Thomas Sowell has a column about the economics of college. His point boils down to this:
How many people would go to college if they had to pay the real cost of all the resources taken from other parts of the economy? Probably a lot fewer people.
Moreover, when paying their own money, there would probably not be nearly as many people parting with hard cash to study feel-good subjects with rap sessions instead of serious study.
In the absence of government intervention, though, rises the issue of subsidies from parents — this creates a glaringly obvious disparity based on wealth, with equally qualified rich and poor kids facing very different opportunities to pay for college. It seems unlikely that public policy makers will ever ignore this fact, whether or not they should.
One of the more interesting ideas I’ve seen is this one:
Harvard would simply collect (for the sake of argument) 1% of the student’s income for the thirty years after graduation.
This would force schools to focus on the most useful majors (or charge a higher percentage for lesser-earning degrees), force all students to bear the costs of their education, eliminate the need for government involvement, and level the playing field.