Public aid in private schools? By Michael V. Adams The Common. School is the greatest discovery ever made by man. tribute on Horace Mann’s Hall of Fame bust If the father of American education were alive today and still teaching the three R’s, he might wonder at the quote adorning his likeness. In this year of 1970, most Americans probably regard education with mixed emotions. Believing as they do in an abstract democratic creed, they praise the system for extending educational opportunity to the common man. They know the stability that theoretically accrues to a nation which shares a common experience. But in these days of Berkeley and Columbia and Kent State and Jackson State and Wisconsin, they sit confused and angry. Confused because some students raise political hell and angry because these students seem not to appreciate the opportunity to attend class. Public or “common” education to them seems increasingly to take on the connotation “vulgar.” This disillusionment occurs at a critical time, for now universities need all the support they can get. In partidular, private colleges within the “public” realm face financial catastrophe. Of the four private Southwest Conference schools, for example, three have used extreme methods to cover recent deficits. One has borrowed large amounts of money, one has cut back its educational programs, and one has frozen faculty salaries and dipped into an emergency surplus. Only Rice, which just received $10 million more than it aimed for in a $33 million fund drive, finds itself relatively secure. In oversimplified terms, the comparative decline in old-fashioned “giving” \(partly due to the student unrest economy, and the ever-increasing demand for modern educational facilities back all universities up against a financial wall. Private universities get mashed the most. State universities receive substantial aid from both public and private sources from legislative budget appropriations and from individual and foundation donors. Private colleges also get help from both. But what they obtain from the taxpayer is too indirect and restricted to do much good. In short, this money goes to limited research ends, not to a private university’s overall operating and development program. Michael V. Adams is a graduate student in American Civilization at the University of Texas at Austin., He did his undergraduate work at T.C.U., where he was editor of the college paper. On the other hand, state universities are sure of receiving the overwhelming bulk of their budget requests. They have a “guaranteed” financial base with which to conduct their everyday operations. Private universities lack this security. Moreciver, the disparity is not just a matter of state universities having exclusive access to tax money. It also is a function of their competition with private universities for donor dollars. According to Dr. James M. Moudy, Texas Christian University’s chancellor, the University of Texas receives more in private donations than almost all this area’s private universities together. Rice, Southern Methodist, Baylor, and T.C.U. derive almost all their support from foundations, philanthropists, and alumni except for the tuition, room and board, and miscellaneous fees paid by their own students. With no public funding for all practical purposes, and with no monopoly on private donations, these institutions face at best an inevitable decline in quality and at worse an eventual closing of ivory towers. THE QUESTION IS not just whether the private sector of the “public” education system is worth saving. It is more a question of how the economic efficiency of higher education can be improved, while the social utility is maintained and increased. Admittedly, it is doubtful that certain private colleges deserve tax aid. Some are simply too small, too sectarian, or too isolated to merit state support. But most probably should be preserved if for no other reason than that their physical structures, their administrative machinery, their faculty organization, and their educational traditions would be foolish and expensive to duplicate. For better or worse, the without the state, and the state cannot university. The initiative is coming from the private universities, for the simple reason that they can afford to wait no longer. In early September an organization called Independent Colleges and Universities of the financial crisis. The result was endorsement of two bills to be introduced during the spring legislative session. One would establish grants to narrow the wide gap between state and private university tuition rates. At present, state universities charge a Texas resident less than $200 per semester for as many courses as he wants to take. For this same amount, a student at Rice, S.M.U., Baylor, or T.C.U. can register for only one or oneand-a-half courses. These “equalization” grants would be paid to the individual through his university and would not exceed $300 per semester. The second bill would commit the state to purchase degrees from private institutions. For every bachelor’s degree, the state would pay directly to the contracting university $1,000; for every master’s degree, $1,500, and for every doctoral degree, $2,500. To preserve church-state separation, religion and theology degrees would not be bought. \(In contrast, the tuition equalization bill makes no mention of the religion question. It is impractical, if not impossible, to determine whether a student in the process of working toward graduation will end up a religion major. Students often change their minds about career plans. For example, a sociology major/religion minor might receive state tuition aid for three years, then suddenly decide his senior year that the ministry appeals more. Even if the state withdrew aid at that point, it would have financed Without private universities, I.C.U.T. notes, “the 20% of total Texas higher education enrollment they presently accommodate, would have to be educated in public colleges and universities at state expense.” I.C.U.T. sees two advantages to the tution equalization bill. The measure would allow a freer choice between public and private education, whereas the present tuition disparity tends to eliminate that choice except for affluent, middle-class whites. As for the degree purchase bill, I.C.U.T. stresses that its passage would save tax dollars by “promoting optimum utilization of existing educational resources and assisting the independent institutions in meeting rising costs of operation which threaten to result in reduction of the total higher education capacity of the state.” The private universities estimate that they could have accommodated an additional 16,455 students in 1970-71. By taking advantage of these vacancies, the state .supposedly could save taxpayers almost $66 million if all those students graduated in four years from private universities. Of course, the question is not so statistically simple. If it were, the bills would be passed without debate. TO UNDERSTAND all the implications of the legislative proposals, it is necessary to move from the general to the particular. Take Texas Christian University, for example. Recently T.C.U. embarked on a fund-raising campaign to push it into a second century of existence. . “The New Century Campaign” pledges to collect “$43 million by ’73,” T.C.U.’s centennial year; when that goal is met, the university plans to extend the campaign to a total of $100 million by 1980. So far, Nov. 13, 1970 13
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