Public Education

I recently read an opinion column in The Daily Texan concerning healthcare and the public option as well as education. If you would like to read my response, please consider reading the article I linked to first. I have copied and pasted my response below:

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In “UT and the public option”, Joshua Avelar said he “[finds] it ironic that arguments against government expansion into health care were being made at a public institution by public university students.”

I do not find it ironic that many students who are against government expansion into healthcare came to UT Austin — we are simply seeking an education. Whether or not the institution is public or private is irrelevant.

Personally, I “trust the government to provide educational alternatives to the private sector.” I’m an aerospace engineering major — science is black and white, whereas liberal arts is not (e.g., government, economics). It is a stretch of the imagination to say that such a large portion of the student population trusts the government to provide educational alternatives. After all, UT Austin employs professors in the departments in the liberal arts who espouse a wide range of beliefs that not all students necessarily agree with. The same is true of textbook versions of American history in our public high schools.

Avelar incorrectly asserts that by “not attending a public university … [you] would have kept your hard-earned money … in the free, private market away from those troublesome government bureaucrats.” This could not be further from the truth. After all, I am required by the state and federal government to pay numerous taxes, such as: state property tax, state sales tax, and federal income tax. The university derives funding from these sources. However, if I choose to attend a private university, the state and federal government does not magically reimburse me.

Avelar commented that competition does work; however, establishing public institutions does not increase competition. After all, government institutions are inherently inefficient and are not as effective in creating wealth as private institutions — studies in the past have shown this. Therefore, by diverting money away from the private sector into the public sector, the government essentially reduces the overall quality of education.

As a practical example, let us consider UT Austin and Rice University, which have total yearly budgets of $1.7b and $415.7m. This excludes funding for research. UT Austin and Rice University have student populations of approximately 50,000 and 5,000, respectively, and faculty populations of 2,500 and 1,000, respectively. Assuming half of the total budget for each university can be attributed to faculty, the cost per student per year at UT Austin and Rice University is $17,000 and $41,570, respectively. However, the student per faculty ratios at UT Austin and Rice University are approximately 20:1 and 5:1, respectively. Although the cost per student per year for Rice University is over twice that of UT Austin, the student per faculty ratio at Rice University is one quarter that of UT Austin. If Rice University were to increase the student to faculty ratio to a ratio equal to that of UT Austin (by decreasing the number of faculty), the cost per student would be approximately $10,000 per student, compared to UT Austin’s $17,000. These statistics are not perfect; however, I believe they provide valuable insight into the situation. Too often, the true costs associated with government programs are obscured because of the nature in which they are paid for. Public education is no different.

According to Avelar, “students here at UT can thank the state government for erecting an establishment that made it possible for them to go to college.” I disagree. Students should thank the state and federal governments for making it financially unfeasible to attend a private college. After all, what person in their right mind would opt into paying for two educations when paying for one is an option?

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My opinion column has not been published yet; however, I hope it will be. I have written opinion columns before, but The Daily Texan has never published them. Hopefully this time will be different.

In any case, at least if my article isn’t published, someone here will have the opportunity to read what I have wrote.

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