Editor’s note: This is an abridged transcript of a speech Richard Vedder gave at a Martin Center luncheon on January 30, 2020. I will concentrate today on the economics of higher education—why it is so costly, and a few things we can do about it. When I entered Northwestern University over six decades ago, the … Continue reading “American Higher Education: Beset with Problems, but Solutions Exist”
For years I have railed against the dysfunctional federal student loan program. The availability of cheap federal student loans has enabled universities to increase tuition fees aggressively, helping fund an unproductive academic arms race that, among other things, has led to sizable administrative bloat on most campuses. The proportion of recent college graduates from the … Continue reading “New Research Shows Federal Student Aid Is Worse than We Thought”
Two facts about colleges stand out. First, they are largely (some argue almost entirely) a “private” good; that is to say, the benefits from college attendance accrue mainly to the student, not to society at large. For example, the Census Bureau tells us the typical male adult college graduate made about $30,000 a year more … Continue reading “‘Free College:’ A Better Approach”
Last month, Amanda Ripley, writing for The Atlantic, asked a good question: why does higher education in the United States cost significantly more than in every other OECD nation except Luxembourg? Related to that: Why have college costs risen sharply over time? Unfortunately, while the questions Ripley raises are compellingly important, the answers she provided … Continue reading “Answering the Perennial Question: Why Does College Cost So Much?”
Higher education does not produce many flashy, innovating entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel, or Elon Musk. The non-profit, highly subsidized, and low-incentive culture that universities operate in promotes conformity and risk avoidance. Despite that, there are some college leaders who stand out from the rest. Paul LeBlanc, for example, has taken Southern … Continue reading “Mitch Daniels Has the Right Stuff for Purdue”
There has been mounting evidence that the financial payoff from the traditional bachelor’s degree is declining, particularly for men. For example, Census Bureau data suggest that, from 2005 to 2016, the average earnings differential for male workers holding bachelor’s degrees compared with those holding high school diplomas fell from $39,440 to $37,653 (in 2016 dollars)—at … Continue reading “Master’s Degrees in Janitorial Science?”
For decades, the American higher education establishment was able to sell the idea that promoting college was sound policy because it seemed that nearly all graduates found good, high-paying jobs. But around 15 years ago, people began to notice that a rather large percentage of college grads were taking low-skill jobs with poor pay and … Continue reading “Is Underemployment of Recent College Grads a Serious Problem?”
In a typical week, I get four or five inquiries from media relating to some higher education issue. Five years ago, perhaps five or ten percent of those inquiries related to university executive compensation, especially the salaries of presidents. Now, probably 40-50 percent of the queries are on that topic. The public is increasingly interested … Continue reading “Are College Presidents Paid Too Much?”
The Department of Education has had, so far as I can see, no positive impact on higher education and has either caused or ignored numerous negative effects. Thus it is a tragedy that the skeptics about creating it did not prevail back in 1979.
Universities are great inventions, and they have a role everywhere, in areas rich and poor, Christian, Islamic, and even atheist. But the Law of Diminishing Returns applies: universities in small doses can disseminate and advance knowledge in welfare-inducing ways, but if expanded too fast, they produce dismal results at the margin. In the Middle East/North African region, this problem is aggravated by over-centralization.