The Wall Street Journal has launched a campaign to convince the American people that increased government aid, especially under Obama, has caused the incredible rise in the cost of going to college. In the same day, the false notion that increased government support of education is the real cause of the rise in tuition appeared twice in the Journal: in an editorial and in an Op/Ed interview of the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), which is funded by Project Liberty, a nonprofit organization with neither website nor mission statement.
It’s as ridiculously wrong as saying that blame for the real estate bubble belongs not on the banks that made bad loans, nor the investment bankers who sold these loans knowing they were suspect, but on the Clinton administration for making more money available for mortgage loans. In the case of the real estate bubble, the Wall Street Journal analysis was faulty because no federal official approved or suborned “liar loans” or selling bad paper to unknowing investors.
In the case of the high cost of college, the Journal and its columnists are trying to rewrite the facts of history. The federal government has made more money available—in loans more than grants—because the cost of college has skyrocketed. The high costs caused government to act.
I wonder of the Journal editorial staff believes that a fish makes a bear dip its paws in the river and eat it. Or that Stalin forced Hitler to invade the Soviet Union.
CCAP director, conservative economics professor Richard Vedder, does have a good point when he chides colleges for building expensive luxury dorms and climbing walls. I have a feeling that most parents would rather see their children in more modest surroundings—perhaps with fewer distractions from studying—and pay less in tuition and housing for their precious scholars. Keep in mind, though, that these colleges are not building these Taj Ma-Dorms for the poor and middle class who need to borrow, but for wealthy and upper middle class students.
Luxury amenities are trivial, though. By far the biggest reason college costs have gone up is because states are contributing less to them. As the states have gradually cut back on support for education since the beginning of the Reagan era, college costs have ballooned beyond general inflation.
Even while the Journal editorial board blames the Obama administration, which began in 2009, for the 30-year rise in college costs, it finds room to denigrate intellectuals and the academic world. They do it in a transitional paragraph about the potential impact of the new college costs standards that President Obama wants to implement (FYI, I don’t think the standards are a good idea, but I disagree with the Journal’s reasoning):
“And we concede that this latest Obama regulatory onslaught couldn't happen to a nicer bunch than the university elite who did so much to elect him. But while shifting control of universities from lefty professors to the U.S. Department of Education may seem like a transition between six and a half-dozen, it is not.”
I’m willing to believe the Journal when it implies or states that left-wingers people academia. Certainly virtually every scientist has liberal or left-wing views favoring evolution and human-caused global warming. Moreover academic studies in economics and sociology routinely disprove the myths espoused in the Wall Street Journal. Yes, there has been an enormous net transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy over the past 35 years though tax policy, privatization and union-bashing. Yes, a poor child is less likely to rise to middle class or wealthy status in the United States than virtually any other developed country. No, raising taxes on the wealthy does not destroy jobs, it creates jobs.
So many of the principles of the free market that the Wall Street Journal and its contributors promulgate have been proven false by serious objective academic research. It’s no wonder the Journal and other mass media outlets actively mock and scorn academics whenever they get a chance, be it snide side remarks in editorials or the many geekish, snobbish and ineffectual academics in mass entertainment like ”Frasier” and “The Big Bang Theory.” The believers in the religion of the unregulated free market don’t have the facts on their side, but they do control most of the ink.