COLUMN: Cutting education bankrupts our human capital

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 | 11:49 a.m. CDT

Oh, for the love of balancing the budget. Missouri currently finds itself at the crossroads of implementing policies to create jobs and minimizing its role by cutting government spending. Inevitably, the process leads to hurt feelings by those entities receiving less funding than the previous year.

This year, as is frequently the case, funding for education is in jeopardy, as Gov. Jay Nixon believes higher education funding could face up to a 7 percent decrease. That is a conservative estimate, as some believe it could be as high as a 15 percent cut.


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Normally, I tend to err on the side of fiscal responsibility and minimal government spending. The notion of large taxes and an unsustainable budget sickens me. But education is different.

The vast Republican majority in the General Assembly has promised job creation is the number one priority for this session. They have done an excellent job so far, proposing changes in minimum wage law, multiple bills to aid agriculture, and eliminating hindrances on small business. With all that said, as education goes, so does an economy. And cutting funding to universities statewide could jeopardize all the work the legislature has put in thus far.

At heart, I am a student. A student of the law, politics, common sense and reason. My mother is a teacher in the Logan-Rogersville school district, so I have understood the importance of an education my entire life. Blessed with the opportunity to attend college, I also understand how important those three years have been to my life. I acquired intellectual knowledge, but most importantly, I got an education in life.

Human capital is the rare exception to the business model. Unlike normal economics, one can acquire human capital without a loss on the other end of the transaction. Human capital is also the driving force behind our economy. An economy can only thrive when its participants reach their fullest capabilities of innovation and ingenuity. A college education goes a long way in achieving both.

A college education is not a right. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it is. Governments should be fearful of any spending that results in a minimal return. Education spending is different. In this case, a little spending can go a long way. The Republicans in power have a rare opportunity at hand. The common belief is that education is getting slashed. While our legislators pour over the budget, they should consider their own blessings of higher education. Hopefully this reflection will lead them to take the necessary steps to cut other funds than higher education.

Austin Fax is a junior majoring in convergence journalism at MU with a focus on political discourse. He grew up in Rogersville.

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