities. I’m not one hundred percent sure on what is going to come of the plan but it is an attempt to try and lower the cost of universities from the perspective of the government and its leaders so we will truly just have to wait and see what really comes of the taxing of the private universities that charge a crazy amount of money for tuition. I hope that it lowers the amount they charge, not only for me but also for future generations to come behind me. Taxing might make them increase the amount they charge.

  4. zonghao li December 8, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

    One of the aspects that could definitely use regulation is the academia world, where there are important issues of rising costs and massive student debt. As government pulls funds and control from universities and other institutions of higher education, schools given free reign to enforce their agenda. Unfortunately, the general trend[a] seems to be that the school’s policy direction is diverging from the original intention, which is to provide quality education. Instead, modern educational institutions compete with each other[b] to secure more students. One way of doing this is to build more and more buildings to provide a better image of grandeur. However, among all these new construction projects we need to ask ourselves where to draw the line between the university’s prestige and the quality of education given. We need to ask the question: how are these recreational and academics progressing the student’s learning?
    While many universities can continue to splurge because of their prestige and the increasing importance of a college degree, other less renowned universities[c] are having a hard time trying to keep up with the spending habits of their more prestigious counterparts. Or as Thomas H. Powell, Mt. St. Mary’s University president, puts it, “we borrowed a lot of money, but we had no choice, I wasn’t going to watch the buildings fall down.”
    Perhaps what this means is that the government needs to step in. With increased regulation and someone to look over the schools’ shoulders, at the very least the rampant tuition growth can be somewhat mitigated. One way can be to differentiate between the colleges that provide quality education, colleges that actually provide a public good. For example, there were lawsuits [d]concerning the legitimacy and ethical nature of for profit universities such as Trump University. Among concerns of whether or not for profit universities provide quality education are questions of ethical business practices such as enrolling students in courses that provide course material as advertised and permitting students who want to transfer out the appropriate credits for their work in the for profit college.
    In light of these controversial policies, I strongly believe that a system that promotes incentives to provide quality education through tax benefits would greatly alleviate the problem of outrageous tuition costs and stagnant if not downgrading education quality. As Congress discusses its new tax plan, they can allow universities that provide quality education to receive tax benefits while other universities, especially for profit universities, can be taxed. This way, both the US government and the students win; the US government gets more tax revenue while students enjoy better education.
    In our capitalistic society, incentive is the name of the game. Without government regulation, universities could just do whatever they want and unfortunately that means enforcing their own agendas which is to make the universities bigger to attract more students and more money. However, if there is some monetary incentive for universities to do their jobs, I’m sure we will see the trend shift because money is the lifeline needed to keep the universities running. Depending on how lenient Congress is, or rather, how politically feasible it is, the aforementioned tax penalty on colleges that don’t provide quality education can be closed down. Thus, in an ideal world, only the universities receiving tax benefits and maybe a few universities that remains even without receiving tax benefits remain to exist. Of course, as a policy this will be very hard to be approved political-wise, and there are also enforcement problems of the accuracy of regulatory agencies to determine the quality of education and who gets the tax benefits.
    In the end, it might not even be feasible. However, I still stand by my statement that providing incentives to better education quality and disincentives to bad education qualities will greatly alleviate the problem. In our capitalistic world, we are to a large extent free to do what we want, and if there are incentives to help push us a certain way, we will certainly see a new trend.

  5. zonghao li December 8, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

    i s

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