How do you make something expensive affordable for everyone? The government tried to make buying a house affordable. That hasn’t worked out so well. We are about to find out what happens when we try to make health care affordable, even if it means giving it away. Can the White House create affordable colleges with threats of government control over higher education budgets?
Bullying is the answer to making college affordable.
Bullying must only be bad when other people do it. Calls to make college affordable have turned to threatening postsecondary schools into doing something the government would never do: cut costs. The White House is pointing the finger of blame at schools in the name of transparency¹ and to that end offers a government-approved College Scorecard to help make the decision on where to go to school.
This one should have been thought through a little better. The scorecard is more about the sorry state of the economy than the value offered by colleges. Loan default rates, employment rates, and even the graduation rate are not about what it costs to go to school, but whether the economy can provide the opportunity to be in school. Nevertheless, colleges better pay attention because the president’s threat of punishment during yesterday’s Weekly Address is hard to mistake:
In time, we’ll use those ratings to make sure that the colleges that keep their tuition down are the ones that will see their taxpayer funding go up.²
Is government control about the middle or the bottom?
The ongoing conflict over whether to worry about the middle class or use it as an excuse to spend on the less fortunate infests the debate over college affordability. One moment the president wants to stuff more Americans into the middle class:
This week, I met with high school and college students in New York and Pennsylvania to discuss the surest path to the middle class – some form of higher education.³
And the next the middle class can’t afford college, either:
We cannot price the middle class out of a college education. That’s why I proposed major new reforms to make college more affordable and make it easier for folks to pay for their education.4
Is the solution for Big Brother to make our decision on where to get a degree?
Affordability scam means government decides where we go to college.
The Undersecretary of Education suggests that:
College must remain an accessible and affordable opportunity that provides a good value for all Americans.5
College has never been affordable to everyone, but buzzwords like “shared responsibility”6 are being directed at higher education, pointing to the same kind of government control that is about to destroy our health care system (see: Are Colleges the Next Government Takeover Target?).
The administration’s solution to its problems with the economy has been to mollify the masses by making things cheaper, ignoring the fact that without prosperity there is nowhere for the money to come from. If the White House makes good on its threat to pick and choose which schools are good enough for the government by deciding which institutions merit federal aid and student loan money, then Washington will decide which colleges we can choose from. Like health care, some Americans will be able to afford private school costs that will go through the roof as the government cracks down. The rest of America will receive a cheaper version of college for all or be shunted to two-year community colleges. Like everything else in the Obama economy, making something less expensive doesn’t mean it will be better, just cheaper, and cheapening something carries its own price.