Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Should We Get the Federal Government Out of the Higher Education Business?

All the talk about assessment, learning outcomes, and the bizarre agressiveness our Department of Education is showing toward our accrediting associations has brought out the hidden libertarian in me. I’m much more open to the possibility that the national government should stop subsidizing higher education. If college is such a good investment, why should government pay for it? And doesn’t its subsidizing of individual students mainly drive up tuitions without expanding educational opportunity or improving educational quality all that much? Couldn’t one way to make colleges leaner and cheaper be to free them from the costly burden of having to conform to federal requirements--including increasingly intrusive and trivial outcomes-based accreditation--to get federal money they could probably get by without? (Well, I don’t completely agree with this, but let me know what you think.)

Discussions - 7 Comments

Let there be a thousand Hillsdales and Grove City Colleges!

The thought of a free-market higher education system gives me hives. It could work, but it could just as easily result in a nation of Brymans and ITT technical Institutes.

Let’s put it this way -- if it’s such a good idea, it will happen anyway.


Those places thrive on government money. Most of the students pay tuition with Pell Grants and federally guaranteed student loans.

If it weren’t for ridiculous accreditation requirements, it would be possible to operate a liberal arts college on very little money. Those tech schools are stuck with some high costs, of course. So I’m not sure why my scheme wouldn’t benefit the former more than the latter. With all due respect to the excellent and independent Hillsdale and Grove City, my scheme is not about colleges opting out as a funding raising gimmick (which can only work for relatively few schools), but about a "supply side" solution of gradual withdrawal of federal money to all schools.

Peter is absolutely right. I don’t want to think about all the dollars that Ashland University is throwing away on putting together a "self-study" for our accreditation agency, or on "assessment" of student learning. There’s now talk of creating a whole new position, a Director of Institutional Research, just to keep track of all the statistics that need to be generated for our next accreditation evaluation.

Berry, which is no bigger and probably less complicated than Ashland, has created that position...

"Should We Get the Federal Government Out of the Higher Education Business?"

A resounding yes. Jefferson (I believe) advocated for a National University, but that idea was rejected by the Constitutional Convention. All indications are that the Founders did not intend any Federal involvement in education. There is certainly no specific language in the Constitution that authorizes it.

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