It is not every day that Harvard University and staunch conservatives can agree the president is wrong. President Obama’s decision to interject the federal government into university education, however, has done the trick. He proposed today, as The Post reports, that the feds would “create a rating system beginning in 2015 to evaluate colleges on tuition, the percentage of low-income students, graduation rates and debt of graduates. Eventually, as an incentive for schools to make improvements in these areas, federal financial aid would be awarded based on those ratings. Obama said he could create the ratings system through executive action, but the plan to reallocate federal aid based on the ratings would require congressional approval.”
This is a rotten idea for multiple reasons. Here are 10:
1. The problem of cost-gouging by universities is made worse not better by further federal subsidization.
2. The federal government has no role and should not have one in the management of private universities, and it has no particular expertise in doing so. In a statement, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) pointed out: “The U.S. did not create the best higher education system in the world by using standards set by Washington bureaucrats. There are many things we can do to make higher education more affordable and available that do not involve massive increases in the federal government’s role in our nation’s higher education system.”
3. The federal government obviously can’t implement Obamacare, so can we expect Obama-ed to be any better?
4. Obama assumes the problem is too few people going to college. In fact many who go aren’t prepared, and we have a shortage of technically trained workers. Any federal effort aimed at boosting university numbers without regard to the quality of students is misplaced.
5. It’s a purely political play to beef up his sagging support from young voters instead of address their real concerns — jobs and generational wealth transfer from young to old.
6. He refuses to treat universities like oil companies. The latter he repeatedly accuses and investigates for price increases (never finding evidence of improper conduct). But he refuses to do the same when it comes to universities sitting on billions in endowments.
7. It is another example of failing to consult those affected by his boondoggles and line up support, nor does it stem from any popular demand for federal regulation of universities.
8. It isn’t clear information to do this would be available or that there is an appropriate standard to apply. (“‘This is extraordinarily complicated stuff, and it’s not clear we have the complete data or accurate data,’ said Molly Corbett Broad, the president of the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities in Washington.)
9. Rather than focusing on the money going out to students, universities should be focusing on the return on investment their education provides students with various majors. Then they can decide if it is worth $50,000 per year for a sociology degree from Brown University.
10. Like universal preschool education this would be another outlay and add to bureaucracy with no explanation for what it will cost.