The U.S. incarceration rate in 1980 was 220 for every 100,000 people, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Today, with more than 2 million people incarcerated, the rate has climbed to 743 per 100,000 people. Reason magazine's Veronique de Rugy points out nonviolent drug offenders account for "roughly one-fourth of all inmates in the United States, up from less than 10 percent in 1980."
In roughly the same period, state governments scaled back their financial support for public colleges by more than a third nationwide, between 1991 and 2008. And as states have chopped away at appropriations for their universities and cut need-based grant aid for students, the Government Accountability Office found both public and private schools are becoming increasingly reliant on what students pay in tuition and fees for funding. Last year, some students saw tuition increases as high as 40 percent.
The thinking goes that a long-term reprioritizing of state budgets away from prison spending and toward higher education would not only promote a greater society but would increase social mobility while innovating state economies through the public university system...
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