The headline and precis on the e-mail I received just now punches me in the face:
FY09 STATE BUDGET CUTS FORCE ASU TO CAP ENROLLMENT,
FRESHMAN APPLICATIONS CLOSE MARCH 1, FIVE MONTHS EARLY
Budget cuts scale Poly and West campuses down to one college each;
Four dozen academic programs to be closed
Additional state budget cuts in FY10 could result in closing two entire campuses
I’m in Arizona for a few weeks, teaching a short course in “Women, Power, and Politics” at Arizona State University. Though this is not a regular gig for me and I have joked that I’m earning almost enough after taxes to pay for our car rental while we are here, I feel intimately involved–actually sick at my stomach–over the short-sighted budget priorities of the right-wing dominated state legislature and the new Republican Governor Jan Brewer, who took over after the state’s popular Democratic Governor and chief resister of such retrograde policies, Janet Napolitano, flew the coop to Washington to become Secretary of Homeland Security.
These cuts come on top of the university announcing last week that they would furlough all staff, top to bottom, for two weeks. I have to show I’m working nine fewer hours than my original commitment, and my princessly salary will be cut accordingly. This is not going to change my lifestyle much. But I think of what it means to people dependent on the university for their fulltime compensation–those who still have jobs that is. More than 550 positions, including 200 faculty, have been eliminated. Further, the state’s whacking back of educational funding extends to K-12 public schools also–and Arizona was already near the bottom of the 50-state heap in education funding.
Some cuts were inevitable in almost every state service and institution in this tough economy. It’s happening everywhere and Arizona has been particularly hard-hit by the mortgage crisis. But this is worse than slash and burn. It’s eating the seed corn that could feed future economic growth.
Just over a week ago, David Leonhardt had written this in the New York Times Magazine, citing a research by labor economists, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz in their book, The Race Between Education and Technology:
Goldin’s and Katz’s thesis is that the 20th century was the American century in large part because this country led the world in education. The last 30 years, when educational gains slowed markedly, have been years of slower growth and rising inequality.
Their argument happens to be supported by a rich body of economic literature that didn’t even make it into the book. More-educated people are healthier, live longer and, of course, make more money. Countries that educate more of their citizens tend to grow faster than similar countries that do not. The same is true of states and regions within this country. Crucially, the income gains tend to come after the education gains. What distinguishes thriving Boston from the other struggling cities of New England? Part of the answer is the relative share of children who graduate from college. The two most affluent immigrant groups in modern America — Asian-Americans and Jews — are also the most educated. In recent decades, as the educational attainment of men has stagnated, so have their wages. The median male worker is roughly as educated as he was 30 years ago and makes roughly the same in hourly pay. The median female worker is far more educated than she was 30 years ago and makes 30 percent more than she did then.
There really is no mystery about why education would be the lifeblood of economic growth. On the most basic level, education helps people figure out how to make objects and accomplish tasks more efficiently. It allows companies to make complex products that the rest of the world wants to buy and thus creates high-wage jobs. Education may not be as tangible as green jobs. But it helps a society leverage every other investment it makes, be it in medicine, transportation or alternative energy. Education — educating more people and educating them better — appears to be the best single bet that a society can make.
ASU’s original campus and hub is located in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, but currently boasts four campuses collectively serving over 64,000 students in the metro area, and a vision of creating the “New American University”. Apparently not just yet.
Let’s hope that some combination of incentives from Obama’s stimulus package and citizen outrage at the polls in 2010 will reverse these warped decisions and bring common sense to funding priorities.
GLORIA FELDT is the New York Times bestselling author of several books including No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, a sought-after speaker and frequent contributor to major news outlets, and the Co-Founder and President of Take The Lead. People has called her “the voice of experience,” and among the many honors she has been given, Vanity Fair called her one of America’s “Top 200 Women Legends, Leaders, and Trailblazers,” and Glamour chose her as a “Woman of the Year.”
As co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a leading women’s leadership nonprofit, her mission is to achieve gender parity by 2025 through innovative training programs, workshops, a groundbreaking 50 Women Can Change The World immersive, online courses, a free weekly newsletter, and events including a monthly Virtual Happy Hour program and a Take The Lead Day symposium that reached over 400,000 women globally in 2017.