College, once a sure ticket to the middle class, is causing a lot of anxiety these days. People are concerned about its cost, about low graduation rates and about the poor employment prospects of some graduates.
Hillary Clinton complained about the burden of student debt in a speech in New York last month. Senator Marco Rubio devoted much of a speech on economic opportunity this week to his own ideas for reforming higher education. We’re beginning to see the outlines of two rival approaches to addressing these problems. Democratic solutions center on increased federal spending and regulation, and Republican ones on increased competition. As a result, the next election could matter more than most for the future of higher education.
In particular, progressives want to use increased federal funding as leverage to get schools to act the way federal policymakers want them to. Thus President Barack Obama’s proposal to spend $60 billion to eliminate tuition at community colleges that “adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes.” A related idea is to have the government publish ratings for colleges, the better to make them responsive to the desires of Washington. The progressive approach exposes newer players, such as for-profit schools, to special scrutiny. <Read more.>