Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Educators Spar over Higher Education Act

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Educators Spar over Higher Education Act

Article excerpt

Is the Higher Education Act really making college more affordable? Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, who control the writing of a new version of the bill due this year, armed themselves with some testimony indicating that it might waste money and increase costs in the long run.

The Committee took a day of testimony from scholars with opposing views, calling the hearing "College Access: Is Government Part of the Solution, or Part of the Problem?" But the Republicans hinted they harbor grave doubts about significantly increasing federal aid to college students. Chairman John Boehner, R-Ohio, opened the proceedings by stating, "This is probably going to be one of our more provocative hearings. We are surrounded by evidence that the Higher Education Act is not getting the job done for today's students and parents."

Boehner added, "Before Congress proceeds with this reauthorization, I think we're obligated to take a look at the role the federal government may be playing in the hyperinflation of college costs. I also believe we need to look for ways in which the federal government can give college consumers more information and more choices, restore fairness for low- and middle-income students, and encourage greater competition and innovation in the higher education marketplace."

The initial testimony came courtesy of economics professor Dr. Richard Vedder of Ohio University, who stated that "access to college is not growing much despite--or maybe even because of--the well-intended efforts of the federal and state governments. All told, federal higher education policy is a perfect example of the Law of Unintended Consequences."

Vedder is also listed as an adjunct scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which published his book last year, Going Broke by Degree. Why College Costs Too Much. He applied classical supply/demand theory to education, reminding the legislators that when government increases loans, grants and tax credits for education, more people want to attend college at any tuition level. Therefore, demand increases and supply remains the same, so schools raise prices.

Vedder said that "in the 1983-1984 school year, American college students received $28.4 billion in financial assistance from all sources. Twenty years later, that aid had grown more than four-fold to $122 billion, two-thirds of which was provided by the federal government. In the five years between the 1998-1999 and 2003-2004 school years, per-student assistance rose at an annual rate of 11.66 percent a year, a truly extraordinary rate of growth."

Vedder did not, however, factor in inflation or changes in the school-age population in providing the figures. …

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