Federal aid fuels exploding college costs

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is dead wrong on how to control college costs, argues Cato‘s Neal McCluskey.

To a system blackout-drunk on taxpayer money, the Obama administration would deliver even more booze while only whispering about tough love.

A libertarian, McCluskey is the author of How Much Ivory Does This Tower Need?  I love the title.


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  1. Financial aid has been decreasing and tuition has been rising at universities in California. So, I’m not convinced that “financial aid explodes college costs.”

    Also, some students need financial aid. Higher education is something that many students want, but not all of them and their families can afford. As in, without financial aid, they do not have a means to pursue a higher education. Those who do not have the money to pursue a higher education will not pursue it. Thus, the workforce of the economy will be that much weaker because it would consist of a lower number of educated individuals. That is the long term consequence of not extending the opportunity of higher education to as many people as possible (such as through financial aid).

    • You are making two assumptions that are not necessarily true-

      “financial aid has been decreasing.” – Is this state aid? Federal aid? or school-specific aid? Even if one decreases, the others may not. Not only that, but short-term decreases would likely not affect overall tuition growth, as it would take time for schools to respond to changes in incoming tuition by cutting services or programs. Only prolonged plateaus or decreases in funding would affect tuition.

      “Thus, the workforce of the economy will be that much weaker because it would consist of a lower number of educated individuals” – Again, not necessarily. This depends on the types of industries that the economy is comprised of. Currently, services and retail are the two driving forces of our economy, and neither relies heavily upon education. The nature of the education also should be considered. Numerous degrees do not guarantee any increases in productivity.

      No amount of financial aid will guarantee that all individuals who want to attend higher ed will. Chasing after that goal is a futile task that can only produce more and more waste. Some limit must be set to balance the needs of the individual to get a higher education and the needs of the many, who are funding the education with their tax dollars.