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Higher education on the precipice

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For all things optional, money is disappearing. For the things we like government to do, but don’t absolutely insist upon, support is fading and, for some, soon to vanish. The unavoidables are chewing it away. On the state level, that means that constitutionally mandated spending on K-12 education and must-funds like health care, prisons, public safety, employee benefits, interest and debt payments, are eating up everything else. On the federal level, it’s the entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, along with defense and debt doing most of the chewing. If it isn’t on the must-fund list, no matter how valuable or beneficial, funding will be in jeopardy. It can’t be helped. Look at higher education in Washington, our state universities and community colleges. They once were our pride, their contribution to society unquestioned, their necessity in a modern world obvious. Their research and contributions to science, medicine and agriculture sent great waves of energy through the economy. The idea that any student with talent and modest means could walk up and attend one of the finest universities in the world, with most of the cost covered by taxpayers, we thought was one of the ultimate aims of a democratic society. Opportunity for all was a noble goal.

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