James Nguyen H. Spencer, writing for The Chronicle [paywalled], on a public-financing scheme for U.S. higher education:
Wall Street and Silicon Valley invest in companies expecting financial returns from these expenditures; moreover, they invest in multiple companies anticipating that some will result in returns and others in losses, and that the overall portfolio will generate lucrative profits. Start-ups and other businesses happily overcome upfront financial costs by promising investors a share of future benefits. If a college degree is a great benefit in the marketplace — as it surely is in aggregate — why would students needing financial resources not feel the same way? What if the university itself — with its 100-plus-year history of successful graduates, functional support structures, rigorous admissions processes, and enthusiastic and employed alumni bases — truly saw itself as investing in its students with the expectation that it is building a lifelong financial relationship? I’ve done the math, and initiating a sustainable model is less fantastical than you’d think.
It’s an interesting proposal, but doomed to fail on its own public-good terms. By giving away the game—by explicitly treating a college degree as a personal, lucrative asset—the whole scheme guarantees that the enterprise (to use a loaded word) will still look like a private good.