It’s time to think creatively about higher education funding

The first time, a few years ago, that I visited Arizona State University (with whom my then institution DCU was developing a partnership),  I arrived at a particularly interesting time. Just as I was there the citizens of Phoenix approved by a significant majority in a referendum the proposal to create a $223 million bond to provide capital funding for a new ASU campus. This decision really impressed me: the willingness of the citizens to assume this burden, and the partnership it expressed that would allow the university to create state of the art facilities beyond the reach, at least at the one time, of almost any university in this part of the world. It also reminded me how unimaginative we tend to be when we look at the resourcing of higher education.

Interestingly, in Ireland the recently established expert group on higher education funding chaired by Peter Cassells, is reported to be considering savings bonds as a way of creating a partnership between families and the state in providing funding: families save, and the state matches their savings (or provides tax or other incentives on a significant scale).

It is time to move away from the binary obsession: that higher education must be paid out of general taxation; or else paid for by students or their families. Neither of these options now works well, leaving either serious under-funding or chronic personal debt. It is time to look beyond these old models.

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3 Comments on “It’s time to think creatively about higher education funding”


  1. I attended a consultation meeting of that particular expert group recently and was struck by the lack of interest in discussing improving the efficiency of higher education. Economic progress is dependent on continuous increases in efficiencies in most industries. Indeed we actually teach this concept in higher education. At that consultation meeting the main solution being proposed was the rather unimaginative “give us more money”. It is also interesting that discussions were mostly based on opinion rather than evidence. Another thing we train our students not to do.

  2. Vincent Says:

    There’s two core problems with 3 level funding, who it goes to, and who it comes from.
    At the moment we’ve the utter worst of all worlds. I believe it is time the State both in the UK and Ireland bit the bullet and paid the fraction of the pension for that year and that level, that year. It need to do the same for the civil service and anyone else drawing a pension. The the extra is placed by the worker into an S&P 500 that they cannot use until retirement.
    As it stands at the moment we’ve got designed conservatives, people who should be gamblers are in fact by dint of the pension incredibly risk adverse.
    Cassells notion is a repackaging of the Covenants. And I further think any tax breaks for 1st and 2nd level education is nothing more that a stacking of the deck.
    And I’d drill down a bit in Arizona. Finance in the US of A is never what it says on the can.


  3. Exactly. The quality of private universities are so poor.We need to think that if we use all of this universities properly ,our students get better quality than abroad.


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