Friday, July 26, 2013

Chait versus Delong

Brad Delong has a very nice reply to Jon Chait's latest column.  I think that any reasonable analysis of tuition versus professorial salary in real terms is going to make it clear that the link between salaries and tuition is . . . weak.  After all, we live in the age of the adjunct professor/lecturer -- if just slashing salaries was the answer then adjuncts would have solved the problem.  Just ask anyone who has taught at those salaries. 

It is also the case that private schools (i.e. Harvard) give tenure and pay high salaries.  It cannot just be that the private sector has no ability to assess value.  Not have I missed the fact that summer camp seems to be increasing in price, making it also less accessible.  Nor is anybody suggesting that replacing summer camp with a television set is the way to improve educational outcomes. 

Yet we have had VHS tapes since the 1980's.  If taping and replaying lectures was so superior, why did it take the internet to make this a viable approach? 

The one place that I think Jon Chait is correct is when he draws the analogy with Health Care.  Some parts of health care have been real improvements and were worth the cost.  Conspiracy theories aside, comparing cardiovascular disease treatment between 1960 and today is sobering; expensive technologies and drugs really have helped.  What is challenging is the fine line between what is a real improvement in quality and what is an unnecessary expense.  Some degree of pressure on higher education may elucidate some of the fault lines and that could be quite useful to all of us. 

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