To Subsidize Education or Not?

This story from the other side of the pond notes how one economist thinks only rich people should have to pay the real price for their kids’ higher education. David Blanchflower has called for the children of Britain’s well-off families to be charged the market rate for tuition.

His argument is that “the ‘poor have been subsidising the rich’ for too many years.” How he arrives at that argument is not exactly clear. Especially given that he also supports subsidizing the tuition of students from lower-income families.

This logic fails to account for the fact that taxpayers, particularly the wealthier ones, have been footing the bill for much of this subsidization to students from families of all income levels. Most government “investment,” like education, usually involves the rich subsidizing the poor. At least in this example, the rich also get something for their money (reduced tuition prices thanks to subsidies).

Blanchflower also noted the following:

At Dartmouth, Blanchflower claimed fees helped to “focus the mind”, with students turning up to lectures, not dropping out and more likely to choose subjects that made them most employable.

Yet, despite this well-reasoned economic argument for the value of the individual (or at least their parents) paying the costs of their own education, he only supports this concept for the kids of the wealthy parents. If paying the full cost would create better results and decision-making, why not attempt it with both rich and poor?

In the end, this economist’s ideas amount to a bit of fuzzy math.

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