Does investing taxpayer money in higher education lead to major payoffs in economic growth? State legislators and policy makers say yes. They routinely advocate massive appropriations for university education and research, even in poor economic times, on the grounds that taxpayers will be rewarded many times over.
The investment of federal funds is assumed to achieve similar returns.
But are these rosy projections true? To what extent do taxpayers’ expenditures for universities actually contribute to economic growth? Those questions do not have easy answers.
In this paper, Jay Schalin, senior writer for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, goes beyond the superficial claims to look at broader economic studies that attempt to correlate expenditure with results. He finds that the results are not as favorable as they are often said to be, and he offers some explanations for why.
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