Deadline Now: Lloyd Jacobs, M.D.
Friday, February 22, 2013
University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs is this week's guest, in a wide-ranging conversation about the University, higher education in general, rising costs, shrinking funding and much more.
Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"
During his State of the Union address earlier this month, President Obama noted the importance of higher education.
Among other things, he said that “today, skyrocketing costs price way too many young people out of a higher education, or saddle them with unsustainable debt.”
Anybody who works with students today knows just how true that is. However, the president added:
“But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure they do.“
Well, while that makes sense to some degree, in large part I think that’s a contradiction.
Of course colleges and universities have to control costs, and I think most institutions have gone through significant and rational belt-tightening in recent years.
But I think taxpayers absolutely do need, in the president’s words, to subsidize the cost of higher education. Otherwise, we won’t have a civilized industrial society worthy of the name.
Taxpayers, whether they realize it or not, subsidize the costs of the public health service, as well as the costs of making sure our water and our food supply are clean. Similarly, we subsidize education. Higher education is no longer a frill or a luxury.
Modern society can’t live without it. I suspect Dr. Jacobs, who served in the Marine Corps, was the beneficiary of a taxpayer subsidized education. In my view, he more than repaid society by giving back to the community, first as a surgeon, then by running a medical school and then an entire major university.
When I was young, society was eager to subsidize higher education, primarily for one big reason. Americans saw ourselves as locked in a mortal struggle at all levels with the world’s other superpower, the Soviet Union. Moscow had beaten us into outer space, and appeared to be producing more s
cientists and engineers.
We thought we were locked into a struggle for national survival. We poured resources into education. Money was found, not only for buildings and laboratories, but for tuition and scholarships.
Eventually, however, the Cold War ended; the Soviet Union collapsed, and we suddenly had far less interest in seeing that everyone capable had access to higher education.
But this is clearly wrong-headed. With few exceptions, there are no longer high-paying unskilled jobs.
Not everyone needs a conventional four-year college education.
The world very much needs highly trained welders and electricians. But this region and this nation very much need a more highly educated workforce. If we fail to make education affordable for this and future generations, when it comes to prosperity, we just might as well have lost the Cold War.