June 18, 2012

Public Schools vs. Private Schools?

There's some interesting discussion about college funding going on over at Mother Jones.

A few days ago, Kevin Drum proposed that the government should only fund public schools, including in distributing financial aide. (Which is to say, students who go to private schools wouldn't be eligible for federally-backed loans.) Private schools would have to provide more financial aid or lower costs, and public state schools would get a bigger chunk of government money (and probably a hell of a lot more students.)

I was skeptical of this because I know that in Virginia, I just don't know if our state schools can maintain their quality (and they're pretty good, from what I hear) while accepting all of the middle-class students who would no longer be able to go to small liberal arts schools. Seriously, William and Mary (our publicly-funded, exclusive liberal arts school) couldn't absorb all of the straight-A, hyper-ambitious students Virginia produces, and the pressure to accept more students is already a burden on the rest of the smaller schools in the state like mine.

A professor from University of California also saw a problem with Drum's solution, but for a different reason: state schools kind of suck. (Not mine, of course.) Her argument is that state schools, especially the ones that accept thousands and thousands of students, just don't have the resources to provide the intensive teaching that small private schools can provide. There's also wide disparity between states in what kind of state-funded schools are available, so if you want to study something in particular and your state university system isn't good at teaching it, you're kind of out of luck.

This mostly led to a huge debate in the comments about whether or not specific programs at specific state schools have good teaching or not, which was a bit of a bummer because it didn't deal with the more interesting question of so what do you do? I have some ideas, but I'm not sure any of them address the issue of disparity between public and private schools and what kind of funding students should have access to; for that I really have no idea.


eefje said...

Can't you go to a state school outside of your own state? That's dumb...

Anyway, don't have much to say about this other than that the Dutch system works pretty much, and almost everything is public - the private schools hardly get used, and most people think it's for rich kids that want to get an easy grade. But I'm sure there are differences between our universities and your state colleges, I'm just not very well educated on that.

Katie Casey said...

Hi Eefje!

You can go to school outside your own state, but you have to pay a lot more (4 or 5 times as much usually, I think?), so not a lot of people do. The Dutch system sounds a lot better to me, to be honest!