Chickens come home to roost
Posted by Rob Natelson
Obama’s plan to cut federal aid to colleges that don’t limit tuition increases
I observe with some satisfaction that the higher-education establishment is finally learning that if you play with snakes you get bitten.
It is no secret that academics were heavily in President Obama’s corner when he ran for President in 2008. Part of the reason was his commitment to transfer other people’s money to them—i.e., more direct and indirect federal aid to colleges and universities.
Even before Obama got involved, federal subsidies had become a major cause of the hyper-inflation in college tuition, just as they are the major reason for hyper-inflation in health care costs. (Federal spending on education is made possible by the Supreme Court’s refusal, since 1937, to enforce the most important constitutional limits on the federal spending power.)
The problem for Obama and the Democrats, however, is that rising tuition is a major beef with students, and Obama needs the student vote. Since most politicians like power and since students are more numerous than professional academics, Obama is doing what politicians naturally do in such circumstances: seeking to increase government meddling in the interests of the larger constituency. He is telling colleges and universities that if they do not control tuition costs he will cut their federal aid.
Now academics are reacting in horror. But what did they expect? They’ve unleashed what you always unleash when you put greed for government favors ahead of freedom for all.
One more point: Academics often blame rising public university tuition costs on “cuts” in state aid. Of course, they don’t mean real cuts, but only “cuts” in the percentage of higher education costs borne by state taxpayers.
But a recent Cato Institute study shows that inflation-adjusted aid to higher education actually has RISEN over the past 15 years, with taxpayers bearing a heavier burden than ever. The only reason state aid represents a lower percentage of overall costs is because federal aid has soared so much.
In private life, Rob Natelson is a long-time conservative/free market activist, but professionally he is a constitutional scholar whose meticulous studies of the Constitution's original meaning have been published or cited by many top law journals. (See: www.constitution.i2i.org/about/.) Most recently, he co-authored The Origins of the Necessary and Proper Clause (Cambridge University Press) and The Original Constitution (Tenth Amendment Center). After a quarter of a century as Professor of Law at the University of Montana, he recently retired to work full time at Colorado's Independence Institute.