by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Chloe Anagnos writes for the Martin Center about a proposal to expand the federal government’s role in higher education.
Congressional Democrats are reintroducing the Debt-Free College Act in an attempt to lower costs and increase federal intervention in higher education. This debt-free proposal would require the federal government to match every dollar from states’ higher education appropriations to help students pay “all the costs” of college, Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan told reporters.
But while Pocan is confident that lawmakers from both parties will support his bill, he didn’t say how the federal government would pay for it.
That disregard of how to pay for the bill is how college became so unaffordable in the first place. The reality is that government student aid is one of the main factors fueling the high costs of higher education.
As any competent economist knows, the surest way of artificially increasing the demand for something is to have the government subsidize it. By subsidizing a college education and covering most of its costs, the government drives prices higher, increasing the overall price for students—and taxpayers. Students then complain about debt and want lawmakers to pass more laws for more college subsidies. The result? A college education gets more and more expensive.
There is, however, a better way to control costs and help students avoid debt. Making college more affordable involves a structural change to get the government out of higher ed and a commitment from colleges to control costs.