While Bernie Sanders won the Indiana Democratic primary last night, it is almost inconceivable that Hillary Clinton won’t be the nominee. With that probability in mind, today’s Pope Center Clarion Call examines her higher education proposals. In it, Hillsdale College economics professor Gary Wolfram finds that her proposals for yet more governmental support to get yet more students through college would be wasteful and counterproductive.
For one thing, her notions that higher education is a “right” and that costs “shouldn’t be a barrier” are ridiculous. Calling it a right means that other Americans must be compelled to pay the college costs of those who choose to attend and costs are the barrier to excessive demand and wasteful consumption of any good or service. “If students don’t pay for college, Wolfram observes, “many of them will put minimal effort into learning.”
Furthermore, her proposal for still more generous federal student aid will not solve the problem of increasing college cost since schools will capture the federal dollars. Clinton wants voters to think that federal student aid merely helps people to afford increasingly expensive college bills, but in truth those bills are as high as they are largely because of federal aid in the past. Nor will her ideas reverse the trend of lower state higher education spending. “Clinton’s proposed expansion of federal subsidized loans,” Wolfram writes, “will lead to the unintended consequences of higher tuition costs and less state spending.”
Unintended consequences — the great but completely ignored problem with all ideas for government meddling with market phenomena.
Wolfram also points to the “malinvestment” problem that occurs when government policy makes something artificially inexpensive. We keep luring young people who have little interest in anything resembling truly higher education into college, where many either drop out or eventually graduate with little improvement in their intellectual abilities. Clinton and politicians like her constantly talk about “investing” in college, but the sad fact is that for many it’s just a waste of time and money.
There was never much reason to think that Hillary Clinton would say anything sensible about higher education policy and it’s clear that all we can expect from her is more pandering to students and the higher ed establishment.