The Christian Science Monitor did a long piece the other day on the explosion in higher education in China.
CSM staff writer Amelia Newcomb wrote: "As China continues to surge onto the global economic stage, it is undergoing one of the most ambitious higher education expansions in the world. Spurred by a government call in the late 1990s to build world-class universities and broaden access to the masses, the country is prying open the doors of institutions that formerly served a narrow elite. It's pouring money into research ... "
Geely, a Chinese car maker, started its own university as an answer to a shortage of well-trained workers. It spent $800 million and in a few years built a sprawling campus with a quad inspired by Stanford. It already has about 20,000 students studying the sciences and humanities.
It is just one of 1,300 private universities that have sprung up in response to the government's call for an increase in college enrollment. China has roughly tripled its enrollment in recent years and outpaces the United States, India, Russia, and Japan in numbers of students in colleges and universities.
The Monitor reported that by 2010, Chinese officials estimate that 20 percent of high school graduates will be enrolled in some form of higher education. That number is expected to rise to 50 percent by 2050. China now has about 20 million students pursuing higher education.
Meanwhile, in the United States, higher education is becoming more difficult for many students to pursue, especially in states such as Ohio, where the cost has been consistently shifted from the state to the student (or the student's parents).
Former YSU president Les Cochran used to say that if the Mahoning Valley were a state, it would be second to last in the percentage of residents with college degrees. He'd soon be able to point out that we lag behind China.
The Chinese have been undercutting us in trade for two decades; now we're in danger of letting them outsmart us.
Closer to home, this paper had stories about Girard entering the video age of speed enforcement with installation of a radar gun and camera that will record the speed of passing motorists and take pictures of the license plates of violators. Citations, similar to parking tickets (but at $85, a lot more expensive), will be issued to the owners of speeding cars.
All this will be done by a private company, which will give the city $60 and keep $25 for its trouble.
But Mayor James Melfi assures us this isn't about money. "I really hope this doesn't generate [any money]," Melfi said. "I hope people will abide by the speed limits. Our goal here is to keep our streets safe."
Question for the mayor: Do we all look like we just fell off a turnip truck?
Of course it's about money. If it wasn't about money, the city's little "photo enforcement in place" signs would be 6 feet tall -- billboards even -- explaining exactly how traffic laws are being enforced and what the consequences of breaking the law will be.
If city officials wanted to slow everybody down, they'd put one live camera and two dozen dummy cameras all around town -- the way schools put decoy cameras on buses to keep the kids in line. That would be cheap and pretty effective -- but it wouldn't create much revenue, so you won't see it happen.
In Warren, city council is talking about cameras that would ticket people for speed and traffic light violations.
That raises some interesting questions. Unlike Girard, Warren has several new car dealers. It has a police department with a sizable fleet and it is the county seat, meaning there are lots of government cars on the road. There are also more company-owned cars driving around Warren than Girard.
Oh, the headaches.
Is the city going to force car dealers to pay when the camera catches a customer breaking the law while taking a test drive?
I assume companies will be held responsible when their cars are caught on camera, and further assume that most companies will check who was driving the car that day and will demand reimbursement. Multiple violations might even bring disciplinary action or firing.
Will county and city offices, especially the police and sheriff's departments, be as assiduous as private companies in making sure that their employees personally pay the consequences of speeding down a street or sliding though a light?
A caller to a morning radio talk show made an intriguing suggestion: Find out the mayor's license plate number and have stick-on plates made to match it. Such a scheme would, of course, be illegal and is not being endorsed here. But if city officials can dream of filling their coffers with the proceeds of video traffic cops, we can dream of them finding their own mailboxes stuffed with citations.
X Mangan is editorial page editor of The Vindicator. Bertram de Souza's column will return next Sunday.