The discussions of the past two days have reflected our current budgetary environment, and the challenges faced in funding higher education as result. On a national level, a budget deficit and a gargantuan national debt seems to have become business as usual. In Washington state, we are required to pass a balanced budget every two years. This model recently has included the need for special sessions to deal with higher than anticipated budget shortfalls after passing the original budget. One area that has been especially hard hit with cuts is state supported higher education.
From a historical and cultural perspective, there has been broad bipartisan support in the U. S. and and in Washington state for the idea that an educated public elevates the quality of life for all. Representative Carlyle spoke of this in today’s discussion. Senator Litzow spoke of the lack of qualified candidates to fill many high-tech positions. Sen. Frocke spoke of a “new paradigm” regarding the type of society we wanted in the future.This would require a change in direction, and providing more funding for higher education.
Others feel that as we evaluate and reduce public spending moving forward, there should be a higher reliance on personal funding and privatization of higher education.
In a nutshell, the question always boils down to core issues.
What value do we place on higher education as a benefit to society in general? Do you agree with Rep. Seaquist, that we are “undereducated” and the future of “our economy and society” depends on reversing this trend? This would require drastically increasing access to education and potentially a corresponding increase in spending. To fund this, do we increase revenues or cut other services? Or do we allow the private sector to provide education and increase access to education through tax credits and other incentives? If we make cuts to other social services, which ones are cut? To what degree can we rely on emerging educational technologies to assist us in providing quality education? Is blended and online learning a savior, or simply a useful tool?
What are your thoughts?