Phi Beta Cons

Let’s Keep the Feds From Messing Up This Free Market Development

As I have said many times, the reason why higher education is extremely costly and often so useless is that the federal government started meddling in it back under LBJ and the damage has grown year by year. In recent years, as people have been looking for alternatives to the old BA, coding academies have sprung up. They offer intensive training in the writing of computer code and appear to be pretty successful in putting students on the path to a good job.

Almost inevitably, politicians now want to put the federal camel’s nose under this free market tent. Last fall, the Education Department floated the idea of allowing students to obtain federal money to help them pay their coding academy expenses. That’s a terrible idea. We ought to allow these schools to operate in a laissez-faire environment and that includes no government subsidies for students.

In this piece on Ed Central, Alexander Holt argues against federal funding. After noting recent work showing that the success rates for these schools are not as high as often advertised, he writes, “This is simply more evidence that giving these schools access to federal Title IV dollars is premature and will likely lead to waste and abuse.”

OK, but it isn’t merely “premature.” Under no circumstances should we extend government subsidies for postsecondary education. Here we have a competitive, unregulated, entrepreneurial development in the education market. Students have to weigh the costs — which they bear themselves — against the possible benefits. The schools have to keep their costs down and quality high enough to attract customers. The incentives for wise use of resources are ideal.

Just as ride services like Uber are a spontaneous market development that can only be damaged by government meddling, so with the coding academies. Congress should keep its grubby hands off.

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

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