Phi Beta Cons

The High Cost of Federalizing Higher Education

In a piece that dovetails nicely with Vic’s post below, Walter Russell Mead writes about “The Regulatory Goose Chase Degrading America.” Mead’s attention has been drawn to the fact that “American colleges are diverting more and more money away from serving students and instead using their funds to develop a massive D.C. lobbying force.”

Economists call this rent-seeking — the use of limited resources not to produce value, but simply to wheedle favorable laws and regulations that come at the expense of taxpayers or rivals that don’t play the game as well. It is pure waste and arises any time the government meddles in a market.

Mead sees how the cost of regulation accelerates, writing “All of that in turn makes colleges even more dependent on federal subsidies than ever, so they hire more lobbyists to get more power over legislation and implementation.” Better yet, he understands that the same process is at work in most of our industries, “leeching the vitality out of our system.”

Imagine how much better (and less costly) higher education would be if the feds hadn’t butted into it.

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

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