Universities in Islamic nations make the same mistakes we do—but worse

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.

Griggs v. Duke Power

This paper by Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder raises a provocative question. Does the increase in college enrollment over the past 30 years partly reflect the changing pressures on employers based on a 1971 Supreme Court decision? And if so, could these pressures also explain the much-touted increase in earnings that comes from a college education?

O’Keefe and Vedder explore the impact of the Griggs v. Duke Power decision on today’s college enrollment. In Griggs, the plaintiffs argued that Duke Power’s reliance on two aptitude tests discriminated against minority groups. Subsequent cases and statutory law have changed the environment for employer testing. This may have changed the pressure to attend college.

The paper is jointly published by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

The High Cost and Low Productivity of Our Higher Education System: What it Means for America

I am honored by the invitation to speak to you today. The Pope Center is a very positive force in rethinking higher education in America. I am somewhat surprised, frankly, that I was invited to speak, since I am an economist, and economists suffer from two defects. First, they are deadly dull. It is usually more fun watching paint dry than listening to an economist. Indeed, it might even be preferable to have a hemorrhoid operation without an anesthetic from an unlicensed French physician to having to listen to an economist pontificate.

Why Does College Cost So Much?

As college students begin a new academic year, many parents are reeling from tuition fees. This fall’s probable average 8% increase at public universities, added onto double-digit hikes in the two previous years, means tuition at a typical state university is up 36% over 2002 – at a time when consumer prices in general rose less than 9%. In inflation-adjusted terms, tuition today is roughly triple what it was when parents of today’s college students attended school in the ’70s. Tuition charges are rising faster than family incomes, an unsustainable trend in the long run. This holds true even when scholarships and financial aid are considered. One consequence of rising costs is that college enrollments are no longer increasing as much as before. Price-sensitive groups like low-income students and minorities are missing out. A smaller proportion of Hispanics between 18 and 24 attend college today than in 1976. The U.S. is beginning to fall below some other industrial nations in population-adjusted college attendance.