Phi Beta Cons

Lacunae in Gingrich’s Approach to Higher Education Costs

Newt Gingrich’s recent Fox TV Special, titled “Why Does College Cost So Much and Is It Worth It?” received higher ratings than a CNN special on Osama bin Laden that ran at the same time. Gingrich solicited audience response and received an earful from Velma Montoya, an economist and former University of California Regent.

Montoya, writing at the American Thinker in the form of a letter to Gingrich, fills in the gaps in his “unresolved” arguments, some of which I paraphrase: 

  • Growing global jobs competition has reduced the payoff to U.S. college attendance.   Exports of skilled U.S. jobs to foreign countries have rapidly narrowed the income differences for college- and high school-educated workers.
  • Part of high college costs have to do with students purchasing the luxurious college amenities they prefer, such as batting cages and climbing walls. Some parents will go to great lengths to purchase “an elite, luxury good” for their children that the parents “could brag about.” They take on second jobs and debt rather than accept lower-priced alternatives such as starting college at a neighboring community college.
  • Since the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and the corresponding replacement of conscripted citizen armies with professional armies, there has been a sharp decrease in U.S. tax contributions to programs that benefit our country’s youth, including government funding of higher education institutions. Colleges have responded to these reduced government subsidies to them by raising tuition.


All in all, Montoya thinks Gingrich missed a number of beats. She concludes that his presentation on this topic amounted to little more than “hand-wringing and policy-posing about simple changes in the market for U.S. higher education.”