Thursday, November 13, 2003

Price controls for tuition? 

The Cato Institute picks up the Jacuzzi U. story which was in the NY Times last month (see, for example, the coverage at Invisible Adjunct.) So of course the Congress -- whose increases in financial aid are part of the problem -- are now trying to impose price controls.
The "Affordability in Higher Education Act," sponsored by Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), would impose price controls, threatening revocation of federal funds for schools that raise tuition and fees too fast. This would actually produce the opposite of taxpayer relief: State politicians, lest their colleges lose federal money, would transfer a greater burden to taxpayers, keeping their schools' "sticker prices" low. Tuition-reliant private schools, in contrast, would have to seek aid increases, and might abandon projects that would have allowed them to compete with their heavily subsidized public cousins.

As bad as McKeon's bill is, the alternatives are worse. The "College Opportunity for All Act," sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), would raise federal Pell grant maximums from $4,050 per-student this year to $11,600 in 2011, and make it easier for students to borrow money. A similar measure from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) would make borrowing for college cheaper. Even less of the cost of college would be borne by its consumers -- inflation would continue to grow.

Higher education devours every dollar it can sink its teeth into, but its victims aren't students. They actually feed the beast, demanding more and more goodies for it.