2006 November 24 Friday
New York Times Once More Sees Money As Educational Answer

As if colleges and universities are not expensive enough already the editors of the New York Times want to push the higher education demand curve rightward.

Democrats who ran for Congress this fall made the cost of college a big campaign issue. Now that they’ve won control of the House and Senate, they can prepare to act swiftly on at least some of the factors that have priced millions of poor and working-class Americans right out of higher education. The obvious first step would be to boost the value of the federal Pell Grant program — a critical tool in keeping college affordable that the federal government has shamefully ceased to fund at a level that meets the national need.

This policy prescription is so yesterday. Why isn't the Gray Lady pontificating that university costs have gotten ridiculous? College costs have been going up faster than inflation for decades. It is time to stop feeding the beast. The Gray Lady should be proposing ways to drive down the cost of education. Universities are far too labor intensive and oligopolistic.

Ways to drive down costs could deliver top quality education to the vast majority who can not afford the most expensive colleges and universities. How? Video record top lecturers in every field of study. Such recordings would allow all students to watch lectures of equal quality to the lectures that students get at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Cal Tech and Stanford. State governments could fund and give free access to the recordings. Then standardized tests could allow students to take tests any day of the week in proctored rooms where they'd only pay for test administration costs.

The Gray Lady is also upset that since upper class families are more likely to produce kids who can make it into top research universities that most of the financial aid at those universities goes to upper class kids.

In recent years, aid to students whose families earn over $100,000 has more than quadrupled at the public flagship and research universities. Incredibly, the average institutional grant to students from high-income families is actually larger than the average grant to low- or middle-income families.

Income has become more correlated with intelligence as the economic value of muscle has dropped relative to the economic value of brains. Smarter people have responded by directing their kids toward top universities. Those people and their children earn more and their children then have children who are much smarter on average and more likely to get into top universities. Gone are the days when so few parents were educated that the lower classes could produce lots of first generation college students.

That kids from more affluent families should be getting most of the financial aid at universities with very high admissions standards is therefore not surprising. Those universities charge more and the kids from upper middle class and upper class families are smart enouigh to get into those places.

But of course the Gray Lady belongs to the ranks of deniers of The Bell Curve. Both the editors of the New York Times and many of its readers support the taboo enforcing commissars who prevent policy debates about education from connecting firmly with reality.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 November 24 06:22 PM  Education

John S Bolton said at November 24, 2006 9:56 PM:

When you throw way too much money at college education, so as to maximize the percentage of the age cohorts actually attending, an effect like Gresham's law takes over.
A scramble for the top school's places intensifies, since the ordinary ones are so filled up with average students that the above-average have to distinguish themselves by going to a better school.
Bad money drives out good, and the public responds with more money, until we get a fearsome hierarchy of schools and diplomas, the greater part of which is completely unnecessary.
Someone should mention that the volume of aggression on the net taxpayer is raised by sending all these young people to college who should be working.
Meanwhile, the unavailability of those college students for work, helps push employers towards using illegals more than otherwise, who then throw their children into a more dysfunctional public school system, causing more outcries for more money for more and worse education.

Bob Badour said at November 25, 2006 6:19 AM:

Of course the folks writing for the NY Times call for more money instead of reduced cost to make college accessible. These are exactly the people who see themselves teaching journalism at Columbia or NYU. Journalists see academics as being 'their people', and anything that improves the welfare of their cohort overall helps them too.

It's just another sort of primitive tribalism. They are part of the oligarchy.

birch barlow said at November 25, 2006 7:37 PM:

This particular quote, I think, sums up the practical psychosis of the leftists at the NYT.

"But larger Pell Grants can’t solve this crisis alone. Policy changes will also be required in the states, where public universities have been choking off college access and upward mobility for the poor by shifting away from the traditional need-based aid formula to a so-called merit formula that heavily favors affluent students. The resulting drop in the fortunes of even high-performing low-income students — many of whom no longer attend college at all — is documented in an eye-opening report released recently by the Education Trust, a nonpartisan foundation devoted to education reform."

What??? If the "high performing low income" students really are high-performing, wouldn't they be seeing the same benefits (if not higher, given the alleged massive increase in merit-based aid) as before?

John S Bolton said at November 25, 2006 9:55 PM:

It's not crazy for them to say that money is the solution for IQ inequalities, if they want power, for themselves or others.

John S Bolton said at November 25, 2006 9:57 PM:

If you want power, the concepts of merit and deserving are in the way.
On a merit system people can cooperate without needing a dictator.

sjrhett said at November 26, 2006 11:04 AM:

Thanks for reminding me of the hopelessness and cluelessness of the libertarian viewpoint erroneously assigned to the "right".

"Such recordings would allow all students to watch lectures of equal quality to the lectures that students get at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Cal Tech and Stanford." You forgot to mention Chicago, sadly now the most perniciously efficacious of the lot.

Yes, great, let’s even further nationalize, glorify, and enrich liberal establishment higher “education”, really indoctrination. Sure, [Even more than] bmillions for the liberal education establishment, but [little more than] one cent for intellectually independent higher education. Read “liberal” think “judicial anarcho –tyranny”.

If you really want an education, save our money, and read their books. You need to.

Randall Parker said at November 26, 2006 12:06 PM:


I was thinking more along the lines of lectures in engineering and the harder sciences and math.

But I would argue that if, say, we have downloadable lectures on world history from 1000 university professors then people will be able to sort through and promote to others those lecturers whose biases they find acceptable. They are not uniform in their embrace of leftist ideology. So making large numbers of lectures available for download will bring much more competition and variety to the education marketplace.

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