American Higher Education: Beset with Problems, but Solutions Exist

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”


Did You Know? The State of Federal Student Loans

With the hyperbole inherent in a politicized topic like student loans, it’s important to step back and look at the data. The Department of Education recently published a quarterly report of the federal student loan portfolio with updated totals and information on what student debt looks like today. As of January 3, 2020, the federal … Continue reading “Did You Know? The State of Federal Student Loans”


Russell Kirk on Higher Education

Russell Kirk isn’t known as a policy wonk. The Great Books, not the mathematical or statistical models of economic technicians, were his organon of choice. He devoted essays to broad, perennial themes like “the moral imagination,” “liberal learning,” and “the permanent things.” Read his numerous columns about higher education, however, and you might come away … Continue reading “Russell Kirk on Higher Education”


New Research Shows Federal Student Aid Is Worse than We Thought

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”


The Mess of Federal Funds Is Changing the University

The modern American university has changed almost beyond recognition from the form it had even 100 years ago. It is larger, more “diverse,” more of a business, and more industrialized with relatively fewer teachers and more bureaucrats than ever before. Those changes have led to new problems. Higher education, if not broken, is at least … Continue reading “The Mess of Federal Funds Is Changing the University”


Can American Higher Education Be Restored?

People who analyze and write about higher education generally fall into two camps. One camp consists of those who believe that our system is “the envy of the world” and just needs more public support to do its great work of improving our citizens and strengthening our economy. (For a sense of what that camp … Continue reading “Can American Higher Education Be Restored?”


Student Loan Defaults Reveal the True Cost of Student Loans

With the rising number of student loan defaults, the federal government has reaped what it has sown. A government policy to give virtually any student a loan has pushed tens of thousands of them into a financial hole from which they will struggle to escape for years. A new report from The Institute for College … Continue reading “Student Loan Defaults Reveal the True Cost of Student Loans”


Universities Should Invest in Their Students, Not Securities

Nearly all American institutions of higher education raise money they put into endowments—money that is kept invested in securities. At the same time, many of their students borrow money from the federal government so they can afford to attend. As I will explain, this system is fraught with problems. It would be far better if … Continue reading “Universities Should Invest in Their Students, Not Securities”


Parents, Student Loans, and Government: An Unhealthy Mix

Parent PLUS is not typically the loan program making headlines when student loans are in the news. But over the past several years, it has become a central part of America’s higher-education financing system. Under Parent PLUS, parents can borrow freely—with no limit—from the federal government to support their children’s education. Government programs without significant … Continue reading “Parents, Student Loans, and Government: An Unhealthy Mix”


Income Share Agreements Offer a Promising Alternative to Federal Loans

College is expensive. Even in today’s deeply divided political climate, all Americans seem to agree on that. But while most, if not all, Americans agree that student loan debt is a big problem, the proper role of the federal government in distributing loans remains hotly contested. A solution could lie in offering a more attractive … Continue reading “Income Share Agreements Offer a Promising Alternative to Federal Loans”