George Leef’s latest Martin Center column ponders whether higher education reform efforts have a chance of success.

People who analyze and write about higher education generally fall into two camps. One camp consists of those who believe that our system is “the envy of the world” and just needs more public support to do its great work of improving our citizens and strengthening our economy. (For a sense of what that camp is about, read professor Steven Brint’s book Two Cheers for Higher Education, which I reviewed here.)

The other camp consists of people who conclude that our higher education system draws in far too many students, poorly educates most of them, and costs too much. Unlike the first, which has, so far as I am aware, no conservatives or libertarians, in this camp you find people from all over the political spectrum. Former Harvard president Derek Bok, a liberal, has written Our Underperforming Colleges. And arguably the best-known among the critics is professor Richard Vedder, a thorough-going free market advocate.

Vedder has just written a new book entitled Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America that is a must-read for everyone who is interested in this important topic. In plain English (as opposed to muddy academic jargon), he explains that higher education is, for the most part, failing to live up to its promise, why that is the case, and what can be done to put things right.

The keystone in his analysis of our troubled system is government intervention.