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Blogs posted by Edgaras Gudavicius

Excludability Models and towards The Indebted Generation

Posted on Fri 09 Dec 2011 at 21:38 by Edgaras Gudavicius


Hello Good People!

The 3rd day has passed for the Austrian FinSt crew with even more work and discussions about higher education financing. Today we spent the whole day at the office with Tinja and ended it with our own hand made cinema!

The day started at 10:00 in the office with a quick briefing from Tinja on our schedule and activities for the next day. Then everyone presented their pimped out presentations on their countries higher education institution financing models. For me it was particularly interesting to hear about the Spanish financing system and it being closely connected to your families economical background. While some might say that it is not liberal and kind of discriminating people, I find it quite logical and accurate. Usually, the ones that cannot afford tuition fees are exactly from families of poorer economic background and these are the ones that actually need that support. Although that does sound good, we should look at it a little bit deeper. At a glance it looks fair, at another glance you notice the magic words "Tuition Fees". That is exactly where it goes wrong. While there are a lot of countries, which are already used to having tuition fees, at the same time there are those who are still fighting for the truly free education, which is at least in some aspect closer to the concept of the public good. It is sad that we are forgetting the usual chain, which most countries are following: free education -> partially free education -> tuition fees and grant/loan based education -> loan based education -> DEBT. No wonder people are starting to call us "the indebted generation"...

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After calming our brains with a great lunch at a turkish restaurant, we received our "homework" for the next week and continued to discuss financing models. After long discussions on the ideal financing systems some thoughts crossed my mind. Basically we all know that higher education is affirmed as a public good and a public responsibility. By now, most people already get the point what those two terms mean. But what can we really do about it? The ideal system, of course, is when everyone has access to quality higher education and doesn't have to pay for it. Yet, every country is extremely different, with most of them encountering the problem of massification and the inability for the government to provide that high quality public good for everyone. As it is obvious, it is basically due to the lack of money. Or is it really? My question is whether anyone honestly tried to tune the money flows and check whether it is spent efficiently? I am particularly addressing the three major "knobs" of financing:

1. The actual government TAX distribution efficiency.
2. Efficient money usage and distribution within the higher education sector itself.
3. Efficient and non-discriminative distribution of the actual higher education "good".

With these three "knobs" I am addressing the point that there is usually not enough budget allocation for higher education, or the whole budgeting is done inefficiently, so the "we don't have any more money, sorry" card is used. Then, if we eventually efficiently distribute the money of the public and the higher eduction sector gets the right amount of funding, we must look at how it is distributed here, inside the sector. This is where it is of most importance to have student representatives within HEI governing bodies, which deal with financing. Even though there is a popular belief that this is not a student issue at all and students do not have the competence to deal with strategic and financial decisions, I believe that students are the strongest stakeholders, who, by pursuing their own interest, want better higher education. So, let us say now that we have a really efficient distribution of tax, the higher eduction sector funding is maximized and the money is also efficiently distributed and used within the sector, we must provide an also efficient model of distributing the higher education good to the society, which is affected by massification. Currently, in a lot of countries we can observe very different admission and "excludability" models. Yes, you got me - Excludability models. By this I mean that countries are searching for the most fair ways to exclude people from higher education, justifying that there is not enough to provide for everyone. And so, I believe that we should not be searching for fair ways to exclude people, but for ways to include everyone.

Alright, enough serious stuff for today. After all of the brain-bleeding, we found quite some wine, which was left from last nights christmas party and Jorge had the new Jeff Dunham DVD "Controlled Chaos". So, it didn't take long for us to occupy the big ÖH meeting room, get some pizzas and put up our dvd on the beamer. We ended the day with great pizza, great wine and a good laugh.

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More adventures on our 4th day and interesting thoughts about students as equal partners in HEI infrastructure usage coming up tomorrow!

Stay Tuned!

Yours,

Edgar and the Austrian FinSt crew