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Take time to voice support for strong public higher ed

The political pendulum has swung. Yesterday's truisms are challenged everywhere. The expansive phase of government, rooted in the New Deal, is (at least at the level of rhetoric) in full retreat.

UB alumni should note, however, that in the general housecleaning of government programs, education is being treated as though it were bureaucratic bloat, or welfare fraud, or worse. In New York, for example, the governor's proposed budget cut administrative units an average of 6.5 percent, then lopped a full 31.5 percent from SUNY. The legislature restored only a portion of those funds in the final state budget.

The scary part is that this is done here, and elsewhere, utterly without apology. No one says, "This is dreadful, but it is an unavoidable economic necessity." On the contrary, it is public higher education that is busy apologizing for the effrontery of staking a claim to society's support.

It really is time to reassert the importance of strong higher education, particularly public education. Open access to the best schooling possible is a hallowed American tradition dating back to the Founding Fathers. The more educated our citizens, the stronger our nation-economically, and every other way. Education is not merely an individual economic advantage to be acquired at the cost of crushing family debt; it is a public good that deserves the best we can give it.

The issue is much deeper than this year's budget. The transforming power of education benefits all of us, and as alumni of a great public university, we should be among those saying it loudly and often.

William J. Evitts




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