As the President of UC is quoted as saying in the recent NYTimes article, “The state has been a very unreliable partner in the last 20 years”. This, of course, is especially in reference to the most recent state higher education budgets cuts: $650 – $850 million in reduced funds, amounting in a tuition hike of 20% at some schools for next year.


Drastic cost increases are occurring around the country as state’s are finalizing austerity-measure budgets, balancing rising costs and debt with reduced tax revenues. Pennsylvania cuts, while not as drastic as CA (what is?), are pretty serious as well. These cuts are especially difficult, not necessarily because the one-year increase is a huge amount, but because costs are already increasing at absurd rates.

Just when higher ed costs needs to flatten the upward trajectory, things are about to get worse.

This bears a question that has been consistently at top of mind for The Saxifrage School: how much should we rely on government funding? Reliance necessarily means being let down if the funding is unreliable (which it is). Moreover, it seems only right that, if we are attempting to meet the problems of higher education head on, we must look to reduce total costs, not just the cost to students. Costs are costs to society; if students are not paying them when they are 18-22, they’ll be paying those costs through taxes from year 23 onward.

A fix like California’s attempt to offer all its students free tuition is obviously not feasible or sustainable. Those costs still existed, they were just being passed on to tax payers and, in many ways, have contributed to the dire state of the state’s finances.

If college is to remain accessible, and of good quality, we must look at ways–that do not reduce its quality–to wholly lower its costs. In this spirit, the Saxifrage School, in its college redesign plans, will not rely on government funding of any sort.

There, of course, is a bigger question here: should higher education be financially supported by the state?

It’s not an easy question; the optimist in me wants to say yes, but that is before I look at all of the other things that are more important to pay for on the state/federal level: new energy projects, better bicycling infrastructure, fixing health care, eliminating debt, protecting the environment, not closing all of our state parks, etc.

As much as higher education is excellent and important, it isn’t quite as important as making sure our kids can breathe well in the city and our society doesn’t crumble in the transition away from an oil economy.

It is likely that college will continue to be subsided by the government for a long time, but what if it didn’t need to be? What if it wasn’t even an issue because it was simply affordable?


  1. Emma says:

    Great questions…and priorities! I’m following Saxifrage School with much interest from the other side of the state.