Courier Letters To The Editor 9-3-14

Education money

Dear Editor,

Money for education has evolved into a strange beast.

Back in the 1960s, I was able to save enough from my summer work cutting grass and in the textile mill to pay for college tuition. It also included paying for the commuting gasoline, clothes and books … and whatever teenagers spent for amusements.

That was also when minimum wage was $1.25 to $1.40 per hour and tuition and student fees were $650 per year … $2,600 for a four-year degree. The equivalent in 2014 dollars would be $8.13-$9.10 for minium wage, $4,225 per year and $16,900 for a degree.

Some textbooks now, the real kind with ink on the pages, cost half of what I paid for a semester’s tuition. But all of this was just my part of the education expense.

The state’s budget for 2013-14 included $3.82 billion for the state-supported universities. That’s about $40,000 per student. The University of South Carolina’s share was $1.149 billion, and Clemson’s $0.896 billion, about $37,000 and $42,000 per student. The K-12 schools received $3.750 billion, or about $5,250 per student. Part of all that money was from federal funds: $666 million for the universites and $881 million for the K-12 schools. (Did you know that USC and Clemson get 9 percent of the state’s budget and K-12 gets 16.6 percent?)

Besides the money from the state, the universites have income from all their endowments, grants, gifts, government sponsored studies/projects and other sources (Amounts unkown to me). The K-12 schools also have their share of the property taxes and whatever fundraising projects they do. (Universities get grants and endowments; K-12 kids and parents sell cookies, matteresses, wash cars and do other fundraisers.)

Oh yeah. The university students and their parents still have to pay their part for tuition and on/off campus living expenses. What’s that now? About $10,000 or more per year? There was a TV network news item recently about this year’s college graduates and student debt. The young lady was in tears thinking about the $40,000 she owed already, and she still had no guarantee for a well-paying job. Other news from earlier this year was about retired people who were still paying on their student loans from decades ago. And after the 2008 economic crash, those college degrees aren’t worth as much as they used to be. Except for the student loan and campus construction industries.

When one walks around a university campus, you see various monuments, parks, buildings, special class rooms, laboratories, equipment and such donated by former graduates who made it rich. Some of the professors are paid by donated endowments. How often do you find or hear of those things at the K-12 schools? (I wonder if those activity buses could have been donated?) For some reason, those people remember their college years better than their high school and elementary years. I’ve heard rumors that some of the big-name, Ivy League-caliber universites have enough income from their endowments to offer free education for their students for generations to come.

Oh well. Education money is a strange beast these years. It’s been said how the rich get richer, wealth attracts more wealth, and that trickle-down principle is on the blink. Apparently the same is true for education money, with universities getting more and more per student while K-12 schools get less and less.

Jerry Hughes