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Letter of the Day (Aug. 15): College economics

  • Article by: BRENDA DALY
  • August 14, 2013 - 6:41 PM

Richard Vedder, who teaches economics at Ohio University, has “A five-point plan for higher education” (Aug. 12). While I certainly agree that colleges and universities should be run efficiently, I disagree with the delimiting language Vedder employs, which reduces universities to businesses and students to consumers.

For example, using the language of “rising demand and falling supply,” he argues that federal student loans should be cut back to lower demand. He also advises colleges and universities to find less expensive ways of “packing courses into degrees.”

According to Vedder, “polls show that students’ single biggest goal is financial success,” and he apparently believes that this goal should be the university’s top, or perhaps its only, priority. Such a cost-benefit approach is narrow and misleading.

Yes, college graduates want to find good-paying jobs — and it should be noted that corporate employers value applicants with humanities degrees — but not all of us believe that making money should dominate every aspect of our lives. We also need music and stories and art.

As an antidote to Vedder’s dismal vision of a university, in which the arts and humanities have no value, I recommend Jane Smiley’s novel “Moo,” in which the villain is economics professor Dr. Lionel Gift, poet laureate of consumerism.

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Brenda Daly of Burnsville is an Iowa State University emeritus professor of English.

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