Monthly Archives: July 2016

Scott Alexander on how we can be hypocritical when it comes to different cultures

Scott Alexander:

opponents of colonialism tend to believe that cultures are valuable and need to be protected in and of themselves. This is true even if the culture is very poor, if the culture consists of people who aren’t very well-educated by Western standards, even if they believe in religions that we think are stupid, even if those cultures have unsavory histories, et cetera. We tend to allow such cultures to resist outside influences, and we even celebrate such resistance. If anybody were to say that, for example, Native Americans are poor and ignorant, have a dumb religion with all sorts of unprovable “spirits”, used to be involved in a lot of killing and raiding and slave-taking – and so we need to burn down their culture and raise their children in our own superior culture – that person would be incredibly racist and they would not be worth listening to. We celebrate when cultures choose preservation of their traditional lifestyles over mere economic growth, like Bhutan’s gross national happiness program.

This is true in every case except with the cultures we consider our outgroups – in the US, white Southern fundamentalist Christian Republicans; in the UK, white rural working-class leave voters. In both cases, their ignorance is treated as worthy of mockery, their religion is treated as stupidity and failure to understand science, their poverty makes them “trailer trash”, their rejection of economic-growth-at-all-costs means they are too stupid to understand the stakes, and their desire to protect their obviously inferior culture makes them xenophobic and racist…

Bettinger et al on the effects of merit aid

Eric Bettinger, Oded Gurantz, Laura Kawano, and Bruce Sacerdote:

We examine the impacts of being awarded a Cal Grant, among the most generous state merit aid programs. We exploit variation in eligibility rules using GPA and family income cutoffs that are ex ante unknown to applicants. Cal Grant eligibility increases degree completion by 2 to 5 percentage points… induces modest shifts in institution choice at the income discontinuity… and raises earnings by four percentage points at the GPA discontinuity.

Rick Seltzer covers the HECA vs. CPI debate

Rick Seltzer’s recent article in Inside Higher Ed covered the HECA vs. CPI debate. His piece drew upon this post and quoted me:

Misreading the trends in revenue because of cost adjustments will lead to misdiagnosing the way costs are changing over time — and misdiagnosing, in turn, the reasons tuition has been increasing, Gillen said. The common narrative is that declines in state funding have led to higher tuition, he said. But because his analysis shows state funding has cycled over time while revenue has crept up and tuition steadily increased, Gillen believes there has been too much emphasis on state funding. Increasing state funding is actually more likely to feed the trend of higher costs and tuition, he said.

So other elements of higher education finance need to be considered, Gillen said.

“That’s really why I keep writing,” he said. “If I’m wrong, then the way to keep tuition low is to keep increasing state funding. But if I’m right and you keep increasing state funding, that’s not going to do anything to tuition. Tuition is going to keep going up.”

Colleges and universities will raise all the money they can, and they will spend all the money they raise, Gillen said. Under his logic, an increase in state funding does nothing but increase the cap on what institutions can raise and spend.

Following Gillen’s reasoning can lead to very different ideas for keeping tuition in check.