Today at CPAC 2016, Scott Walker touted a couple of accomplishments in his state, including freezing tuition for four years. On the surface, this seems like a good idea because it keeps tuition low, which keeps student debt down, which is a step toward correcting the country’s financial problems.
However, the first thing that comes to the mind is that this isn’t, strictly speaking, a conservative solution. Conservative ideology favors deregulation, freedom of the economy, freedom of the individual to enter into contracts that they want. Tuition freezes are the opposite: they are an additional regulation, and operate by the government reaching into the economy and turning the dials. Scott Walker removed the school’s ability to change tuition to add services, and removed the students’ ability to purchase that product. It is not a conservative solution, and sacrifices the freedom of people in the marketplace.
Furthermore, a tuition freeze isn’t a real solution at all. We can dither for weeks about the cause of high tuition and the overgrowth of the educational system, but a top-down freeze of the university’s ability to charge tuition isn’t going to solve the root of the problem. The root of the problem lies somewhere in the bureaucracy of the universities, or in the growing power of the Department of Education that creeps like a weed. What can we do to address these faults?
The biggest thing that can stop the universities isn’t something the government can do: remove the demand for a university education. It’s already beginning to happen in the workforce: for example, IT managers are questioning the necessity of a degree. Commonly cited reasons for requiring a bachelors degree include:
- “It demonstrates commitment.” These days, it doesn’t take much commitment to get a bachelors; it just takes mom and dad’s money or insidious federal student loans.
- “Students get exposed to new things in the world and become well rounded.” These days, universities are insular areas almost completely cut off from reality. See: Safe Spaces.
- “Students grow and mature into adults.” One, universities are failing disastrously in this respect. Two, anyone who needs to pay $20,000 to become an adult isn’t going to become one anytime soon.
Notice that ‘job preparation’ on this list.
What Walker and other government officials could do is force universities to come back to reality. Ban free speech zones on campuses, and bring the First Amendment back to universities. Maybe if students can come back to reality, they can see how preposterous the university system really is, and maybe universities can finally get the attitude adjustment they need.