by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
John Staddon writes for the Martin Center about the impact of federal funding on American higher education.
The modern American university has changed almost beyond recognition from the form it had even 100 years ago. It is larger, more “diverse,” more of a business, and more industrialized with relatively fewer teachers and more bureaucrats than ever before. Those changes have led to new problems. Higher education, if not broken, is at least seriously injured. Some critics feel the damage is fatal and the whole system should essentially be abolished.
I want to focus on just one cause and a few of its effects. The cause is the involvement of the federal government via the money which is now directly and indirectly funneled into universities, public as well as private.
Even public universities depend to some degree on external funds: The University of California-Berkeley was only 13 percent state-funded in 2014-2015; North Carolina State University received 26 percent of its 2013-2014 budget from the state and 35 percent from “gifts and contracts.”
The effects of this increased reliance on federal funds are loss of autonomy, altered priorities, tuition fees that increase faster than inflation, and a monstrous growth in employees who are neither teachers nor researchers.