People wonder where the money goes that the government, insurance companies and patients pay health care providers.
A friend of mine died recently. For months before her death she was in and out of hospitals, and I spent that time walking through the huge new construction of new wings and parking garages.
One of the main hospitals I visited was St. Joseph’s in Syracuse. This hospital, which used to be run by Franciscan nuns, has become a national heart center. It is also several times the size it was when it was a child. Its new wings sprawl like octopus legs over the hill upon which it was built.
Higher education has taken a similar route. I received a newsletter recently describing the new hall that my law school has built. This law school is now three times the size it was when I attended.
The school officials will brag of the new technology offered students there. But it is apparent that all this expansion has been unnecessary. The student body, after all, has not increased.
The vigorous construction comes, alas, from a surplus of money. And that money comes from the tuition paid by students and their families.
Unlike much of the recent construction, college education is a social necessity. It provides people with vocational training and a higher standard of living. It trains the mind and nourishes the personality. And its beneficiaries in turn benefit society through the channels of science, medicine, technology, commerce, government, law, culture and the arts.
To bar many from this education is to impoverish society. Yet today’s astronomical tuitions deter large numbers of potential students from receiving it. And those earning their degrees will remain in debt for years and even decades to come.
Rather than erecting vast structures that few people will walk through, or turning dorms into resort spas, our colleges and universities would do better to cut down their tuitions. Our social priority should be in making education affordable.