Zunguzungu on Privatization and Brutalizing Campuses; My Favorite Graph Juke of the Week (OECD Education Edition)

Gina Patnaik and Aaron Bady have a post you should check out, On Privatization and Brutalizing Campuses:

Turning to the images and language used to imagine the university might seem like a way to side-step more pressing questions such as: the university president’s refusal to relinquish emergency powers, never-ending fee hikes, and the devaluation of the arts and humanities, which just a few of the consequences of privatization. Dwelling on just a few of the proliferating photos and messages swirling around recent events, however, might just allow us to attend to the deep structure of the administration’s disregard for its academic community and the campus space which that community works each day to create.

Somewhat related, here’s my favorite graph juke of the week.   J.D. LaRock at the OECD’s Education blog has this post, Increasing higher education access: one goal, many approaches (h/t Yglesias).  The post features the following graph:

The blog post notes that more people should consider the strategy in the upper-right corner, the one with high tuition but higher “public subsidies.”  OECD:

…charging a moderate level of tuition fees – while simultaneously giving students opportunities to benefit from comprehensive financial aid systems – is an effective way for countries to increase access to higher education, stretch limited public funds, and promote equity by acknowledging the significant private returns that students receive from higher education….

The OECD’s review suggests that financial aid systems that couple means-tested grants and loans that have income-contingent repayments not only promote access and equity at the front end of higher education, but also lead to better outcomes for students at the back end. Australia and New Zealand have used this approach to mitigate the impact of high tuition fees, encourage disadvantaged students to enter higher education, and reduce the risks of high student loan indebtedness. Other OECD countries that use this strategy include Chile, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The United States has higher tuition but that is balanced with more subsidies.  Cool.  I wonder where that graph came from?  The blog post references this pdf – How are countries around the world supporting students in higher education? – which has the same exact graph.

But that graph references Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators (big pdf).  And here is the original graph.  While it has the same data, it looks a bit different (page number 256):

Here there’s an emphasis that we are talking about public colleges in the graph itself.  But more importantly, it includes an arrow indicating movements since 1995.  And here the United States has moved straight up in the graph – more tuition, no additional subsidies.

The subsidies are divided in the document between student loans and grants/scholarships.  Since we know the percentage of students graduating with student loans has increased over this time period, the percentage of those with just grants/scholarships has gone down.  Not only is tuition increasing rapidly with no additional subsidies, but the subsidies themselves have shifted to putting the costs to students with students loans (loan which the government makes around a 20% profit on – some subsidy!).

It’s like we are seeing US college privatization in action in this second graph – an abandonment of the public, merit-good ideal of colleges, an increase in monetizing the process, a nominal gesture towards balancing access that is predicated on mass debt, and runaway cost inflation.  I wonder why the OECD scrubbed the graph before using it to recommend this system to their readers?

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6 Responses to Zunguzungu on Privatization and Brutalizing Campuses; My Favorite Graph Juke of the Week (OECD Education Edition)

  1. Peter Frase says:

    Hey look, it’s the three worlds of welfare capitalism! Liberal regime in the upper right, socialist regime in the lower right, conservative regime in the lower left. As usual, the Netherlands and Japan are weird and unclassifiable.

  2. Tom says:

    Here is an interesting one: “promote equity by acknowledging the significant private returns that students receive from higher education”

    I grant that the significant private returns do exist, and that it may not be equitable for a blue collar worker making $30000 to subsidize the education of the child of a white collar worker making $100000. One cannot treat equity in education independently from equity in the rest of the economy and society.

    However, the ‘jack up tuition and subsidize’ model, in my opinion, will end up making the inequities in education increase to match the inequities in the rest of society. High tuitions plus subsidies do not provide the same level of access as low tuitions. For one, poorer students look at the high sticker prices and walk away.

    If you want the wealthier to subsidize the education of the less wealthy, do it by taxing the wealthy across the board, and lowering tuition across the board, rather than by making them pay when their kids attend college.

  3. Michael says:

    As is touched on above, the graph doesn’t really reflect the ratio of loans vs non-loan subsidies in different countries. I know that in New Zealand and Australia students all recieve the same amount of money, but there is a sliding scale that determines what percentage of that amount is “student loan” vs “student allowance”. This serves to greatly increase access to lower-income students despite higher “sticker prices”… There is also an age cutoff whereby students over 24 receive allowance rather than loan, to further encourage people who have been employed since graduating high school to enter tertiary education.

    The Japanese system on the other hand is strongly dependant on acheiving high enough grades to retain subsidies in later years of the degree – regardless of income levels.

  4. DTW says:

    Does anyone else notice that by extending the ordinate to negative values (w/o labeling as such), this gives the impression that most countries have much higher tuition levels than is actually the case. In the original graph it is clear that a third of the countries have zero or near-zero tuition; this is obscured in final version. While the final graph is not incorrect, it is constructed in a way to convey an inaccurate impression to the casual reader.

  5. JCD says:

    Government guarantee of loans can perhaps be characteried as a “subsidy”, but this rather ignores the question of who is capturing this subsidy.

  6. Peter T says:

    Don’t know about NZ, but in Australia the student loan is re-paid by an addition to tax that only kicks in above a certain income (that is, if you never get a good job, you never re-pay it). So repayment cannot be a cause of financial stress. I do not believe this is comparable to the US situation.

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