by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef’s latest Martin Center column explores the notion of a college affordability “crisis” and what — if anything — government should do about it.
In last year’s campaign for the presidency, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tried to attract votes with promises of free college. In the British elections earlier this year, one reason for the Labour Party’s surge was its pledge to do more to help students afford college. Higher education has become a very big political issue, with many voters receptive to candidates who want to help them get their degrees.
That explains a recent report entitled “The College Affordability Crisis in America.” This thin report was prepared by the Democratic Staff of the Joint Economic Committee and has been publicized by New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, who declared in this press release, “No American should be excluded from college because of cost…Congress must take action to tackle the growing cost of higher education.”
All right, but is there really a “crisis,” and if so, what is its cause and exactly what action should Congress take?
The report begins by informing readers, “College is not the only road to the American Dream, but it is a proven one. With each successive degree, graduates are more likely to be in the workforce, to be employed, and to earn more.” Actually, that’s not the case. Many American graduates have found that their degrees did not lead to those benefits.
Writing on RealClearEducation, Aimee Picchi pointed out that having a degree often does not lead to higher pay. “The share of low-paid workers has remained at about 40 percent of all American employees since 1995, but the group has gone through one surprising change: those baristas and cashiers are more educated today than they were two decades ago.”