College PC

Where Are the Republicans on College Costs?

Democrats have plans that obscure the real problems, but speak to the outrage.

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"We cancelled all the economics classes first, so they'll never figure it out."
Credit: COD Newsroom / photo on flickr

The Democratic presidential candidates clearly intend to keep the high cost of a college education—and their solutions—part of the debate leading up to the 2016 election. Several candidates have put forward detailed plans that are above and beyond the early "talking point" state of the race.

The Republican candidates are willing to speak critically of these plans in order to attack their ideological foes, but their chosen focus has been on foreign policy, abortion, and fighting terrorism. There are policy ideas among Republicans to deal with college costs, but they're much less formalized than what Hillary Clinton has presented this week. And Clinton is infamous for being tough to pin down on issues.

Perhaps the candidates are less concerned because there's little evidence these extremely broad, expensive college spending plans have a possibility to pass. These plans may not be seen seriously, but that doesn't mean these populist-oriented proposals can't capture votes and subsequently create pressure for Congress to do something that could ultimately make the problems even worse. Without some alternative concrete proposals by Republican leaders, they could end up back where they were with Obamacare: trying to beat back bad regulations without being able to answer the question, "Well, what should we do instead, then?"

Here's what Democratic candidates are suggesting:

  • Hillary Clinton. Clinton released her proposal on Monday. She would spend $350 billion dollars over 10 years. A good chunk of that money would go to states who agree to increase their own college spending and somehow guarantee that students will be able to attend school without having to take loans to cover tuition. Students with college debt would be able to refinance their loans at lower rates. Colleges would also be on the hook for part of the cost of student loans if their graduates can't find jobs. She has made President Barack Obama's proposal for free community college part of her "New College Compact" as well. She wants to more than triple the size of AmeriCorps from 75,000 members to 250,000 and expand loan forgiveness opportunities to those who participate. Her plan would be paid for by putting a cap on some itemized deductions for high-income families.
  • Bernie Sanders. Sanders has introduced the "College for All Act," which would eliminate tuition at all four-year public colleges and universities. The federal government would pay two-thirds of the tuition costs. States would be responsible for one-third. The legislation would forbid the use of the money to pay administrator salaries, merit-based financial aid, and the construction of non-academic buildings. It would lower student loan rates and allow borrowers to refinance. Sanders plan would be paid for by imposing new fees on Wall Street activities.
  • Martin O'Malley. The former Maryland governor has highlighted his own plan to fight college debt on his site, also calling for borrowers to be allowed to refinance their loans at better rates. He also calls for caps on monthly payments. He calls for trying to rein in ballooning costs by tying federal aid to schools' performance on directing financial assistance to those who truly need it or by "rewarding schools that excel at making college affordable."

Candidates Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee have not made college debt proposals part of their campaign sites, but Webb has called for students to be able to turn to a period of public service to pay of loans, while Chafee, as governor of Rhode Island, called for increases in college spending to keep tuitions frozen.

The plan of attack for Clinton now appears to be hitting at Republicans for state-level cuts to college budgets. She went after both Gov. Scott Walker and Jeb Bush for the high cost of colleges in their states. Walker responded by pointing out that he froze tuition (and noted that Clinton's speaking fees for colleges could pay for seven student's loans apiece). Bush responded by noting that Florida had the lowest in-state tuitions in the country when he left office. (This debate also mostly ignores the fact that colleges historically respond to tuition freezes by just recasting them as "fees" that are subsequently jacked up.)

Clinton's proposal is clearly influenced by reports like those of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), arguing that political commitment to higher education can be measured entirely on the terms of how much money is spent per student. Tuition is increasing because states had to cut college spending during the recession. College enrollment also went up during the early parts of the recession, which also drove down the dollar-per-student spending.

The big flaw in the CBPP report is what it doesn't talk about. Note how it describes how colleges have dealt with funding cuts:

Tuition increases have compensated for only part of the revenue loss resulting from state funding cuts.  Over the past several years, public colleges and universities have cut faculty positions, eliminated course offerings, closed campuses, shut computer labs, and reduced library services, among other cuts.

What's left off the list of cuts? Administration and professional staffing. Over the past 25 years, colleges have added hundreds of thousands of administrators and non-education positions, even while it has made those cuts to faculty and shifted teaching to part-time staff. The increase in the number of non-faculty college employees has grown twice as fast as student enrollment, according to the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Washington Monument Syndrome has packed up its beat-up Honda Civic and moved into the dorms. College administrators choose the most painful cuts that impact its students the most (but not themselves!) and then argue that the problem is that they aren't given even more money.

Republican candidates for president see full well the economic disaster embedded in Clinton's plan. A massive federal funding infusion, tied to a promise by states to increase their own college funding, does nothing at all to deal with administrative bloat. Furthermore, Clinton's college proposal promises incentives to increase non-educational services at colleges in order to draw in more students. She actually promises even more college staff not engaged in the education of its students.

So Sen. Marco Rubio and Bush called out her proposal for what it is, a massive tax-and-spend program that won't fix the problem at all. Rubio responded to The New York Times by calling for more alternatives to traditional four-year college programs and more competition and flexibility to help working-class people. Bush vaguely said they needed to "change the incentives for colleges with fresh policies that result in more individualization and choices, drive down overall costs, and improve the value of a college degree… ."

But that doesn't actually indicate any sort of policy in response to Clinton's untenable proposal. Right now, Republican market-friendly ideas for higher education lack the specifics of plans like Clinton's or even Sanders'. Here's how the Republican Party approached rising higher education costs in its 2012 platform:

The first step is to acknowledge the need for change when the status quo is not working. New systems of learning are needed to compete with traditional four-year colleges: expanded community colleges and technical institutions, private training schools, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector. New models for acquiring advanced skills will be ever more important in the rapidly changing economy of the twenty-first century, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math. Public policy should advance the affordability, innovation, and transparency needed to address all these challenges and to make accessible to everyone the emerging alternatives, with their lower cost degrees, to traditional college attendance.

Federal student aid is on an unsustainable path, and efforts should be taken to provide families with greater transparency and the information they need to make prudent choices about a student's future: completion rates, repayment rates, future earnings, and other factors that may affect their decisions. The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans; however, it should serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector as they offer loans to students. Private sector participation in student financing should be welcomed. Any regulation that drives tuition costs higher must be reevaluated to balance its worth against its negative impact on students and their parents.

There's a significant public message challenge here: How exactly does a candidate sell the idea that the solution to rising college costs is actually to refuse to give colleges more money? The argument being advanced by Clinton and CBPP is that the problem with college costs is that government literally isn't giving them enough of other people's money, and therefore people are having to pay for their own educations. This is being presented as some form of cruelty—because college is so expensive. But basic knowledge of economics and government spending should make it all but obvious that it's the government spending itself that is driving up college costs. The Democrats are actually the ones who should be politically vulnerable about today's college education prices. The largesse they have promised to universities has been taken from the taxpayers (the ones who end up having to take out the college loans) and directed into the pockets to this growing horde of administrators, who then turn around to and donate primarily to the Democratic Party. Clinton's plan should be properly seen as a payoff to part of her electoral base, not a solution.

It's important, then, for the Republican Party and its candidates to remain engaged in this debate, not necessarily as a path of winning the presidency, but rather to prevent some really bad ideas from becoming the default solution in the public's eyes. They need to be putting Democratic candidates on the defensive about how the college bubble actually occurred and their roles in it. And because this is such a hot topic in the public, candidates might want to ponder moere formal plans. Consider what happened with the Affordable Care Act. We've been stuck with these terrible insurance policies for a number of reasons, but among them was the failure of Republican leaders to advance compelling alternatives.

Republicans should learn from that experience. These plans are terrible, but don't assume they're so bad that they cannot pass. People are very emotional about the cost of college, and emotional appeals lead to bad legislation. The way America handles medicine has resulted in health insurers being treated like the actual customers of hospitals and doctors. The patients themselves are treated like broken machines to be repaired (or not!) based on the insurer's desires. Democratic college proposals are turning the government, both state and federal, into the actual customers the schools are serving. They're the ones providing the money. The students themselves are the product being manufactured based on a host of federal mandates with lots of financial strings attached.

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125 responses to “Where Are the Republicans on College Costs?

  1. Maybe the Republicans feel the market should set the prices and government shouldn’t be involved.
    *turns purple trying to stifle laughter*

    1. That’s the crazy talk we expect from male Floridians!

    2. Look at housing. When credit is easy, people take out mortgages on the mst expensive house they can.

      Look at health care. When other people are paying the bill, as the author points out, the patient is no longer the customer.

      The only system that works is when the incentives are for the provider to satisfy the customer, not the third party. If the customers (students, patients) can’t direct the process, they become after thoughts.

    3. got this poll from the Arizona Democratic Party:

      How would you make college more affordable?

      Cap tuition rates increases
      Block the legislature from cutting higher education budgets
      Increase state and/or federal spending
      Limit interest rates for student loans
      Increase taxes on Wall Street to pay for higher education

      3 of the 5 propose giving colleges more money in order to make them more affordable!

      1. Tuition is whatever the traffic will bear PLUS whatever the government kicks in. Costs always seem to be very close to the sum of these amounts.

        One of the biggest problems, though, is the government takeover of the student loan program. No banker in his right mind would loan someone $200,000 to get a degree in 10th Century Chinese Literature, Pissed-off Feminist Studies, or the Social Implications of Punk Rock. Banks actually expect to be paid back.

  2. The Republicans don’t seem to have many proposals. That is not good but no proposal is better than an insane one, which is what all of the Democratic proposals are.

    1. Really the proposal I would like to see is removing the protection student loans get from bankruptcy. That alone would correct some of the pricing distortion. I don’t know how popular that would be with voters. You could sell it as sticking it to fat cat loan sharks I guess.

      1. Are we also removing federal guarantees? And allowing people to charge different interest rates based on course of study/test scores/IQ/etc.?

        1. Absolutely. I would like to see different interest rates set based on whatever a lender believes is a good indicator of success such as HS GPA, standardized test, whatever and with good odds of the field of study yielding a job that pays well. So someone with a solid GPA, good SAT/ACT and studying in STEM gets a better interest rate than someone with poor scores, GPA and subject with history of poor renumeration.

          1. Plus, all those Women’s/Black/Latino/Etc Studies programs would dry up because no bank is going to lend out money with the 0% chance of an ROI that those programs offer.

      2. “Really the proposal I would like to see is removing the protection student loans get from bankruptcy. ”

        I’d like to see this paired with a requirement that Universities are forced to pay a portion of the bankruptcy costs. Ensure that they have skin in the game and they’ll make sure they aren’t selling a bunch of marginal courses to a student that will never be able to translate that course work into meaningful employment.

    2. No. As I’ve been told repeatedly with Obamacare, no proposal means you don’t have any ideas. Rejecting really stupid ideas is apparently not a valid choice.

      1. When your non-negotiable starting point is “The State must do something”, well, you’re going to have a hard time rejecting proposals where the State makes things worse.

    3. How about just skipping the colleges and have the government fund the Democratic Party?

      1. we’d at least save some vig

      2. -1 middleman

    4. While I’m most definitely not a Left wing Liberal Democrat, I’m not sure I would call myself a Republican as defined by today’s Republican party either.

      If the cost of a college education does not provide employment income adequate to pay the cost of the education, was the money well spent? Perhaps a better solution might be for prospective employers to become involved in bargaining with individuals applying to colleges, negotiating an employment contract for a period of time adequate to recoup the cost of the education initially paid for by the employer.

      We should concentrate on decreasing wasteful government spending, not increasing it. Individual equality is not something that can be purchased but is only achieved to the degree possible by continued effort of each individual.

  3. Free college? Why not?
    At least then you’d get your money’s worth.

    1. Cheap and worth every penny!

    2. “Free” college, meaning the government pays for it?
      Would that also mean the government would dictate what they will pay for the education, just like they dictate what they will pay for Medicaid “reimbursements”?
      College that would be as good an outcome as is Medicaid but for everyone, not just for the poor – yeah, that’s gonna get our education level right up there.

  4. why not just implement wage and price controls on colleges? it’s what they think should happen to everyone else. let’s try it on them first.

    1. for the children of course.

    2. How many times more does a college president, dean, or football coach make than a kid schlepping food in the dorms or putting books on a shelf in the library? We keep hearing about how wage inequality is harmful.

  5. The plan of attack for Clinton now appears to be hitting at Republicans for state-level cuts to college budgets.

    Scott, do you know if any states actually did cut budgets, as opposed to cutting the rates of increase?

    1. I haven’t gone state-by-state but, yes, some states actually did cut budgets (California is one of them) on college spending. But in most states (even CPPB notes this) those cuts have mostly been erased by now and budgets are on the rise.

      1. Thanks!

      2. I knew FL had a balanced budget amendment in the state constitution, but on further research, so do many other states. Why the hell cant we get this at the federal level?

        1. Because the feds can print money.

        2. Because the purpose of a balanced budget amendment is to take away from the women, minorities, and the poor.

          /Dem

          1. This is primarily why I want it!

      3. Arizona did. So did Wisconsin, I believe.

        The tears were yummy.

      4. You very much should look more closely at this, Scott S. Many states have steadily reduced support for colleges in recent decades. In the case of the University of Michigan, the reduction since 1970 is from 64% to 16% of the general fund. See http://obp.umich.edu/wp-conten…..n2015.pdf. I have read in multiple reliable places that the national trend is similar and that this is the primary explanation for the large rise in college tuition. It is disturbing to see so many articles in the media that cite the increase in college costs without also citing the reduction in state support. Bad facts lead to bad thinking.

        1. The link got shortened. This will do:
          http://obp.umich.edu/michigan-almanac/

        2. When, exactly, did a tertiary education become a taxpayer funded requirement, like primary and secondary?
          College is a choice and should be paid for by those deciding they want to continue their education.
          Loans for a college education should be just like any other loan – if you don’t have collateral, or your parents don’t co-sign with theirs, the interest rate should be based on what the market decides and the risk of default.

          1. We wouldn’t get many “Women’s or Black History Study” students if these loans had to be replayed now would we ?

            1. Yes, where would future liberals get indoctrinated if bullshit curricula were cut off from the public teat?

    2. Nikki,
      You are right on. Every election, the teacher’s unions and other Dems cry about having to cut spending on education. We NEVER cut spending on education. At best, occasionally some brave souls will try to cut the rate of increase.
      We have to raise sales/property/income/ taxes are we won’t have essential services like firefighters, police and teachers. What a fucking joke. Its never, cut the increasing irrelevant and redundant “jobs training” programs, or find more efficient ways to build roads (tolls anyone?) or just plain say we don’t need so many cops, fire fighters or administrators.

      1. I admit I was referring more to primary and secondary education than colleges. But the principle still holds true.

  6. Is this an issue that will turn an election? Seriously asking. What if Hillary/the Dem nominee offered total loan forgiveness? What then?

    1. Then jesse goes on murder spree. I mean, figuratively speaking.

      1. Yeah…”figuratively”…

        *hides sharpened knives behind back*

        1. You’re up early. I must remember to double the dose next time.

          1. What? I’m normally up around now, it’s just my busiest time of day at work usual…

            *grabs at dart in neck, collapses*

            1. I checked in while I was in Vegas. How do you west coaster post when the time stamps are all fucked up?

              1. A lot of quick math and the occasional response to something that’s three hours old followed by sheepishly hoping the thread is dead enough that nobody notices what you did.

        2. jesse,

          If you need more than knives…I’m just sayin’…I might know some people at DoD…

          Howzabout an experimental laser cannon, fer example?

          1. Can it be used to target people who receive student loan forgiveness shortly after I finished paying off my student loans and preferably cook them slowly and painfully?

            If the answer to most of these things is yes, I’d be glad to participate in some field testing…

            1. Jesse, I know a guy that can get you that sniper rifle that does the calcs for you so you never miss.

              *looks around*

              *whispers* That guy is me.

            2. “Set cannon for ‘slow broil’….set targeting for ‘deadbeat student scum’….and *click*”

              BWZZZZZZZZZZZT!

              1. Is there a setting that works like blanching a tomato?

                I feel like laser skinning deadbeats and then throwing salt at them would be appropriate.

    2. Behind every loan there are lenders. It’s not a free lunch.

  7. These plans are all well and good, but who has a plan to pay for graduate and professional degrees? I mean, now that a bachelor’s is worth what a high school diploma used to be, we need to invest in higher-higher education.

    1. We were recently with a couple of Belgians who enjoy “free college”. One was pursuing her PhD because it was so hard to find jobs, “even for engineers”. I asked her if the fact that everyone has a degree might maybe just devalue those degrees and that people doing the hiring (like me) really couldn’t give a flying fuck about them anyway. She was shocked. “No, everyone must have an education.”

      Pretty soon, the Masters and PhDs won’t mean shit, either. What then?

      1. Absolutely right, however, “even for engineers” is bullshit. You get an engineering degree (and I don’t mean a tech degree) you can find a job. You may have to move, and you may even have to learn stuff outside your wheelhouse, but engineering degrees are one of the few that haven’t really been dumbed down and are still worth something.

        1. Belgium, Bear. They probably won’t hire them because it’s so fucking expensive (beyond salary). Easier to go to Poland.

        2. You may have to move, and you may even have to learn stuff outside your wheelhouse, but engineering degrees are one of the few that haven’t really been dumbed down and are still worth something.

          This. Assuming that you can graduate with a passable GPA (2.5 or higher) from a decent (top 100) school, you’re going to find a job. It may not be a flashy job at Facebook, or Google, or Cisco, but it’ll be something.

          1. And while Google used to be snobs about which school diploma you have, they famously declared that their data does not support such activities and changed their hiring practices. A degree from Stanford or caltech might get your foot in the door, but I know people who don’t even have a degree who are thriving there.

      2. Pretty soon, the Masters and PhDs won’t mean shit, either. What then?

        Already the case in many fields.

        1. You mean my Ph. D. in Russian lit is useless?!?

          1. Not to the college that cashed your checks!

            1. Even people in fully funded PhD programs (i.e., ones where the college isn’t cashing your checks) have these issues at this point.

          2. No, but it probably won’t be that easy to find a good job in academia.

          3. Jesus have you actually read Tolstoy or Dostoeyevsky? Fuck me. The process is the punishment!

        2. J.D.’s for everyone! Throw in an MBA!

          let us move the average age of final graduation to 31!

          1. My program was a MSN, but soon it’s going to be a DNP. Basically the advantage to CRNAs is they are more cost effective than MDs, so let’s step on our own dick by pissing away that advantage.

            1. My wife got her NP with a Master’s. She wants to go back to school to get her DNP, but yeah i agree.

              Of course the problem becomes is she Doctor Nurse or Nurse Doctor?

      3. Government sponsored university degrees are a great way of hiding youth unemployment. Governments that create unemployment through their policies love it because of that.

      4. She can’t find a job because the “Social Democrats” who run her country have made it extremely expensive for potential employers to hire anyone, especially women of childbearing age. Oh, but I’m sure more ‘dat “free college” gonna help that. Doubtless, as soon as she gets that Ph.D., employers will be beating down her door.

  8. There is no rational proposal for controlling college costs other than letting the higher ed bubble burst, which no one inside DC wants to actually happen (or admit they do). That is why they don’t have any input.

  9. how about this, if your former and current students are in default over a certain rate, your school is no longer qualified for student loans. and loan forgiveness counts the same as a default.

    1. “how about this, if your former and current students are in default over a certain rate, your school is no longer qualified for student loans. and loan forgiveness counts the same as a default.”

      How about the school has to cover 10% of any defaults? I bet they’d become a whole lot pickier about their student population at that point.

  10. I have a plan to paint my house which involves burning it down. My neighbor doesn’t have a plan to paint his house, therefore I’m a better homeowner because at least I have a plan.

  11. Behind every loan there are lenders. It’s not a free lunch.
    .
    Government guarantees for everyone. We’ll just be giving the money to ourselves.
    Multiplier!

  12. To make college affordable, one must greatly reduce the incentives that made it so expensive in the first place. This would mean getting the government to stop handing out of cheap money in the way of subsidized student loans. This would regarded as taking away free shit – so of course, why would you talk about that? Not the the Republicans will change that – but still.
    The only winning strategy I see, is to remain silent until pressed on it and then attack the tax and spending on more free shit.

  13. How does capping payments on student loans help anyone? Are these the same morons who only look at the monthly payment of a car?

    It isn’t that hard to minimize your student loan debt. Graduate in 4 years! Don’t go to out of state schools or low ranking, but expensive private schools that no one has ever heard of. Live frugally rather than luxury dorms/apartments.

    1. Re – graduate in 4 years. Some colleges have been making this virtually impossible as they have limited class offerings over the years. As result, I hear of many cases where one just needs one or two classes because they couldn’t get them in the forth year and so they have to pay an entire years tuition just for those.

      1. “so they have to pay an entire years tuition ”

        They pay an entire years tuition, for a single class? Where, when, and who. That entire premise smells funny.

        1. Yeah, that’s some BS right there. I graduated with an engineering degree in four years no problem, and that had very regimented prereqs the first two years. I actually took a semester off for an 8 month internship, so I had to take one class over the summer after “graduation.” No problems at all, and I paid the one class rate – not the semester’s tuition (though room and board is another matter).

          A more acceptable excuse is that kids don’t know what they want to do when they arrive. I was fortunate enough to always know, but even my wife changed majors twice and got out in 4 years. The key is to just take the general stuff first because most of that counts towards almost all majors. Maybe take one night or weekend off from partying to figure that shit out.

          1. Darn right it’s b.s.

            My niece graduated in 3 years. And she barely got into college because her high school grades (at one of the toughest high schools in the nation) were so bad. But high school prepped her well and she made the effort to take summer school courses so that she wouldn’t have schedule conflicts delay graduation.

            So she went into college under academic probation and 2.5 years later the president of the school created a new curriculum around my niece’s approach because they know a fast-track option will attract students (and reduce the chances that a student will take credit courses at other schools to get out faster). Of course, private schools have different motivations than bloated government schools.

        2. My alma matter gives you a discount for attending 5+ courses at once, but the base charge is per-course.

          But if you’re a college turning away 80% of your applicants, maybe you can get away with that nonsense.

          1 more reason to make students see and pay the full cost of higher education.

          1. Agreed. My alma matter had a per credit charge and then a 13-18 credit charge, so if you crammed 18 credits in, you could get 5 credits free. Its a rough semester doing Calc 2, Physics with a lab, and chem with a lab, plus a jerk-off diversity requirement, but it pays dividends.

    2. Actually if you are on the East Coast going out of state can save you a lot of money. I spent less than half what I would have spent at my state’s school by going to the mountain west. Of course I was paying for it myself so how much it cost was just behind do they have the major I want in importance.

  14. God, Sanders is such a clown. What a ridiculous plan. It could’ve been proposed by a 3 year old.

    1. Did they omit major parts of his plan? If all college will be tuition-free, with the cost covered by the state and Federal governments, but none of that government money can be spent on “administrator salaries, merit-based financial aid, and the construction of non-academic buildings”, then what will pay for those things? Just charitable contributions? And his proposal supposedly “would lower student loan rates” — but why would any students need a loan if college would be tuition-free (or would the loans apply only to graduate programs)?

      1. Its gibberish, Umbriel.

        I’m sure we can get Tony or Shriek to progsplain it to us.

      2. they’d need a loan for the $10k/semester “student activities fees” that will be used to pay the salaries of administrators.

    2. He was going to call it the “Sanders to NY: Drop Dead” act but decided that the leftist fantasy of “College for All” had a better ring to it.

  15. KY state funding is around 9% of our budget. I’d love a study to confirm what I feel in my gut: namely that the cost of state regulations tied to that 9% is equal to or more than 9% of our budget.

  16. Democrats have plans that obscure the real problems, but speak to the outrage.

    Sorry, but not every instance of outrage is justified. I’m sure a lot of Donald Trump’s supporters are outraged that they’re under wage pressure from Mexican labor. Does that mean it’s good that he has a policy that “speaks to it”?

  17. I don’t see what the problem is that needs addressing. College isn’t all that expensive unless you want to attend one of those luxury schools. Even then, a college education really doesn’t cost that much.

    The current system isn’t all that bad. It probably should be cut back a little, that’s all.

    1. I don’t see what the problem is that needs addressing.

      The problem is three-fold–1) tuition costs that have gone up at 2-4 times the rate of inflation in the last 35 years, depending on institution, which is worse than healthcare cost increases in the same span; 2) a cargo cult surrounding degrees that’s been cultivated for 50 years, increasing demand while lowering the quality of education; and 3) federal money in the form of grants and loans that ensures colleges have little incentive to keep tuition costs down, since they’ll be getting their money anyway.

      College isn’t all that expensive unless you want to attend one of those luxury schools.

      Depends on the college. Diploma mills are notoriously expensive (the majority of student loan defaults are coming from students who attended these places), private schools have always been expensive, especially now for people who don’t fit the special minority boxes that provide decreased tuition rates, and even public colleges have increased exponentially in cost. Only community colleges are still reasonably priced compared to their tuition costs 20-30 years ago, which is why Obama wanted to give everyone the first two years of school at a community college for “free.”

    2. College isn’t all that expensive unless you want to attend one of those luxury schools.

      If you look solely at in-state tuition at state schools, maybe. Everything else takes a pretty good pile of cash

      Even then, a college education really doesn’t cost that much.

      Look at Mr. Moneybags, who doesn’t think that paying $63,000/year (randomly selected Brandeis, and that’s what they admit to) isn’t “all that much”. Even though its more than the median family income.

      http://www.brandeis.edu/sfs/tu…..ition.html

      1. Look at Mr. Moneybags, who doesn’t think that paying $63,000/year (randomly selected Brandeis, and that’s what they admit to) isn’t “all that much” … Even though its more than the median family income.

        So you are saying that we have a college tuition crisis because you want to attend a $63000/year college without any financial aid, scholarships, or work, and then expect to make a median family income? Thank you for stating it so clearly: people like you are the reason why we shouldn’t subsidize education any further.

        In actual fact, even students attending overpriced and overrated institutions like Brandeis don’t end up paying $63000/year. Furthermore, as a freshly minted engineering bachelor, you make a median salary of $65000/year; if you attend a top school, you can easily make six figures fresh out of college. Even if you were such a loser that you paid full price for your college and had to borrow everything, paying that back wouldn’t be a big problem.

        In reality, the median payment-to-income ratio even for those who have student loans is about 4%. And only two percent of households owe more than $100000 on their student loans (and presumably, they studied something like medicine or law and should have no problem paying it back).

  18. By the way, here is some analysis of this fabricated crisis. If you look around, there are more detailed financial analyses

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..-a-crisis/

    Overall, the people with significant student loan debt are a small minority, and generally people who made bad decisions: unsuitable major, expensive school, etc

  19. Is Reason a libertarian outlet or a Republican strategy thinktank? Reason bores me when it becomes little more than a shameless cheerleader for the Republican Party. There are other sites devoted to fellating the GOP. Stick to libertarianism, if you please.

    1. You have funny ideas about fellatio if you think this counts:

      Without some alternative concrete proposals by Republican leaders, they could end up back where they were with Obamacare

      The article has three points, really:

      The Repubs don’t have any proposals at all, and that’s not smart.

      The Dems have stupid proposals.

      A few Repubs have pointed out that the Dems have stupid proposals.

      So, one criticism of Repubs, and one shout-out to Repubs for pointing out the obvious. You have funny ideas about fellatio if you think this counts:

      Without some alternative concrete proposals by Republican leaders, they could end up back where they were with Obamacare

      And, no, we don’t operate on the binary TEAM system here. Slapping around one party does not in any way equate to support for the other.

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  21. Look let’s stop wasting time with all the categories – the Treasury Dept will simply issue a $10,000 check every month to anyone with a social security number or who has a fake drivers ID. And then butt out of everything else – no social security, no food stamps, no welfare, no student loans, no IRS, no housing subsidies, . . . NADA. That will generate $17,000 worth of productivity for each checkee and ba-bam, the economy is also fixed.
    Problem solved, biatches!

    1. Please tell me you’re joking. Sadly, too many people really are that dumb.

      1. including milton friedman

  22. One problem is that degrees are overvalued in their current state. Most degree requiring jobs today could be learned in a few months or weeks by the average employee. Instead we are told a degree is essential to our future ability to get a white collar job. And unless we are exceptionally talented or bright, it is. However, the current structure for an undergraduate does not actually prepare you for a job. Basically college is as follows: Repeat high school for Freshman and Sophmore year, and then scratch the surface of an actual discipline for the next two years.

    What happened to actually learning a profession, and studying under a master of said profession?

    1. Job training and a college education have been conflated in recent times, which is historically an anomaly. College was never about a job, that’s what professional schools and trade schools or apprenticeships were for, college was about cultivating a class of person, learned in languages, the arts, a broad familiarity with the sciences, literature, history, philosophy – but a classical Western liberal arts education is now only for dead white guys and heteronormative-cis-shitlords and their sympathizers, so we have programs that are indistinguishable from trade schools (engineering, applied sciences, etc.) where at least graduates are employable, and shitty humanities programs that wish to retain the veneer of a liberal arts education without demanding that their students learn or grow in any meaningful way. The true Western liberal arts education is not for everyone, but our retarded egalitarianism said everyone should go to college and college was adjusted accordingly.

  23. I have a proposal for an alternative college funding method. Instead of taking out loans for college, you can get an investor to pay for all or part of your college costs. In exchange for this investment, the investor gets a fixed percentage portion of your earnings (including stock options/awards) for a fixed period of time after you graduate. The investor can in no way direct you to work for a specific company – or indeed to work at all. If they pay $100k for you to get an engineering degree and you end up working for the peace corps, the investor is screwed, not the student. However, the investor will have an interest in not only making sure good talent gets funded, but that the students he funds will get good jobs/opportunities/connections for a post-graduate job. The investor might even employ the student himself and give the perk that the payment on the investment is not required for the duration of the employment.

    You’d have to set up some laws to allow for this kind of contract to prohibit malicious behavior (e.g. requiring the investment returns for the entire period of employment to repaid if you take leave the job) and to put upper limits on percentages and duration.

    1. But rich people like the Koch Brothers would make a *gasp* PROFIT off of that, therefore it’s a bad thing! God, it’s like you’re TRYING to increase income inequality!

      /sarc

  24. Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs has a charity that pays for high school kids to go to trade schools (I think that’s what it does…) which is a far better option for most kids than college. I’d like to see a Republican that proposes decreasing spending on 4 year universities and puts that morning towards programs in the skilled trades (all this with government being involved as a given – I’d prefer if they would just get the fuck out already, but, alas, that is unlikely to come to pass).

    1. Many skilled trades are controlled by unions. They will absolutely take that re-purposed money. That’s probably not what you had in mind but it is the inevitable result.

  25. “The federal government would pay two-thirds of the tuition costs. States would be responsible for one-third. The legislation would forbid the use of the money to pay administrator salaries, merit-based financial aid, and the construction of non-academic buildings.”

    I don’t understand this notion that you can give someone money and tell them that it’s for one specific thing and nothing else. Even if that money is kept in a separate fund (which is not likely) that still frees up other dollars that will be spent on administrator salaries, etc.

    I’m reminded of this time when my brother was doing a ton of drugs, and my mom handed him a $20, and she said, “now this is for food, NOT for drugs! Do you understand me?” Even if he spent that $20 just on food (which he probably did not do) that frees up all of his other dollars for drugs.

  26. I am no fan of the growth of the administrative staff, but this article and many others like it do not dig deep enough to assess or even mention one of the major issues. There has been an enormous increase in unfunded mandates for compliance from (mainly) the federal government in recent decades. The only way to gather the data and file the reports that the government ever increasingly requires is to pay administrative staff to do so. I would really like to see a good investigative reporter dig into this and reveal how much of the administrative costs are devoted to compliance.

  27. Republican position on college costs: slightly less free stuff than Democrats.

    Actually, any intelligent GOPer who hasn’t already left the party knows that taking no position is preferable to another lame program or entitlement, much less some ambitious bill that won’t have a chance of passing because it’s all about budget cuts rather than free stuff.

  28. The reason college costs are out of control is BECAUSE of student loans. This isn’t even difficult to prove. Both the straight correlation between college tuition and federal loan programs. And the marketing blather of colleges which are now out-and-out rent-seeking of all future income of college grads.

    In 1946 (before the GI Bill); tuition at UPenn was $495 – a bit less than 50% of what a new HS graduate could earn that year. So maybe you get married, scrimp, go part-time, get a 2nd job. Not easy but certainly doable without a loan. IOW – school tuition really depended on competition between two real alternative life-paths for a HS student – judged in the short-term.

    In 2015; tuition at UPenn is $47,200 – more than 200% of what a new HS graduate is likely to earn. It is now WAY beyond any ability to even contemplate without loans. It’s become a mortgage decision. IOW – school tuition depends entirely on some marketing BS about the long-distant future than no one can possibly predict/understand – and lots of loan money to keep the conversation (and the education received) unreal.

    Federal loan programs probably did a good job of diversifying ‘college degrees’ beyond just trust-fund kids and the transition will be tough. Until some politician has the balls to say ‘what America needs is for colleges to stop rent-seeking on the backs of the young and vulnerable. So I am going to end all federal student loan programs.’; there can be no change.

  29. End all subsidies including foreign and domestic welfare.

    Cut the size of the federal government by 99%.

    Let the market decide.

    What – $50,000 for a semester in yoga school? I can buy a nice car for that amount of money.

  30. Unless the timing is coincidental, the “here are the Democratic plans, where any Republican plans?” matches exactly was done by Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC yesterday (and argued by a number of pundits for its disingenuousness across Twitter).

    In regards to Republican candidates’ education plans, one such example was published yesterday, the day before this article (the timing of which, prior to O’Donnell’s specific piece led to a lot of the questions about that rhetoric) is Marco Rubio’s, which one of the policy write-ups that he has posted on his Medium page:

    ‘We need to modernize our antiquated, broken higher education system. Here’s how:’ (Marco Rubio)

  31. Rand Paul proposes making college expenses, student loan payments, and interest payments on those loans completely tax-deductible for the work life of the students.

    1. That’s certainly one way to keep the costs going up.

  32. When will people begin to recognize as fact that nothing that is produced at a cost can be provided free of cost? Furthermore it should be more than obvious that the more the Federal government becomes involved in trying to provide to individuals, that which is beyond their means of acquiring, at little or no cost to them individually the cost is distributed to everyone with much of it simply being added to the debt owed, which requires constant controlled inflation, devaluing our currency raising the cost of living, making it difficult if not impossible for all but the wealthiest to provide for their needs and wants without government assistance in some form during their working lives much less during their retirement years.
    If the cost of a college education does not provide employment income adequate to pay the cost of the education, was the money well spent? Perhaps a better solution might be for prospective employers to become involved in bargaining with individuals applying to colleges, negotiating an employment contract for a period of time adequate to recoup the cost of the education initially paid for by the employer.

    1. Perhaps a better solution might be for prospective employers to become involved in bargaining with individuals applying to colleges

      College is a highly inefficient way of preparing people for real jobs. A four year college degree is probably the equivalent of a couple of months of job training from a company perspective.

      However, companies will take free (to them) four year training provided by the government over costly (to them) in house training any day.

  33. Without some alternative concrete proposals by Republican leaders, they could end up back where they were with Obamacare

    Being able to say “no, we are completely not responsible for that mess”?

    trying to beat back bad regulations without being able to answer the question, “Well, what should we do instead, then?”

    Stop messing with it, because no matter what you do, it gets worse?

  34. They can only talk, but in reality they do not do much to actually help. I hate this fact. To be honest, I do not believe that education cots will ever be reduced. I think that they will only grow so much bigger. I am scared to imagine how we are going to afford it at all. And the students who study now use services for essay writing, so we should not put big hopes on them as well. It is truly hard to expect something good from politicians.

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  38. I think that the main problem is in growing prices for education. As young generation simply can’t find appropriate work, that shows us problems in the labor market. The government can’t just solve problem with high price, the problem should be solved from both sides. It’s hard to understand the program that requires further increment of prices, as even today students have to deal with direct payday lenders online only when they feel financial instability and lack of protection. If the situation is not change, in some years we will have no educated people and our society will suffer even more.

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