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Hope For American Public Universities?

BayBoi10BayBoi10 Posts: 278- Junior Member
edited October 2010 in College Search & Selection
It seems to me that everywhere, but the US, has a thriving public university system. Canada with McGill, the UK with Oxford and Cambridge, Japan with U of HK and Tokyo, ect ect. But, in the US it seems more than ever that we value private education. Everyone knows the top University in the US is Harvard, followed by Princeton and Yale. Why is that?

Yes, I know we have some excellent public universities in the US. I attend unarguably the best one, University of California--Berkeley. There is also the University of Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas. However wonderful those universities are, they pale in comparison of the quality, accessibility, and affordability of other countries. Furthermore, our publics are declining at a rapid pace. I believe, one of the reasons that this is so, is because, as Americas, we take advantage of our public goods, but choose not to heavily in invest them. Why is this? Someone tell me why, as a nation, we have evolved differently and why we value education differently.

Thank you.
Post edited by BayBoi10 on
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Replies to: Hope For American Public Universities?

  • violindadviolindad Posts: 925Registered User Member
    The US certainly does value education: per capita expenditure is greater at every level of education in the US than it is anywhere else (from kindergarten to graduate studies). As well, the post-secondary opportunities in the US are unrivalled; no other nation has a large a variety of colleges and universities; the best US schools are among the best in the world (and the US has a disproportionately large share of the best universities). Community college education is incredibly inexpensive in the US, affordable to almost anyone.

    But, of course, your question is why the US values education differently. I would suggest that the US places a much greater emphasis on the value of freedom than it does on equality, relative to other countries. US citizens have great freedoms, wonderful choices, and more opportunities than the citizens of other countries; however, because of a de-emphasis on equality, many US citizens are unable to take advantage of these opportunities.

    Equality is not on the agenda in the US in the same way that it is in places like Norway, Sweden, Canada, and Britain. In these countries most citizens cannot fathom that the richest nation that has ever existed is unwilling to extend health care to everyone; most of the rest of the civilized world thinks of universal health care as being part of promoting equality amongst humans, as are universally accessible educational opportunities.

    The above is not a criticism of the US; rather it is merely an observation. Differing values produce differing educational systems. Most of the world envies the US post-secondary educational system.
  • cherokeejewcherokeejew Posts: 402Registered User Member
    In terms of quality, Berkeley is the best public university if the world - only Cambridge and Oxford are arguable, and certainly UCLA, Michigan etc are in the top few. It's true that many countries have cheaper universities, nearly free, but Berkeley in-state is only about 5500 per semester in-state (for UG and graduate - professional schools are a different story), which is reasonable given quality, and really not a significant sum compared to the normal costs of living and opportunity costs.
  • noimaginationnoimagination Posts: 7,013Registered User Senior Member
    It seems to me that everywhere, but the US, has a thriving public university system. Canada with McGill, the UK with Oxford and Cambridge, Japan with U of HK and Tokyo, ect ect. But, in the US it seems more than ever that we value private education. Everyone knows the top University in the US is Harvard, followed by Princeton and Yale. Why is that?
    The top schools in, for example, Canada are on roughly equal footing with the top publics in the US. The fact that some excellent private institutions also exist here does not detract from the overall quality of public systems.
    There is also the University of Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas. However wonderful those universities are, they pale in comparison of the quality, accessibility, and affordability of other countries.
    The US is different culturally from many other countries. Most states do not fully subsidize tuition at their publicly-supported universities. With that said, many do offer significant financial aid to economically-disadvantaged students. For example, collegeboundnebraska guarantees full-tuition financial grant aid to in-state students who qualify for a Federal Pell Grant. One might argue that our aid programs should go further, but it is disingenuous to imply that little effort is made to make education accessible to those of lesser means.
  • UCBChemEGradUCBChemEGrad Posts: 10,055Registered User Senior Member
    Ummm, the US dominates higher education (public and private). Why do you think foreigners are clamoring to attend US universities?
    they pale in comparison of the quality, accessibility, and affordability of other countries
    Foreign rankings say otherwise.

    World Rank, Institution
    1 Harvard University Americas
    2 University of California, Berkeley Americas
    3 Stanford University Americas
    4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Americas
    5 University of Cambridge Europe
    6 California Institute of Technology Americas
    7 Princeton University Americas
    8 Columbia University Americas
    9 University of Chicago Americas
    10 University of Oxford Europe
    11 Yale University Americas
    12 Cornell University Americas
    13 University of California, Los Angeles Americas
    14 University of California, San Diego Americas
    15 University of Pennsylvania Americas
    16 University of Washington Americas
    17 University of Wisconsin - Madison Americas
    18 The Johns Hopkins University Americas
    18 University of California, San Francisco Americas
    20 The University of Tokyo Asia/Pacific
    21 University College London Europe
    22 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Americas
    23 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Europe
    24 Kyoto University Asia/Pacific
    25 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Americas
    26 The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Europe
    27 University of Toronto Americas
    28 University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Americas
    29 Northwestern University Americas
    30 Washington University in St. Louis Americas
    31 New York University Americas
    32 University of California, Santa Barbara Americas
    32 University of Colorado at Boulder Americas
    34 Rockefeller University Americas
    35 Duke University Americas
    36 University of British Columbia Americas
    36 University of Maryland, College Park Americas
    38 The University of Texas at Austin Americas
    39 Pierre and Marie Curie University - Paris Europe
    40 University of Copenhagen Europe
    41 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Americas
    42 Karolinska Institute Europe
    43 Pennsylvania State University - University Park Americas
    44 The University of Manchester Europe
    45 University of Paris Sud (Paris) Europe
    46 University of California, Davis Americas
    46 University of California, Irvine Americas
    46 University of Southern California Americas
    49 The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Americas
  • starbrightstarbright Posts: 4,660Registered User Senior Member
    Why do you think foreigners are clamoring to attend US universities?

    I am not picking a bone with your belief about the great quality of a whole number of US schools. I agree there. But I do not believe the above point about 'clamouring foreigners' is a reasonable argument.

    You only see the inputs to the US and the lack of Americans going abroad. And as an American, you don't appreciate how many are clamoring to other foreign countries as well or in what proportion.

    Moreover, those coming to the US for school may find it easier to come to the US (vis a vis American schools being open to international students relative to other countries, and the ease of coming to a country where you already speak the language as your second one). Going from China to the US is a heck of a lot easier and realistic than going to say France or Germany.

    Moreover, they may be coming with the goal of immigration, not necessarily education per se.
  • sentimentGX4sentimentGX4 Posts: 1,683Registered User Senior Member
    The university of Hong Kong isn't in Japan. It's in the Chinese SAR of Hong Kong. My mother, who us a Hong Kong alumni would be going off her rocker from that statement.

    Also, foreign public universities are nowhere as great as you proclaim. McGill or Toronto is only comparable to Michigan. There are only a handful of foreign publics comparable to American publics: Tokyo, ETH Zurich, Oxbridge, etc. and some of them still pale in comparison in terms of research.

    The problem with publics, Berkeley included, is that their undergraduate education is awful. Overcrowding is a serious issue. Undergrad education is the most transparent because everyone is out to get a Bachelor's; however, it will always be graduate education that is most fundamental to progress.

    By this measure, American publics are not lacking. It isn't necessary for the government to monopolize the less important undergrad education.

    To the poster who brought up France and Germany, you should be aware that French universities are awful and German universities quite mediocre. Those are far more compelling reasons why foreigners avoid those countries if anything.

    Not all first world nations provide a world class education. Most universities across Europe are lacking.
  • DunninLADunninLA Posts: 4,272Registered User Senior Member
    World Ranking, removing Privates, leaving only PUBLIC:

    Public Ranking / World Ranking
    1 / 2 University of California, Berkeley Americas
    2 / 5 University of Cambridge Europe
    3 / 10 University of Oxford Europe
    4 / 12 Cornell University Americas (part of Cornell is Land Grant and Contract)
    5 / 13 University of California, Los Angeles Americas
    6 / 14 University of California, San Diego Americas
    7 / 16 University of Washington Americas
    8 / 17 University of Wisconsin - Madison Americas
    9 / 18 University of California, San Francisco Americas
    10 / 20 The University of Tokyo Asia/Pacific
    11 / 21 University College London Europe
    12 / 22 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Americas
    13 / 23 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Europe
    14 / 24 Kyoto University Asia/Pacific
    15 / 25 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Americas
    16 / 26 The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Europe
    17 / 27 University of Toronto Americas
    18 / 28 University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Americas

    It looks like the US Universities are doing just fine as far as RESEARCH universities go. If your comments are about undergraduate education only, then that is a different question entirely.

    If, however, you're asking why, besides Berkeley, the seven highest ranking US Research universities are Private (Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, MIT, Columbia, Yale, Chicago), that is a good and appropriate question. Or why the OLDEST public university in the US, William and Mary, did not develop to a similar level of faculty acclaim as those above, that is another interesting question.
  • UCBChemEGradUCBChemEGrad Posts: 10,055Registered User Senior Member
    The problem with publics, Berkeley included, is that their undergraduate education is awful.
    If your comments are about undergraduate education only, then that is a different question entirely.

    Economies of scale.

    I was a consumer of public higher education. It was far from "awful".
  • DunninLADunninLA Posts: 4,272Registered User Senior Member
    To my first question, "why, besides Berkeley, the seven highest ranking US Research universities are Private (Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, MIT, Columbia, Yale, Chicago), "

    Harvard and Yale (and I believe Princeton as well) began as colleges for the education of future Christian ministers. With the emerging sentiment in the Colonies at that time for Church and State to remain separate enterprises, (for the protection of the State from the Church), it makes sense that Colleges for Ministers would not be made Public.

    Stanford and MIT are both of very recent formation, within the past 120 years. Stanford was clearly the vision of a very rich Robber Baron; I'm not sure how or why MIT was founded. Why for example UMASS Amherst did not assume the role in Massachusetts that Cal Berkeley did in California... I'd like to know that as well. It clearly created a vacuum in which MIT formed.
  • DunninLADunninLA Posts: 4,272Registered User Senior Member
    I became curious about MIT's founding because of this thread ...

    I just discoved MIT is actually quasi Public.. that is, it was originally founded as a Land Grant college, with public monies.
  • DunninLADunninLA Posts: 4,272Registered User Senior Member
    oops, drat this 30 minute edit limit!

    To continue with my MIT comments, it was founded as a private college (Boston Tech), but when it was short of funds in the 1880s, the MIT Corporation petitioned the Commonswealth of Massachusetts to invest in the school. Between 1887 and 1921, Massachusetts invested $1.6 million into MIT. I assume in today's dollars that would be equivalent to about $160 million. These investments by the Commonweatlth aided in Boston Tech's move to its current location across the Charles River in 1916.

    I've always wondered about the close proximity of MIT and Harvard, the cross registration agreements, and the seemingly simbiotic relationship. It turns out that Harvard proposed twice in the 1870s a merger with MIT, and again in 1914. The 1914 merger was approved by the MIT Corporation, but the State Judicial Court disapproved of the merger.
  • zapfinozapfino Posts: 2,483Registered User Senior Member
    Re; Posts #10-12:

    Yes, MIT did benefit from land-grant monies from Massachusetts. So did Brown and Dartmouth benefit from the land grant proceeds in their respective states. I believe Brown repaid the State of Rhode Island when it became clear that it did not offer a proper agricultural course. Cornell, as you know received the land grant monies in NY State, and operates its Ag school under contract with NY State.

    It is interesting that at the time Cornell was founded, there were no more federal lands in NY State. So, Cornell's land grant came from prime timber lands selected from Wisconsin, which yielded much higher returns than U Wisconsin received from the lands it was given. IIRC, Ezra Cornell had some involvement in the Wisconsin holdings and their was some controversy over whether he personally benefited. There is a town of Cornell, WI in the vicinity of these lands. IIRC, the land grants for Rhode Island, which also did not have any remaining federal lands, were located in Kansas.

    In its early years, Harvard definitely was "public" in the sense that it undoubtedly received monies from the Commonwealth. It is even mentioned in the Massachusetts constitution and until fairly late IIRC, a state official sat on its board.

    If I'm not mistaken, the proposed 1914 merger with Harvard had more to do with the ambiguous status of the Lawrence Scientific School (engineering) at Harvard within the larger university. I have the impression that Harvard saw itself as the senior partner in this transaction. Even so, by the 1880s, MIT was one of a select few universities that were viewed as elite institutions to which families on the Boston and NY Social Registers would send their sons.

    Due to the presence of a good number of great private colleges and universities in New England, state universities were underfunded and those states never attempted to develop public universities of the quality found in California, and the Midwest States. In part, I think this was due to the tight-fistedness of Yankee legislatures but in part it was due to the political influence of private schools that did not want the competition from public universities. To this day, among many people in the Northeast, public universities are viewed as second-rate (and, of course the underfunding continues.) In addition to the usual stereotypes of the Midwest as "flyover country", many people in the Northeast blindly fail to acknowledge the quality of Midwestern Universities due to a perception that public universities (based in part on their experience with their own public universities) are mediocre at best. Possible exceptions to this are U Michigan, U Wisconsin, and Miami of Ohio which have attracted a good number of Northeastern students for many years. (Though in the case of Michigan and Wisconsin, I recall hearing somewhere that often many of these were Jewish students who at one time faced admission quotas at top private universities in their own region.) I have known many students from the Northeast who would prefer to go to second rate private universities in their region and assume excessive debt to do so, however, than to even consider a much lower cost, higher quality public university outside their region.
  • bclintonkbclintonk Posts: 6,461Registered User Senior Member
    Here’s another international ranking from the Times Higher Education Supplement (UK):

    1. Harvard
    2. Caltech
    3. MIT
    4. Stanford
    5. Princeton
    6. Cambridge
    6. Oxford
    8. UC Berkeley
    9. Imperial College London
    10. Yale
    11. UCLA
    12. Chicago
    13. Johns Hopkins
    14. Cornell
    15. Swiss Federal Inst. Of Technology Zurich
    15. Michigan
    17. Toronto
    18. Columbia
    19. Penn
    20. Carnegie Mellon
    21. U of Hong Kong
    22. University College London
    23. U Washington
    24. Duke
    25. Northwestern
    26. U of Tokyo
    27. Georgia Tech
    28. Pohang U of Science & Technology (Korea)
    29. UC Santa Barbara
    30. U British Columbia
    30. UNC Chapel Hill
    32. UC San Diego
    33. Illinois
    34. National University of Singapore
    35. McGill

    Clearly THES thinks highly of British universities, and most would say it overrates them. But that aside, U.S. publics do extremely well in this ranking, with 3 of the top 15 and 9 of the top 35 universities in the world, 10 if you include Cornell---far more than any other country including the UK (4 of top 35) and Canada (3 of top 35). China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Switzerland weigh in with one apiece; the rest of the world is shut out of the top 35. So I’d say by this ranking American publics are, as a group, the leading public universities in the world.
  • sentimentGX4sentimentGX4 Posts: 1,683Registered User Senior Member
    DunninLA wrote:
    To my first question, "why, besides Berkeley, the seven highest ranking US Research universities are Private (Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, MIT, Columbia, Yale, Chicago), "
    Another interesting tidbit to add onto this is that Caltech was originally going to become a public school but Stanford and Berkeley (which historically does everything it can to cripple other institutions of higher education in California) lobbied against and defeated the bill.

    Caltech rose to prominence anyways as one of the premier scientific institutions in California with the help and favoritism of the National Research Council. Today, many Berkeley students ironically look up to Caltech.
  • UCBChemEGradUCBChemEGrad Posts: 10,055Registered User Senior Member
    Source?

    Caltech's strength is earth science. Cal has stronger engineering and physical sciences.
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