The Corner


Another Bad Idea for College Financing — Australia’s Model

Having driven up the cost of college tremendously through federal “student aid” so that many have to borrow heavily to finance their degrees, leftist politicians now feel they must propose solutions to the problem they’ve created. Bernie and Hillary babbled away last year about “free college” plans. But others are pointing to Australia’s higher-education system and suggesting that the U.S. ought to copy it.

That would be a bad idea, argues Anthony Hennen in this Martin Center article.

He writes,

The Australian system may not be all it appears, for savings by former students are largely the result of shifting the cost onto taxpayers. Indeed, the real solution for Australia and the United States may not be found through financing fixes; rather, it may be that they are solving the wrong problem. Perhaps the focus should be on cost control, which financing does not address.

Exactly! Shifting more of the cost of our largely ineffective and hugely wasteful higher-ed system from students and their families onto the taxpayers does nothing to solve the real problem. Leftists don’t want a really efficient higher-education system because our current one funnels so much money into the pockets of fellow leftists.

Hennen concludes,

Looking abroad for ideas can be useful, but it requires a sober assessment of benefits and costs. Reforming the American system to match the Australian system would not offer relief from the spiral of increasing costs and increasing debt. The problem is not only economic — it is political.

He’s right. Our higher-education problem is both economic and political. We won’t be able to do much to limit the economic damage — devoting far too many resources to postsecondary education — as long as our politics is geared to protecting the status quo.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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