In his new book, law professor Glenn Reynolds, host of the Instapundit blog, argues that higher education is the new bubble. Like the housing bubble, the higher education bubble has been driven by subsidized loans and overly optimistic expectations about the future value of that investment. The housing bubble’s collapse left a shattered financial system and wiped out trillions from American families’ net worth. The higher education bubble’s explosion will leave millions of young Americans holding a degree that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on and a gigantic debt burden which will discourage entrepreneurism and family formation, both of which are critical to their—and our country’s—long-term financial health.
Our current college and university system, donned with decades worth of new high-tech labs, posh dorms, and cutting edge lecture halls, will also be rocked as new questions are raised about what, exactly, students—and taxpayers—are buying when they send these institutions so much money.
Enter Governor Daniels. Followers of education reform may know that his tenure in Indiana included the enactment of one of the nation’s largest school choice programs. But less appreciated has been Governor Daniels’s role in improving access to educational opportunities through Indiana’s partnership with the Western Governors University (WGU), a private, low-cost online university. More than 33,000 students across the country take classes online through WGU, where students are charged a flat-fee of $2,890 for a 6-month term.
By taking the helm at Purdue, Governor Daniels now has the opportunity to change higher education from within by implementing similar reforms to improve quality, drive-down cost, and expand access.
Just over the past year, schools like Stanford, MIT, and Harvard have begun offering free online courses that students anywhere can take, earning a grade and certificate of mastery, if they successfully complete the work. A MIT course on Circuits and Electronics attracted 120,000 students. Stanford’s free online class on Artificial Intelligence attracted 58,000 students.
Given Daniels’ track record in government, it would be surprising if he does not pursue similar cost-changing and quality-enhancing reforms at Purdue. Such reforms could make Purdue a leader in the new postsecondary education paradigm and serve as a model for other institutions.
Wouldn’t it make sense for the man who earned the nickname “the Blade” as OMB Director to help pop the higher education bubble?