Is Higher Education a Public or Private Good? Essay

Is Higher Education a Public or Private Good? Essay

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Is Higher Education a Public or Private Good?
Higher education was first developed to educate the elite largely including those individuals training in key professions like the ministry (Altbach, 2005). Religious institutions established private universities and access to higher education was not an issue of concern. Today, a university education is not reserved for only the elite individuals training in a few select professions (Lingenfelter, 2004). Conversations regarding access for all instead of access for few are prevalent. In fact, the United States Government and states within are establishing educational attainment goals for their citizens. President Obama has even said that by 2020, the United States will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world (The White House, n.d.). With edicts such as this, one must wonder where funding for such a goal will come from. This question becomes even more relevant as tuition costs continue to rise at a rate higher than that of inflation. Will students themselves, private donors, or state and federal governments fund the goal? Questions such as these also bring to mind the question of whether higher education is a public or private good. This paper will explore private and public goods, whether higher education is considered public or private, and the challenges associated with each.
Public Goods
Public goods are not dependent on a market. A public good is provided to all individuals whether or not they contribute to the good and its production through taxes or any other form. Thus, public goods are non-excludable, and, usually, there is no cost associated with the services. In addition, one person using a public good does not take away from another’s use...


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...ducation: An essential partnership. New Directions for Higher Education, 127, 47-59.
Marginson, S. (2007). The public/private divide in higher education: A global revision. Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, 53(3), 307-333.
Marginson, S. (2006). Putting ‘public’ back into the public university. Thesis Eleven, 84(44), 44-59.
Nyborg, P. (2003). Higher education as a public good and a public responsibility. Higher Education in Europe, XXVIII(3), 355-359.
Rizzo, M. J. (2004). The public interest in higher education (CHERI Working Paper #55). Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/student/10/
Tannock, S. (2006, Spring). Higher education, inequality, and the public good. Dissent Magazine, 45-51.
The White House. (n.d.). Education. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education


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