Radical Thinking from a College Consultant: The Government Should Regulate Tuition

Barry Lenson

Radical Thinking from a College Consultant: The Government Should Regulate Tuition

Radical Thinking from a College Consultant: The Government Should Regulate Tuition  College costs have really been making headlines in the last few weeks. Student debt reached an all-time high of more than $1 trillion. President Obama called for a new plan to help students repay student it. The ragtag people who are occupying Wall Street have demanded that all college loans be forgiven.

No doubt about it, college costs have been getting even more coverage than the World Series. And now an educational consultant named Steven Goodman jumps into the fray and writes on the TimesIdeas blog that the government should ride in and regulate tuition at American colleges and universities. Regulate tuition?? That’s right!!  Goodman is not pussyfooting around or being a slave to the dominant groupthink that the government should never regulate anything, just let every doggone kind of enterprise regulate itself in the marketplace.

Goodman writes . . .

“Tuition at Stanford University in 1980-81 was $6,285. Thirty years later, Stanford’s tuition had risen to $38,700. Tuition in 2011-12 is $40,050. If the cost of milk had grown at the same rate, a gallon of milk would now cost approximately $15 . . . I haven’t yet purchased $15 gallons of milk, but as a college advisor I have counseled many students who are charged $50,000 per year for tuition, fees and campus housing.”

Okay, there’s no arguing with what Goodman is saying there.  But there are problems with having the government regulate tuition. Goodman himself points one of the biggest - certain elite universities have immense endowments and could lower tuition if Uncle Sam said they had to, while other schools with smaller endowments wouldn’t be able to. To solve that problem, Goodman recommends the creation of a decision-making body that would decide which universities would be required to dip into their endowments and which would not. Goodman writes that “Congress and the Department of Education should create a commission that includes representatives of universities, Fortune 500 employers, consumer advocates and economists.”

Okay, that’s a solution. But wouldn’t you like to sit in on a meeting where those plutocrats were deciding which universities should be required to fund tuition cuts, and which would not? It would make a rugby game look like a tea party at the Ritz.

But let’s face it. Goodman is thinking in interesting new ways. That is just what has got to happen if students are going to be saved from the current world which is all too eager to throw them to the lions.  In a time when students are falling victim to “business as usual” practices from colleges, they are really getting the business.

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