High Tuition is a Gigantic Problem – But It Isn’t “The Problem”

Why Federal College Ratings Won’t Rein In Tuition – NYTimes.com.

I made the following comment.

A federal system of transparency and accountability is critical. But cost is not the most important reason.

As the author notes, “..Economic theory predicts… INFORMED [my emphasis] consumers will choose the cheapest option that meets their needs…”

Almost by definition, students (also, incorrectly, known as “consumers”) are not “informed”.

As the famous sociologist David Riesman noted in his seminal “On Higher Education: The Academic Enterprise in an Era of Rising Student Consumerism” (1980),

“…the “wants” of students to which competing institutions, departments, and individual faculty members cater are quite different from the “needs” of students…”

Riesman further noted that,

“…advantage can…be taken of [students] by unscrupulous instructors and institutions…[and] those who speak in [the student estate's] name are not always its friends…”

In other words, students aren’t “informed” and shouldn’t be considered “consumers”.

So, as Riesman, and Clark Kerr, recommended decades ago, we need government oversight and regulation in order to ensure a good education for our young people. That’s the only way, as Jefferson well knew, that we will be able to ensure a good society for them.

(A final comment. I have spent 30 years in higher education, and it has become worse since Riesman’s day, believe me – even at so-called “elite” schools.)

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