The Seattle Times’ Katherine Long writes today about business and civic leaders urging the University of Washington to admit more in-state students and attract more top flight faculty. Their report, Washington Futures, deserves consideration and a bias for action, with a big cc to Olympia. Few individual assets are more important to the Puget Sound region’s economy and future competitiveness than the UW, yet state funding for higher education, adjusted for inflation, stands where it did 20 years ago. Yet, as Long reports, the state’s four-year schools serve an additional 34,000 students. This year’s increase in funding is only a start.
No major innovation center exists without world-class research universities. Want to be the next Silicon Valley? It won’t happen in an America where states have been cutting education funding and today’s super-rich, unlike their Robber Baron predecessors, aren’t founding new universities. Indeed, the major high tech startup clusters in America have changed little over the past 20 years — even though Seattle has moved up in the rankings. I suspect the recession only exacerbated this trend, locking in winners and losers and making entry to the exclusive club even more difficult.
But that doesn’t mean the leaders can rest easy. The competition today is global. Yesterday’s Third World is accumulating universities and corporate research centers, challenging the advanced nations for talent. Advanced nations are competing more ferociously against each other — which makes the cutting of research by the federal sequester all the more insane. And metropolitan areas on the make can nibble at the margins of those at the top, especially outside of Silicon Valley. At the heart of a successful ecosystem are great universities, attracting top students and faculty, performing breakthrough research and transferring it into the private sector.
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Today’s Econ Haiku:
So Michael Dell wins
It was a bitter contest
The reboot? Harder