Yesterday, the Carnegie Corporation took out two page spreads in major newspapers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, asking for higher education to get a piece of the government stimulus action. They want lawmakers to set aside five percent of the stimulus money, probably in the $40-$45 billion range, to rebuild the infrastructure of higher education. They argue that spending money on higher ed would “have a direct and immediate impact on economic activity beyond the dollars expended.” You can see the ad here (PDF).
This is of course not surprising, as when the government starts passing money out, everyone wants a piece of the action. Frankly, I can think of a lot worse things to spend taxpayer money on than classrooms and research labs. But the bailout party in Washington is illustrative of why fiscal restraint is so difficult and so necessary. Every Tom, Dick, and Harriet comes running whenever someone hears the federal wallet opening.
On a different note, tucked away in the text of the ad (first paragraph, second column) is this nugget: “For the first time in our history, the cohort of Americans ages 25 to 34 is less well educated than the older cohorts that preceded it.” This is shocking to me if true. Ross Douthat asserted in his book that the march to higher education had slowed considerably, but I had missed evidence of an actual decline. In the same paragraph, Carnegie asserts that the U.S. has dropped from first to tenth in percentage of population with a college degree. Given that most of my readers here are part of this demographic, what are we to make of this fact?