Editorial: What about a little patience, cost control at state universities

February 08, 2004

So much for Gov. Ernie Fletcher's plea for patience as he deals with the state government's shortage of money.

Judging from the protests last week by university students and presidents, the attitude has been anything but patient. They say they need more money, and they need it right now.

What they don't talk about is where the money will come from. Sure, they might talk about "tax modernization" or even a tax increase, but they don't talk much, if at all, about whose pocket the money they seek is going to come out of.

They argue that it's not fair that students at post-secondary schools should have to pay higher tuitions, but isn't it just as unfair - or perhaps even more so - for Kentuckians to have to pay higher taxes. The money's got to come out of somebody's pocket. Why shouldn't that be the person who's actually receiving the government service, instead of somebody else who's not receiving that service?


What's more fair? Taking $100 a year more out of a factory worker's paycheck to send somebody else's kid to college or having that college student borrow $100 more to get through college?

Moreover, the state's university presidents have done a good job of directing students' criticism away from themselves and toward state government. The fact is that the administration of higher education has been notoriously inefficient. Tuitions at the nation's colleges and universities have oustripped the rate of inflation for years.

What about a little cost control? When private businesses or individuals are faced with revenue shortfalls they have no choice but to cut costs or go bankrupt. Why should public institutions be any different? They would have us believe that without more state money, raising tuition is their only option. It isn't. They could make better use of the resources they already have.

Just once we'd like to hear a state university president stand up in public and say he could do a better job of running his university and using the state money he already has. But that's not going to happen. It's too easy to lay the blame at the feet of Kentucky taxpayers.

Here's hoping that the governor hangs tough. Sure, reform the tax system so that it stimulates economic growth and revenues grow as the economy grows. But don't raise taxes. Don't subsidize more inefficiency and waste in state government and those agencies, such as state universities, that it supports.

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