Why the State Money for Education Is Not Coming Back, Cont’d

From the new report: Coming in 2020: New Hampshire’s “Silver Tsunami”

By the year 2020, New Hampshire’s shift towards an increasingly older population will reach a peak. And by 2030, nearly half a million Granite Staters will be over the age of 65, representing almost one-third of the population. This trend will influence nearly every critical policy debate, perhaps none more so than health care. Released today, the Center’s latest report, “New Hampshire’s Silver Tsunami,” analyzes the potential impacts of this demographic shift on the state’s health care systems.

As we’ve shown here before, each dollar increase in Medicaid funding (which will be affected by this, according to the report) decreases state spending on education between six and seven cents. Again, I am not rationalizing the cuts here. We spend way too little on higher education, and we have to push to spend more. But the economic dynamics are such that we will lucky if we can hold institutions of higher education at level funding going forward.

What do we do? Well, politically, if you care about education, the single most important thing you can do is to support politicians and policies that attack the health care cost problem. All the other stuff is pretty useless without that. 

But from a professional standpoint, imagining some alternate world where everything changes in the next decade and we don’t have to compete for student dollars or cap costs in one way or another because suddenly everyone gets how important education is and we get the funding we need — this is not a helpful professional stance, IMHO. The healthcare situation is increasingly going to pit competing goods against one another; we are going to lose in that battle repeatedly, because asked to choose between funding an ethics class and treating poor people in the ER, we will choose the ER.

In the meantime we have students we are going to need educate — never mind the issues of access we have to address. There is not a magical world where we are not going to have to do this at at least a stable inflation-adjusted per-student cost over the next ten to twenty years. There’s just not. The only responsible action given the need and the economic reality is to look to drive down costs while maintaining or increasing access. 

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