The bubble nobody talks about: Higher-Ed


Just saying we need a more educated populace isn't enough. We need a specific kind of educated populace -- mainly scientists and engineers. Unfortunately, elite institutions pump out legions of corporate lawyers and bankers. These parasitic professions don't do a whole lot for the nation as a whole. We need Bell Labs not Goldman Sachs.


The annual US defense budget is about $800 billion, before the upcoming Afghan escalation; speaking of penny-wise, pound-foolish, why not spend the fund at home, on education, healthcare, infrastructure, green tech?

Redmond, WA

American society is denying our gifted students the opportunity to develop the mathematical knowledge necessary to compete scientifically. American graduate schools are importing many of their science students because Americans students are at least five years behind the Europeans in math. Able students in France and Italy learn trigonometry in the sixth grade. They learn to prove theorems. Americans are taught watered down, applied math. High school students are often given abridged versions of advanced topics, which they learn by memorizing the computations without understanding the underlying meaning. Students are doing computations with the calculator instead of learning to estimate quantities in their heads. These problems have been known for more than 30 years and still nothing has changed. At the very least, gifted students should be allowed to leave the high school to take college courses, or colleges should send teachers to provide special instruction at the high schools. If this doesn't happen, then forget about Americans having the opportunity to succeed in physics, engineering or computational biology. A stimulus package that funded gifted education programs in math would pay for itself in the future, not to mention the advances in medicine that could eventually cure diseases and lower health care costs.

St. Louis, MO

When I graduated from a state university in 1980, I had managed to accumulate around $1800 in student loan debt, over the course of 7 years of night school. I was able to repay this debt in a little over a year. Now, students must mortgage their future to get a college degree. I know personally of at least 4 people who have in excess of $80,000 each in student loan debt. The crisis in education that must first be addressed is the excessive cost, which has spiraled out of control in a manner reminiscent of healthcare cost inflation. Perhaps, as an economist, you could explain why, and suggest a remedy.


How can one ignore the ignominious role that the NEA and the federal and state governments have already had in subverting the goals of public schools. Your solution is to throw more taxpayer dollars at it, blindly. Public schools have become parodies of didactic learning, just warehouses and temporary corrals for rambunctious youth; when teaching occurs, it's centered on politically correct cultural sensitivity and how to deal with bad feelings. Meanwhile, no learning of basic knowledge or useful skills occurs.

east coast

Krugman wonders why American college students hold part-time jobs whereas their French counterparts don't. He concludes it's for lack of public funding.

Well, Mr. Krugman, take note: your employer, Princeton University, charges it's students $50k/year, whereas the Ecole normale superieure, Paris charges a few hundred dollars per semester. And...per student public funding of higher education in France is less than in the US--a lot less.

How do the French (and virtually all of Western Europe) provide world class education for pittance? Well, for starters, French faculty are civil servants paid on a national scale; they make a fraction of what you and your Princeton colleagues make. Professors are expected to teach first, and keep research and extracurricular activities second. Their athletics consist of intramural matches, not nationally televised games. Their facilities are spartan and crumbling, not country clubs. Every euro is stretched for the primary purpose of educating young students.

In short, our European friends do more for less. It's healthcare redux: Americans pay more, get less.

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