Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

The Government Is Here to Help You


Yes, George and John, Dan Lips has caught the wave of what is happening in higher education, but I get a little uncomfortable when someone says that “the federal government could require” something. Lips says that “the federal government could require federally funded colleges to place a percentage of course content online and to offer credit-by-examination options. “

If this is a good idea, why do we need the government to require it? If it is a good idea and “federally funded” colleges aren’t doing it, shouldn’t we look at the reasons before we propose a federal mandate?

Perhaps the reason most schools don’t provide free online content has to do with protecting their incomes, a legitimate concern. Or perhaps it has to do with federal regulations, including those surrounding accreditation. Perhaps MIT can post its courses online because it exists in such a rarefied atmosphere that what it is really selling — the credential of the MIT degree — has a value far greater than the knowledge it imparts. That might not be the case for less well-known schools.

I believe that what Dan Lips is suggesting — “low-cost or free online learning” — will come to pass. But unless it happens as a result of the interacting incentives of buyers and sellers, rather than federal mandates, it will be artificial and likely in the long run to be neither low-cost nor free.


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