I know it's not really worth my effort responding, because almost nobody reads him and even fewer take him seriously, but Ted Van Dyk's latest post on Crosscut—advising legislators not to "bail out" our state universities—is particularly stupid, even for Ted Van Dyk.
From his I-got-my-bargain-education-so-fuck-you-youngsters attitude to his blame-the-public-employee-unions reactionary bullshit, this whole post is such a stinking pile of poop the words make my eyes sting. And I'd leave my criticism at that if not for one offensively misinformational sentence I just can't let slide:
Nationally, questions increasingly are being asked about the decades-long increases in public-university and college funding beyond the general inflation rate.
That question may be increasingly asked, but only because careless and/or clueless crackpots like Van Dyk keep pushing the meme along.
There is a simple economic reason why the cost of providing higher education tends to rise faster than the "general inflation rate" (I presume Van Dyk means the Consumer Price Index), and it's the same reason why the cost of providing government services like police and firefighters etc. also rise faster than inflation. It is because the CPI measures the whole economy, including sectors like manufacturing that achieve productivity gains through automation and outsourcing—paths toward improved productivity that are largely unavailable to the kind of services that governments and universities mostly provide—services delivered by well-paid highly-trained professionals.
How do you increase the productivity of the capital we invest in a professor? Increase class size or extend his or her hours at the same or lower pay. It simply makes no sense to apply the same inflation measure to the cost of educating a student as one applies to the cost of manufacturing an automobile or an iPhone. And it is both stupid and counterproductive to suggest otherwise.
Not everything is a goddamn widget! It's not that the inflation rate of the cost of delivering services at Washington's public universities is through the roof, it's that by comparison we've become very good at making other stuff cheaper!
Besides, it's not the cost of educating students at Washington's public universities that has been skyrocketing, it's the price, largely because the legislature has chosen to balance our budgets on the backs of the young by slashing higher education funding. And in that sense it's the universities that have bailed out legislators, not the other way around.