Many of my friends and readers are disheartened by recent cultural and political trends. Many blame our universities and wonder whether we can ever restore sanity in our nation, given that the enemy seems to control the modern university. They see no chance to win in the war of ideas as long as they are forced to support the public university and, therefore, forced to fund a war against their own cherished values.
But I know something they don't know. The public university that has declined so steadily in recent years will cease to exist in just a few short decades. The moral bankruptcy we have seen over the last twenty years is about to be followed by another sort of bankruptcy. Before long, many of the universities that have betrayed taxpayers and alumni will be forced out of business. It will happen for the following reasons:
1. Federal funding reductions. LBJ got us deeply entrenched in the business of federal funding for institutions of higher education. When he did, tuition began to skyrocket. More recently, the federal government has gotten us deeply entrenched in the business of individual student loans. This has had the same effect. When a lot of people are able to borrow a lot of money to purchase goods or services, the effect on the price of those goods and services is dramatic. Supply and demand is not a rule; it is a law.
State university administrators seized upon the increased demand for higher education by raising tuition. This was done for three reasons: a) because they could, b) because they wanted to give themselves raises, and c) because they wanted to hire associate and assistant administrators to do their work for them.
Now, the federal deficit is spinning out of control. As a result, the federal government will soon have to cut aid to state universities. This will confront administrators with this important decision: will they a) cut administrative spending, or b) raise tuition? The answer will be "b."