by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
To the extent he thinks about it, Joe Biden is probably expecting to be canonized by millennials whose student-loan debt he’s paring down.
Depending on how the question is asked, though, the move is not popular. In a Trafalgar Group poll released on September 12, more than half of likely voters – 55.6 percent – and 64.6 percent of self-described independents said that they’d be “less likely” to cast their ballot for someone who backed the Biden debt relief plan. Other polls have shown the opposite sentiment.
In truth, however, the issue of student-loan forgiveness is a distraction from the real problem in higher education. Tuition rates have risen faster than inflation for decades. What no one wants to confront, even as we proceed to forgive as much as $1 trillion in student loan debt, is what has created the whole situation: the stranglehold that the higher-education cartel has on colleges and universities.
The last person to look at this seriously was William Bennett, back when he was Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Education. A study he commissioned found that tuition rates rose each year by about as much as Congress boosted federal educational assistance to college students. It was never established whether this was an example of coincidence or correlation. Media coverage ever since has tended to focus instead on suggesting that too many young people, especially the poor and minorities, can’t afford to go to college.
It’s time to take another look. Mitch Daniels, the outgoing president of Indiana’s Purdue University, has managed to keep tuition flat (and under $10,000 a year) for most of his tenure. He’s the exception, at least among the leaders of big schools. The cost to attend most colleges and universities is soaring, likely because so few people question the activities of “Big Ed.”
The cartel works hard to keep everyone in line.