Monday, December 21, 2015

College craziness points up the need for higher-ed choice

Economist Richard Vedder, who helps Forbes compile its annual college rankings, recently observed:
As Milton Friedman told me more than a decade ago, higher education today has some negative externalities, ones that seemingly exceed the positive spillover effects, suggesting maybe we should be taxing rather than subsidizing universities in the United States.
With Oklahoma's political leaders staring at a massive "revenue failure" for 2016, all options need to be on the table. Of course, we can't end higher-ed subsidies overnight, as Cato Institute scholar Neal McCluskey points out in a recent article in The Weekly Standard. "The best starting point would be to turn state higher education funding into grants, connecting it explicitly to student choices rather than allocating it to institutions. At least then what policies and people are punished or rewarded would be based on individual, not government, decisions."

In suggesting student grants McCluskey echoes Friedman himself, who believed that restricting higher-education subsidies "to schooling obtained at a state-administered institutions cannot be justified on any grounds. Any subsidy should be granted to individuals to be spent at institutions of their own choosing."

Oklahoma's college students should be given a voucher redeemable not only at public colleges and universities but at nonpublic ones as well. After all, why should our political leaders discriminate against education obtained at private institutions? Why should Oklahoma taxpayers be forced to subsidize a public university's polytheistic "holiday" event celebrating "all religions" (including Islam) at Christmastime? Or why should they be forced to fork over $40,000 of their hard-earned money to a hip-hop artist with a history of obscene, violent, misogynistic language?

"Conservatives are rightly aggravated by college craziness," McCluskey writes. "But they have no right not to be aggravated—only not to pay for it." It's time to expand higher-ed vouchers in Oklahoma.

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