Starving The Beast - Funding Higher Education

Oct 18, 2016

Matt Jordan

Few issues in contemporary democracy are so important as the future of public education. Democracy, our founding fathers believed, can thrive only if the citizens who consent to be governed are educated and engaged, and are capable of understanding the challenges that we all face together. When education fails, so does democracy. 

To help spur the conversation about the importance of Public Higher Education in Pennsylvania, the College of Communications, the Center for Conscience Character and Public Purpose in Student Affairs, and the Institute for Arts and Humanities at PSU have arranged a special State College premiere of a new film, "Starving the Beast" (directed by Steve Mims), on Wednesday, October 19 at 7PM and 10PM at the State Theatre in State College. The event is free to the public.  

"Starving the Beast" is an award-winning film about the campaign in the media and in the halls of government to shift the way people conceive, talk about, and fund Public Higher Education. Higher Education, the film argues, is increasingly talked about as a “value proposition” for individual students instead of a “public good” for society. 

Using six case studies – the University of Wisconsin, University of North Carolina, Louisiana State University, University of Texas, Texas A&M, and the nation’s first public university, the University of Virginia – the film shows how a well-funded ideological campaign has effectively turned a dialogue about Higher Education as a public good into a monologue about private gain. The impact of this monologue on these great institutions of learning has been dramatic. The cost-burden of education at public universities across the country has been shifted away from state budgets to the debt sheets of individual students and the quality of the education has suffered.  

"Starving the Beast" premiered last spring at the prestigious South-by-Southwest festival in Austin, and opened in theaters last month to excellent reviews.  It is a great conversation starter.

After the 7 p.m. screening on October 19, Patty Satalia of WPSU will lead a discussion with the film’s producer, Bill Banowsky, John Cheslock, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at PSU, and Dr. Wil del Pilar, Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The screenings are free, and all are invited to take part in the conversation about how to best restore this important part of our shared commonwealth.  

WPSU’s Greg Petersen talked with the organizer of the event, Matt Jordan, an associate professor in Penn State’s College of Communication.