Educating Colleges: Free Speech Isn't Free
The University of California at Berkeley, the "birthplace of the free speech movement," has again shown that it cannot tolerate free speech. While accusations and counter-accusations fly like spitballs, it is crystal-clear that the administration of this "center of higher learning" has thrown multiple roadblocks in the way of bringing conservative speakers to the campus. Conservatives are blamed for the security costs imposed by Antifa rioters.
Should we be surprised? A glance at the university's leadership roster shows that the "vice chancellor for equity and diversity," Oscar Dubón, Ph.D., is an engineering professor whose bio says he hasn't left the campus since age 17. His student affairs department is responsible for "student conduct."
As an engineer, Dr. Dubón ought to understand cause and effect. Yet there is little evidence that students are actually expected to be respectful and responsible. Instead, responsible presentation of ideas is oppressively burdened by his department. Multiple faculty members have written a letter demanding a boycott of "all classes and campus activities" during Free Speech Week. They falsely equate Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, Mike Cernovich, and others with the agents provacateurs who created the violent incidents they decry.
The identity of the letter-writers is most instructive. There are eighteen from gender and ethnic studies, fifteen from the arts, a mishmash from various other language and social studies, but not one professor from any STEM field. In short, the protesters in the academy are all in fields unlikely to produce employable graduates in the absence of state-supported social engineering projects. We are unable to dive deeply into the identities of the violent Antifa thugs, but the few that are actual students are also unlikely to be from STEM fields.
Hmmmm...is there another link? We know that 11.2% of student loans are in default. We don't know the breakdown, but I'd bet that far fewer STEM students are in default than those from the underwater basket weaving and "social justice" fields. STEM prepares productive citizens. "Social justice" creates indolent rioters. But for the purpose of Pell grants and Stafford loans, universities are allowed to self-certify that they are educating future adults.
What can we do?
Student eligibility for loans and grants is defined in 20 U.S. Code §1091. There's lots of legalese and complicated sentence structure. Each grant or loan is at an "eligible institution." And that definition is the gold mine. After digging through more complicated sentences that no social justice warrior is likely to understand, we find that an eligible institution is, among other things, "an institution of higher education ... that meets such other requirements as the Secretary may prescribe[.]" You read that right. Secretary DeVos can limit eligibility any way she wants. That's the law.
If an institution is turning out students who can't earn a living, it is doing a disservice to them. But with federal money coming their way, it's getting a subsidy. What does the university care that its students are saddled with debt? They've graduated and aren't a problem anymore. Time to plug new ones in the pipeline! We've got programs to fund and people to hire! This is the Law of Subsidy in action. (When you subsidize something, you get more of it, and it gets more expensive.)
But the secretary can set rules. Suppose she were to stop loans and grants to schools with excessive numbers of loans in default. They're not providing useful education, so why support them? With 11% in default now, let's be generous. If 33% of your graduates are in default, triple the national average, you get cut off. You're a really bad hombre.
Whom did we get rid of? Diploma mills would vanish first. Bankrupt with the stroke of a pen. Good riddance. But there might be some other casualties. Berkeley has fourteen "colleges" inside it. If the Department of Education were to cross-reference defaults with the "college" inside Berkeley, it's possible, maybe even likely, that the College of Social Welfare might have such a high default rate that it would be decertified.
For universities and colleges that have a 22% default rate, twice the national average, Secretary DeVos could limit loans and grants to half of the present amount, pending a one-year review of actions taken to improve the employability of graduates through better education. If they fail, then they get decertified as well. Remember, the criteria here have nothing to do with the course of study. They are narrowly tailored to ability to repay loans. A single deadbeat graduate won't cause a problem. Only a pattern of drones will cause the college problems.
In order to assist universities, the Department of Education should supply them with a complete list of all their graduates who are in arrears on federally insured loans. Since they are "institutions of higher learning," we should expect universities to be smart enough to match them with their course of "study." Bad programs would stand out like a sore thumb.
Research has shown that having skin in the game creates good behavior. And it doesn't take a lot of skin – just a guaranteed haircut. The programs that have the greatest number of phony-baloney, plastic-banana, good-time rock-and-roll courses catering to federal subsidy for the school without regard for ultimate employability will disappear like marijuana joints in a '60s drug raid. All those SJWs will suddenly find themselves without a comfortable place to stir up trouble. They will have to figure out how to put food on the table and roofs over their heads. They'll be too tired from working to waste time beating up peaceful attendees at a lecture.
When those colleges face decertification, a huge number of useless classes and professors will disappear. Unfortunately for those professors, there won't be enough left-wing journals and news channels for all of them to claim paychecks. And as more people are mugged by reality, fewer people will be watching them. What a nightmare! Productivity, not noise, will become the yardstick that measures the paycheck.
Who would have thought it was so simple? Even John McCain can't block it, since it's already the law. It's not a rule against a political view, so it doesn't run afoul of the First Amendment. It's just a rule that colleges should educate people to contribute to society by being self-supporting. Imagine that! And the moment the first college is decertified, all the others will instantly start checking their curricula, because they might be next. If they have a marginal program, they'll fix it by improving the course of study. If they're on probation, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be discharging professors and closing programs. Of course, they'll be redirecting financial aid to students who will use it to develop employable skills.
Fancy that. We do something that has a very specific goal of preventing another annual batch of young adults trapped by loans they can't repay and can't discharge in bankruptcy. It is narrowly tailored to that task, yet it has a massive social benefit that doesn't appear anywhere in or near its text. It puts a lid on campus leftism since those lefty courses can't put bread on the table. Could Secretary DeVos be convinced to consider this?