Higher Ed's benefits – and costs

April 18, 2013

Those of us at OCPA recognize the importance of higher education. Indeed, I challenge you to name another nonprofit public-policy think tank that has made it a point to raise $127,000 and award it to students to attend college.

But that’s not to say that more and more government spending on higher education is necessarily a good idea. As researcher Jay Schalin has observed, “state investment in higher education fits the classic ‘Laffer Curve’ model for diminishing marginal returns (Laffer’s original model demonstrated that higher tax rates eventually led to lower tax revenues). As states invest more money in university systems, the returns from each new dollar spent diminish. Eventually, the returns become negative … Quite likely, more spending on higher education will hurt, not help the economy.”

Oklahoma’s higher education officials are presently touting a new economic-impact report. I’m grateful that one reporter (a board member of the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists, no less), rather than doing the conventional stenography for his sources, decided to consider not only that which is seen, but that which is unseen. I urge you to read Patrick McGuigan’s article (“Oklahoma higher education officials tout economic impact, but critics doubt claims”) over at Oklahoma Watchdog.