Is higher ed really an economic stimulus? If so, why hasn’t it helped New Mexico?

House Speaker Brian Egolf seems oblivious (as are so many of our State’s leaders) to the real issues facing our State. In a recent article detailing New Mexico’s budget challenges, Egolf was quoted as saying:

“It’s important to protect higher education, especially as New Mexico struggles with the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation.”

“The story about higher-education funding is one of economic development – a huge economic development opportunity missed and squandered,” he said. “We can only guess what our economy would be like now if we had protected higher education.”

Aside from the abject lack of evidence that higher education really boosts economic growth, the fact is that New Mexico spends far more than other states on higher ed. Check out a report from earlier this year in which it was noted that the average (in-state tuition) rate at schools around New Mexico is by far the lowest in the nation.

Just ask UNM president Abdallah who said “Our higher ed spending is more than most other states; the trouble is we don’t spend it wisely and (we) spread it across so many entities

If he can point to any empirical studies that show how state higher ed spending results in greater economic growth, we’d love to see them. But, we’d settle for some analysis from New Mexico’s universities showing how many New Mexico graduates are actually working in state as opposed to leaving New Mexico for much greener economic pastures.

It is also worth asking, if higher ed spending is such an economic stimulus, why New Mexico with its high levels of spending has lagged economically.

We at the Rio Grande Foundation hypothesize that (to an even greater degree than in other states) tax dollars New Mexicans spend on higher education are wasted on low quality outcomes and students heading out of state due to limited job opportunities at home. In other words, Speaker Egolf is completely oblivious to the real forces impacting (and holding back) New Mexico’s economy.

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