It’s probably too much to see anything of portent in Jimmy Vielkind’s article for the Albany Times-Union. He brings us the news that Shirley Ann Jackson, the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute won’t be serving on the Capital Region Economic Development Council, one of those panels that exist so the local leadership can get together over stale pastries. She probably agreed to join to be polite and now she wants to clear time in her schedule so she can accept another high paying corporate directorship. She already pulls in seven figures from those panels.
But what the hey. Let’s look for something deeper even if it doesn’t exist. You might say that’s the whole game at the college industrial complex anyway.
Perhaps someone looked at Rensselaer and saw an explosion of debt and overspending coupled with a stagnant revenue base. The school is bankrupt in a way. The amount of debt is much larger than the endowment and the only way they keep the lights on is to keep the tuition checks coming. If they had to liquidate the place, the odds are good that the debtors wouldn’t be paid in full. Who wants to buy all of those overpriced buildings in an overtaxed city in an overtaxed state?
Let’s say someone came to that conclusion and actually gave her the bum’s rush off the board. You can’t have a spendaholic in charge of a region’s economic future, can you? Why that would actually make sense.
But I’m probably dreaming when I imagine this happening. All of the local council members and state legislatures have all seen “Music Man”. They all have dreams that overspending on some loony section of the economy will perk up everyone and get them working hard and earning enough money to pay more in taxes. It just took 76 trombones in the musical. Why not 76 new professors of metalinguistical biotheory?
Turning to the college industrial complex for economic growth is a failure for the larger society. Oh sure, it works occasionally when some school gets a big collection of grants and builds a new lab. Why look at that cluster of pizza restaurants that were “created” by this new lab. That’s a dozen new jobs!
But who is paying the price? Who is shouldering the weight of paying for that new lab? Will they see any of the hefty tax revenue from the pizza sliceries? Of course now. It’s the parents and they’re just taking out debt. They’re raiding their 401k, stripping the home equity and when that fails taking on billions in PLUS loans. We’re going much deeper into debt as a society because we’re backing up these loans and socializing them. Whoo hoo!
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