Controlling the cost of college

Democrats running for president are promising free college and promising forgiveness of student loans and all sorts of other silly things.  Like all the Left's absurd giveaway programs, the student loan program is an example of creating problems rather than solving problems. 

Does anyone even remember why the federal government felt it important to help students with the costs of college?  The National Defense Education Act of 1958 was a direct response to Sputnik and the perceived advantage the Soviet Union had developed over America in science and technology. 

This was absurd.  The Soviet Union routinely turned out huge numbers of physicists, engineers, mathematicians, and other "hard science" graduates, but it was always quality, not quantity, that mattered.  So by 1969, America was landing on the Moon, and the Soviet Union was hopelessly behind.  There is no reason to believe that student loans made any difference at all.

Indeed, by 1964, the Left removed those limiting words in the National Defense Education Act that made it clear that the purpose of this program was to help us keep up with the Soviets in science and technology.  Those familiar organs of leftism, like the National Education Association, supported these changes.

The consequence of the federal government guaranteeing student loans at below market interest rates was predictable.  Tens of millions of Americans who would not otherwise have gone to college did so using student loans, dramatically and artificially increasing demand. 

College tuition costs exploded when student loans became almost automatic and disconnected with hard sciences.  Between 1977 and 2019, the cost of tuition increased by a mind-numbing 1,384%, or, put another way, tuition costs of $20,000 in 1977 for the same college courses had risen to $296,841 in 2019, which is dramatically faster than inflation generally during that period.

Beyond an unsustainable rate of growth in costs, college graduates even from the 55 "best" colleges are unbelievably ignorant, as this article by Michael Polikoff reveals.  These students, fleeced by these colleges with sky-high tuition costs, thought Judge Judy is a Supreme Court Justice and that FDR was not president during the New Deal and World War Two and...well, you get the picture.

Who profits from all this?  Certainly not America.  These graduates, who often have degrees in the softest sorts of subjects, have virtually no value at all.  Their skills, assuming they have any, fill no need in the marketplace.  Often these graduates lack even rudimentary skill in reading, research, and writing.  They leave college stuck with unpayable student loans and with no chance of getting a job worth the cost of their degrees.

Professors, who often have classes that are really taught by assistants, do well from the explosion in college costs.  Administrators in colleges also do well, often for providing things many of the students do not want but are required to pay for.  And leftists do very well from fleecing students.  Elizabeth Warren's husband, for example, was paid over $400,000 last year teaching as a professor, and Warren herself was a professor at several different colleges.  Is there a conflict of interest in her trying to prop up a wildly overpriced academic system and wildly overpriced professors with taxes paid by ordinary Americans?

Colleges are more than just systems to transfer wealth from the middle class to the rich academic class.  Colleges are totalitarian re-education camps in which dissent is suppressed, propaganda is taught as fact, and genuine intellectual diversity is conspicuous by its absence. 

What ought conservatives to do?  Call for some simple reforms.  Tie eligibility for student loans to low tuition costs of institutions so that no student loans will be given for expenses at hyper-expensive colleges, and cease subsidizing colleges that have ridiculous tuition and administrative fees.

Require that colleges that accept student loans allow students to test out of as many courses as possible, which is much cheaper and reduces the time spent in college.  Testing out also provides through the test itself a quantifiable level of competence by the student testing out (something utterly missing now).

The Left is trying to make the rest of America feel callous toward students with enormous student loan debt.  The problem is not the rest of America.  The problem is academia and its uncontrolled costs, something the Left will be reluctant to acknowledge.  Conservatives must put the Left on the defensive and force the Left to mumble support for the unsupportable.  Make academia, not student loan debt, the issue.