Why Taming the Higher-ed Leviathan is Hard Going
College affordability may prove to be one of, if not the, defining education issue of the 2016 election cycle. More and more jobs require a college degree, more and more students are going to college, and the cost is creeping higher and higher.
There have been a slew of common-sense, market-oriented reforms that have been floated to help rein in the cost of college. No, not just making it “free.” Rather, opening up the college market to more experimentation, innovation, and competition to help hold prices in check.
In general, these reforms have gone nowhere. Why? Well, a new data visualization by Washington D.C.’s New America Foundation puts some great numbers to what my old friend Andrew Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute has been arguing for years; college and universities are enmeshed in the economies and political ecosystems of the state and nation. That gives them an incredible amount of power to block or water down efforts to spur competition and reform.
New America breaks down the number of institutions, the number of employees, the amount of money institutions receive in Pell grants (federal scholarships for low-income students) and the total amount of money institutions spend by congressional district.
Here’s what Missouri looks like:
Number of Higher Ed Institutions
Number of Higher Ed Employees
Seventy thousand employees, nearly $10 billion in spending, and $685 million straight from the federal government . . . who wants to upset that apple cart? Somebody needs to, because the current trends are unsustainable.