Everyone wants to be like UVA

Geoffrey Lawrence

Marta Mossburg, a senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, recently made an observation about higher ed funding in the Washington Examiner that echoes the recommendations made in NPRI’s Freedom Budget.

Mossburg recognizes that large state subsidies have retarded the quality of education being offered at UMD – College Park. Across the river at UVA, where state funding was cut to 8.2 percent of the budget in the 1990s, the university’s national ranking has risen to #2 among all public universities.

Forget for the moment that subsidized higher education is a regressive wealth transfer that forces low-income families to finance the education of children from higher-income families who will go on to become doctors and lawyers. Forget for the moment that this transfer limits socioeconomic mobility instead of facilitating it.

Just look what happened to the quality of education offered.

Higher education exists to endow students with a skill set that they can use to elevate their earnings potential. Schools that are more able to do this are in higher demand and individuals are more willing to pay for that education. If an individual is unwilling to pay the full price of attending a school, it is indicative of the fact that they’ve determined the educational quality offered to be less valuable than the cost of attendance.

Legislatures in most states have asked taxpayers to step in and fill that gap at their subsidized schools. Hence, taxpayers are required to fund an institution that lawmakers have implicitly acknowledged isn’t doing its job up to market standards.

State lawmakers in Virginia recognized this economic reality long ago and curtailed funding to the state’s schools while expanding their autonomy from the state – a plan similar to what NPRI has recommended in its Freedom Budget. The result? The schools were forced to elevate their curricula to a level that would merit the private investment of individuals.

Nevada currently has no top ranked schools and the degree of subsidization is the primary cause of that. Currently, the top high school students from Nevada are forced to go out of state to universities like Stanford or USC in order to receive an elite level of education.

The plan outlined in the Freedom Budget would instead allow the state’s two flagship universities to elevate their own curricula and compete on the market to achieve elite status in the way that UVA has. This would expand the educational opportunities available in the Silver State allow for the elusive “economic diversification” that state lawmakers are always crowing about.

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.