Jay Nordlinger of National Review Online chats with Purdue University president and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

During his tenure at Purdue, he has been known across the country for keeping costs down — and runaway costs are a scourge of collegiate life in general. When Daniels was White House budget director, Bush nicknamed him “The Blade.” He has been a blade here at Purdue, correct? Daniels responds that he’s not sure he deserved the title in Washington or deserves it now. Maybe people give him too much credit. I suggest to him that Cap the Knife would say much the same. “I bet he would,” says Daniels. (Caspar Weinberger — later Reagan’s defense secretary — was budget director under Nixon, in 1972 and ’73. His nickname, “Cap the Knife,” was a play on “Mack the Knife,” the song from Weill and Brecht’s Threepenny Opera.) Nevertheless, says Daniels, he can point to areas, both in Washington and at Purdue, where “we were able to limit the amount of someone else’s money that someone was spending without good effect.”

Parents must appreciate him, I say, for fighting tuition creep. They are his current constituents, in a sense, along with students, their children. True, says Daniels, but don’t forget the alumni. They are appreciative too. He elaborates: Purdue, for all its academic excellence, especially in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), is a public university. What’s more, it is a land-grant university. “This is not a place where the children of wealth and privilege have by and large come. It’s a place where the kid off the farm or from the small town or from the inner city has come.” Alumni, says Daniels, appreciate that the Purdue administration is looking out for the student and his ability to pay.