A. Barton Hinkle on Reining In College Costs


Credit: ajagendorf25 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

This past fall, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner toured the state to talk about college debt—a burden that weighs heavily on an increasing number of students and their families. Warner proposed several worthwhile reforms, but they are modest ones. The same is true of the proposal by Kirk Cox, the Republican majority leader in the House of Delegates, to cap student activity fees. That too is a worthwhile idea, but it also nibbles at the real problem instead of tackling it head-on.

That problem is obvious: During the past few decades the price of a college education has grown more than four times faster than the consumer price index. To make matters worse, the public-policy prescription for this trend has been to throw more money at the problem, in the form of student aid. But as A. Barton Hinkle observes, this is lunacy. It does nothing but encourage colleges and universities to charge even more, secure in the knowledge that student aid will rise to keep up. The time has come, Hinkle writes, to cut the subsidies and rein in college costs.