Last night I realized that I repeatedly used an incorrect figure for government higher education spending in my debate with Steve Pearlstein.  I said “Taxpayers heavily
subsidize higher education – about $500 billion dollars per year.”  But ~$500B is in fact the figure for total higher education spending. 

The true figures for higher education spending (see Digest of Education Statistics 2011, Tables 31 and 384):

$234.4B for state and local spending (2008-2009)


$36.4B for on-budget federal spending (2008)


$76.0B for off-budget federal spending (2008)

for a total of $346.8B.  “A third of a trillion dollars per year” would have been far closer to the truth than “Half a trillion dollars per year.”  My bad, no excuses.