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The Leaflet: Back to School on Higher Ed Reform

September 25, 2014

Back to School on Higher Ed ReformEducation issues always get a boost in media coverage when the new school year begins. But that boost is intensified even more when it's also an election year.

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Back to School on Higher Ed Reform

Education issues always get a boost in media coverage when the new school year begins. But that boost is intensified even more when it's also an election year. With student loans and college affordability a top concern for young voters, state legislators made 2014 an active year for higher-education reform.

State governments already provide most of the aid to institutions, and several states "increased appropriations" to institutions of higher learning this year, according to the National Conference for State Legislatures. In The Heartland Institute's Ten Principles of Higher Education Reform, Ohio University economist Richard Vedder and analyst Matthew Denhart say higher-education institutions need less funding, not more.

They wrote, "Ending government subsidies to higher education and removing tax breaks for third-party subsidization would more directly align the costs of higher education to the benefits of those who attend."

Those who argue that education is a "public good" worthy of state subsidies should note empirical evidence fails to prove that's the case. The claim that third-party payments have led to more equal opportunity for higher education also lacks evidence.

U.S. higher education is still relatively a free market. States should therefore resist distorting these mechanisms by increasing subsidies. They should instead seek to phase them out. If college is such a good investment, as subsidy proponents claim, why is it a problem if students pay for it themselves?

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Author
Taylor Smith was a policy analyst for The Heartland Institute specializing in energy, climate, and environmental regulation. He is coauthor with James M.
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