Romney’s America Doesn’t Need Public Colleges

Romney’s America Doesn’t Need Public Colleges

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A Romney presidency would pose an obvious hardship for the country’s public colleges and universities. Romney and Ryan, austerity candidates, make no secret of their desire for further cuts in public spending (with no exemption for higher education). But Romney’s now-famous “47-percent comment” highlights the danger ahead for the private revenues that public-college leaders have counted on to replace shrinking public support.

The biggest private revenue stream is, of course, tuition. Public colleges are now running into national political opposition for their tendency to raise fees at somewhere between two and four times the Consumer Price Index. Given the extraordinary debt bubble those price increases have created, they are also up against the limits of students’ ability to pay. This means a renewed fixation on philanthropy, which in turn means pursuing “game changing” gifts in the eight-figure range. Public colleges are increasingly in the business of asking for money in salons and ballrooms much like the one in which Romney was secretly recorded during a fund-raising talk to the 0.01 percent who paid $50,000 a plate to be in the room with him. These are the only people with the means to really move the needle for a college fund-raising operation.

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