Seizing student loans from the banks just wasn’t enough. The government takeover of the student loan business was the opening salvo in the Obama administration’s college affordability crisis (see: Republicans Bear the Guilt for Student Loan Interest Bailout), a way to continue punishing banks while paving the way to clamping down on colleges so they can serve the president’s plans for our economy.
Colleges receive “responsible” threat from an irresponsible president.
When you hear the word “responsible” coming from the White House, you know trouble is brewing. The administration’s Blueprint for College Affordability employed the usual veiled threat that lets us know the president is not getting what he wants in exchange for doling out federal student aid:
The federal government provides a lot of money to college campuses through a system that’s antiquated and in real need of an update.¹
One idea to make federal funds go further was:
Setting responsible tuition policy: offering relatively lower net tuition prices and/or restraining tuition growth;²
Which led to this ham-handed warning to colleges:
Those that don’t act responsibly in setting tuition will receive less in terms of federal aid.³
With debt and spending forgotten for the time being so the president’s new budget proposal can take center stage, the time is ripe to push for another government takeover. Colleges are as good a target as any.
Colleges are a prime government takeover target.
The economy is not delivering for Democrats. The solution seems to be to make everything cheaper, including college. The Department of Education reminds us that:
Budgets entail value choices.4
This is not something we are used to hearing from this administration, which views education budgets as mandates to spend as much money as possible. Nevertheless, with education funds in short supply colleges are on the hook to provide the best services they ever have at the lowest cost possible, with stern reminders that Uncle Sam will only reward schools that deliver.
It is not the fault of colleges that Democratic fiscal naiveté swept Washington at the worst possible time, or that administration plans could saddle schools with even more low income illegal immigrant students, or that college affordability will always be a problem for Americans who don’t have jobs, or that demands to pay teachers even higher salaries persist. Nevertheless, a government takeover of colleges will begin with forcing schools to pay for the president’s mistakes and drop their rates or risk losing federal funding.
Race to the Top bribes are an alternative to punishment.
An example of the carrot and club approach to college affordability is the $1 billion in Race to the Top bribes to states in the president’s budget, which purports to spur “systemic reforms in higher education”5 and to:
… drive change in State higher education policies and practices to improve college access, affordability, completion, and quality.6
The Department of Education whines that:
Many students struggle to pay their tuition and leave school with significant debt that is difficult to repay.7
When was this not the case? Ask doctors with loan debt who will be forced to reevaluate their career choice because of Obamacare, or the would-be professionals who graduated from college in 2009 and have been waiting tables ever since. The problem is not that tuition and debt are too high. The problem is that irresponsible economic policy has made the cost of almost everything too much to bear.
Jobs of the future are jobs that won’t exist.
How many times have we heard about American competitiveness and the jobs of the future? Hatching plans to organize the economy to create those jobs will fail. The free market doesn’t work that way and trying to plan the economy for political purposes will stymie competitiveness and stunt economic growth for reasons that have nothing to do with education or college affordability.
Someone needs to tell the president that forcing colleges to lower their rates to prepare low income students for jobs that don’t exist is not a sustainable strategy for growth. We are still waiting for the jobs of the future to be created. Without some momentum in the economy the best we will get are brilliant, debt-free graduates for jobs that aren’t there.