Yesterday, 50 wealthy parents and university officials, among them actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were charged in the nation’s largest and most expensive college admissions corruption case ever prosecuted.
If it seems weird to most Americans to spend half a million bucks bribing the University of Southern California to admit your daughters as crew recruits, it’s because they haven’t spent much time in what Charles Murray calls Super ZIPs, the uber-wealthy coastal enclaves that increasingly measure self- and social worth according to placement on the U.S. News & World Report ranking.
The legal way to go about these things, of course, is to put up a campus building with your family name on it. Illegal new money bribery aside, the justifications for propping up universities, which often act as little more than elite sorting mechanisms as well as left-wing indoctrination centers, are growing thin.
The federal government spends $75 billion a year on higher education. Taxpayers also hold the ultimate dance card for the $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, much of which will likely not be fully repaid. For public universities, state-level funds also play a large role.
For their massive investment, Americans enjoy the fruits of their left-wing radicalism incubators in the form of a generation that views socialism as better than capitalism, free speech as dangerous, and America as irredeemably racist, sexist, and bigoted. And don’t forget the brilliant academic research co-authored by felines we all underwrite.
You would think that Republicans would dial back subsidies to left-wing colleges out of mere self-interest, but nobody has ever gone broke betting against Republican backbones. Despite controlling Congress and the presidency for two full years, Republicans failed even to curb increases in student loan subsidies. At minimum, freezing federally backed loans at current levels would halt their upward pressure on tuition prices, which have skyrocketed well above inflation thanks to government largess.
To add insult to injury, the cost of this government generosity is borne not just by those who use it, but by the two-thirds of Americans who do not have a bachelor’s degree. Subsidies for higher education may well be one of the most regressive programs in operation, skimming from President Trump’s “forgotten men and women” to hand goodies to the children of the nation’s elites.
The left, allegedly still the voice of the working man, wants to increase that burden. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other mainstream voices in the Democratic Party have voiced support for “tuition free” college, which of course in reality means “tuition bill entirely funded by the U.S. taxpayer.”
If she wants to really eat the rich, she should instead look into why the tax code exempts multi-billion-dollar endowments while the institutions attached to them still accept federal charity in the form of taxpayer-backed student loans. Why should a single student at Yale University, which has a cool $26 billion laying around in its endowment, require a taxpayer-backed loan to attend?
“Nonprofit,” that magical word, covers Harvard University’s $39 billion endowment as well as well-staffed “diversity” departments and Olympic swimming pools. But Congress is holding hearings to attempt to slap regulatory standards onto the small number of for-profit universities that often typically serve poorer and older student populations that the most prestigious legacy institutions wouldn’t bother to consider.
The definition of chutzpah is endowment-laden universities, the recipients of $1.5 trillion in taxpayer-funded loans, calling their alumni, hat in hand, as though they were the local soup kitchen. Universities are big business, and their excess is all the more offensive for having being built in no small part on the backs of the majority of Americans who never set foot in their hallowed halls.
It makes no sense for a Republican majority to hand out subsidies to the breeding grounds of their political opponents. It makes even less sense for Americans making the average household income of $60,000 to subsidize the elite’s women’s studies degrees.
This is the new feudalism. Universities appeal to the public purse on the basis that they form better workers and citizens, and take the best from all walks of life on a meritocratic basis for the study of higher things. The reality they offer is a laughable shadow of that promise, and not just because Hollywood actresses apparently bribe smart kids to take the ACT in place of their children.
The bribery case making headlines yesterday just might be the least fraudulent thing about higher education.