The Corner


In Higher-Ed Policy, What Are Conservatives For?

It’s easy to say what we’re against: politicization, the attack on freedom of speech, dumbing down, mission creep, needless expense, and so on. But what are we for?

That’s the question Reason Foundation’s Christian Barnard addresses in today’s Martin Center article. 

His piece focuses on a recent American Enterprise Institute conference where there were three main topics: How to make college more affordable, what policies we should pursue with respect to student debt, and how to protect free speech and academic freedom.

One of the ideas that was discussed was the “unbundling” of higher education, an idea that the Martin Center has long advocated. That is, why make students buy a big package of college courses and services when many of them want only a few or just one item?

Another good idea is to provide students and families with better information on the costs and benefits of various college programs.

And colleges should do much more to protect freedom of speech. The panelist who led that discussion was Adam Kissel, formerly with FIRE. Barnard writes, “Kissel emphasized that formal free speech policies at a college aren’t always correlated with that campus’s free speech culture. For instance, he noted that even the University of Chicago, while receiving high marks from FIRE for its robust policy protecting free expression, still has problems with its free speech culture. Chicago students still feel uncomfortable openly sharing their views.”

There are sound ideas for change in the world of higher education — the challenge is to sell them to the public. The higher-ed establishment and most politicians won’t make any changes unless they’re pressured to do so.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


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