Is Education a Public Good or a Private Good?

In this article, authors Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson discuss public institutions and their places in society. They argue that public institutions aren’t really public in nature and I think there is merit to this. For a good to be public, it must be nonexcludable and nonrival, but college institutions (both public and private) are both excludable and rival. Colleges only accept a certain amount of students, so they’re rival and only people who can pay (whether out-of-pocket, loans, etc) can go to the school. Are they really¬†public¬†universities?


  1. dunnj Said,

    December 11, 2012 @ 10:50 am

    I would say they are not public universities. According to the guidelines set forth in the article, it is possible to stop those who cannot pay from attending and they are rival (the more students, the more impacted classes are meaning less people get to indulge in the experience). Obviously there are positive externalities but as far as the institution itself, it should be considered Private. All education beyond a regular public and free high school should be.

  2. klocknec Said,

    November 22, 2013 @ 1:39 am

    I found this article very interesting because even though we do differentiate between public and private universities it raises the question are public colleges really public? Even scholarships make public universities more private because it excludes students who did not do well enough in high school to get the scholarship. Also, even financial aid usually cannot 100% pay for someone’s education, making people with less money less likely to be able to get a college degree.

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.