The Arizona Desert Lamp

Gimme gimme shock treatment

Posted in Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 5 January 2009

Over the past couple weeks, Inside Higher Ed has been covering the scramble by college presidents and university associations to snag a slice of the incoming Obama administration’s proposed economic stimulus package. The strategy so far should be eerily familiar to Arizona students: both the Association of American Universities and a group of schools convened by the Carnegie Corporation have released open letters calling for five percent of any proposed package to be spent on campus construction projects. From the Carnegie letter, published as a full-page ad in The New York Times and The Washington Post:

As Congress and the Executive Branch consider an economic stimulus initiative, it is critical that any legislation include a substantial investment in states and their educational systems, particularly public higher education.  That investment initially should focus on infrastructure: building essential classroom and research buildings and equipping them with the latest technologies.  Construction of green facilities would meet both the economic and the environmental priorities of the incoming administration. Federal funding of much-needed construction and renovation projects on public campuses and on those private campuses that qualify for such investment would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and have a direct and immediate impact on economic activity beyond the dollars expended.

Infrastructure investment, salt-of-the-earth green collar job creation…I’ve heard this somewhere before. As for the wonky details, the letter asks for federal funds to be doled out to states by population and administered by state governors without any oversight from state legislatures. The plan would also fund only “shovel-ready” projects that could be started within 180 days (guess there’s a lot of paperwork involved in heading out to the shed). Finally, any approved project should be partly funded by external grants covering 20 percent of construction costs.

It’s not the worst stimulus idea ever, but it strikes me as similar to Obama’s broader plan to upgrade school buildings—the 180-day lag time seems long for a policy designed to encourage folks to spend now. Straight subsidies to state and local governments, some of which would certainly be spent on higher ed, make more economic sense (and have a nice federalist flavor, too). Even better would be a few billion dollars thrown at a Federal Kegger Fund for college students, which I guarantee would be quickly and comprehensively tapped. Come to think of it, I am kind of serious about this.

It’s no surprise that universities will seek rents like Sidewinders under cover of an economic stimulus plan. After all, they’re no different than “zoos, the bicycle industry, and advocates of beach replenishment.” But there is one surprising thing about the Carnegie corporation letter. Check out the first two signatories:

Carnegie signatures

Despite UA’s constant squawking about being Arizona’s “only member of the prestigious Association of American Universities,” ASU’s Michael Crow gets the worm when it comes to representing Arizona nationally. Crow certainly has a knack for selling the “New American University” to the rest of America (cf. ASU=China) that our own President would do well to emulate.

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3 Responses

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  1. Evil Pundit said, on 7 January 2009 at 5:49 am

    Universities seem second only to the media in their dissemination of left-wing misinformation.

    Perhaps they should be encouraged to wither, rather than grow. Human knowledge could only benefit.

  2. Connor Mendenhall said, on 7 January 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Yeah, universities have been a real drag as far as human knowledge is concerned.

  3. […] by Connor Mendenhall on February 9th, 2009 Looks like I’m not the only one in favor of government keggers for economic stimulus. From a Goldwater Institute article published last May covering the atrocious […]


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