The real scandal around the endowment by the Koch brothers of two chairs at Florida State University is that state universities now have to seek such outside money and accept strings. The reason they have to do so is that many state legislatures have chosen not to have state universities any more. At many ‘state universities’ the state contribution to the general operating fund is less than 20 percent, falling toward 10 percent.
This abandonment of their responsibilities to higher education on the part of the states hurts students in the first instance. Institutions that used to be affordable to students from working and lower middle class backgrounds are now increasingly out of reach for them. State universities are becoming the new Ivies, a good bargain still for the upper middle class and the wealthy, but a distant dream for the daughter or son of a worker in a fast food restaurant.
This development is also scary because it promotes the corruption of academia. In fact, as Charles Ferguson showed in his film, “Inside Job,” some academic economists are already hopelessly corrupt. The barracuda capitalist system in contemporary America provides many incentives for economists to promote laissez-faire, anti-regulatory ideas of the sort that led to the 2008 collapse of our economy. Endowments with strings attached are just one more.
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