Making College Affordable

The left plans to pitch to middle-class families and young adults who want a college degree to make college free.  Conservatives have a great chance to counterpunch on this issue.  Academia, like all other institutions under the totalitarian thumb of the left, is ridiculously expensive and filled with all sorts of pet bureaucracies.  The approach of the left is not to cut the costs of college and to make it as easy and cheap as possible, but rather to subsidize whatever academicians' bray that they need without any serious questioning.

Higher education is, of course, heavily dependent upon government appropriation, government grants, federal student loans, tax-deductible contributions by alumni, and so on.  Conservatives ought to use these levers to compel any institution of higher learning to limit its expenses in order to qualify for any sort of government help, direct or indirect.  Here are some ideas about what to propose as reforms within academia.

Limit the annual compensation for any professor or administrator to $150,000 per year, or the top five percent of income in America.  Index the maximum compensation to inflation so that it rises gradually over time, but not faster than inflation.  This would force the left to defend paying sky-high salaries, a cost today paid by students' and parents' hard-earned dollars and by government support.  These professors are the "rich," and ordinary people will have a tough time grasping the left's whine that no one can live on a measly $150,000 per year.

Also require that professors actually teach in the classroom for twenty hours each week of school.  This will reduce the need for graduate assistance and other flunkies doing most of the real work while professors lounge. 

Another abuse that needs to be corrected is the high cost of textbooks, particularly textbooks that just happen to be written by professors teaching classes in which the textbooks are required.  Prohibit colleges to require in any subject the books written by professors at the college.  These textbooks cost a lot of money, and that money goes back into the professors' pockets.

End involuntary student activity fees.  These levies on tuition add to the cost of college for every semester hour.  Students should, of course, be allowed to contribute money voluntarily to various extracurricular activities, but they should not be forced to support things they do not wish to participate in.

Require that every college have online courses for every classroom course, and provide that students test out of any subject with the tuition per hour set at one quarter of the normal classroom subjects.  Students who take online classes exclusively for their degree also reduce the costs of student housing.

Set a basic maximum tuition per credit hour, which universities may charge for students who attend schools funded by tax dollars and prohibit any student loans for tuition costs above that low level.  This would compel universities to be efficient, something that these institutions simply are not required to do now.  It would also keep student loan debt low, a major cost of higher education for those who are paying for college.

These changes would not be mandatory for any university that does not receive federal funding or support, like Hillsdale College.  The changes would simply require that any university that wishes to have taxpayer support take serious measures to contain costs and, indeed, to slash them.

The winners would be the student, his parents, and the taxpayer.  Conservatives could calculate how much these changes would save the average student seeking a four-year degree and would expose just how absurdly high the costs of college are for students seeking a college degree. 

How would the left react to these proposed reforms?  Leftists could not say that this would deprive young adults from getting a college education, because the reforms would, in fact, do just the opposite.  The left would be forced to defend student activities funded out of tuition that support ridiculous and often offensive activities.  The left would also be compelled to defend huge administrative overhead and the many professors who teach only a couple of classes each semester. 

Higher education is a bloated, selfish institution, which has for decades fleeced students, fleeced their parents, and fleeced the taxpayer.  If the left wants to attack great wealth, then we ought pick the great wealth that is the education establishment.  We would be defending the little guy, and the left would be defending the rich and powerful.