Thursday, June 23, 2011

Yavapai Downs series

Kudos to Joanna for her series on the Yavapai Downs fiasco, and to the editors for devoting a lot of space and resources to an issue that deserves serious research and long-form treatment. The last in the five-day series runs today, with links to the rest.

The track has been in trouble from the beginning, and I can't count the hours I've listened to track employees and customers count down the sins and weaknesses of the track managers.

It would have been useful to see this series come out long before the house of cards collapsed. I and many other readers have been urging the Courier to put more work into background and document research for years, to better inform the community about what's behind the stories that customarily flit through the paper unconsidered. Here's a cookie. I hope it helps motivate more timely work in the future.

Editorial: Higher education at a lower cost

In today's offering, the unnamed Courier editor complains about the rising cost of college tuition, and blames the AZ Board of Regents for jacking them up. He then compares the index costs of UA, ASU and NAU with the new extension NAU-Yavapai, concluding that the cut-rate school must be a higher value.

The reason state schools have traditionally been far less expensive than private and religious colleges is that they're nonprofit and subsidized by the state. Voters have always approved of investing tax revenue in our young people and giving the less affluent more access to higher education. It works both for the individual in upward mobility and for society in higher-value human resources. You basically can't have a broadly affluent society without it.

In Arizona our "conservative" Legislators have been systematically reducing state revenues for years, then crying poverty as an excuse to kill off social programs they've always hated. Public higher education is near the top on that list. All those subversive scientists and liberal eggheads teaching kids to think rather than just work for the man get under their skin.

So as state subsidies to universities have fallen, the Regents face the problem of reducing the quantity and quality of their educational programs or bringing in the necessary money from the students and their families. There's a lot of both going on.

The editor is right that reducing access to education by raising prices is negative, and not just for the students. Educated, capable workers are vital to economic sustainability.

Where he's completely off track is blaming the Regents, as if they're greedily gouging their customers. That's just idiotic. Fix the blame where it belongs, on the radicals in the Legislature who imagine that the state can function without funding.

In favorably comparing NAU-Yavapai to the Big Three, the editor is clearly inferring that it's providing the same education for half the cost. Does he really imagine that the experiences on offer are even comparable? Did he pick up his journalism degree in the stationery aisle at Wal-Mart?