Anticipating his entry into the presidential race, the Washington Post ran a long piece on Texas Governor Rick Perry's ideas about higher education. "A man of grand plans," the headline warned, "criticized as not sweating the details." Are the headline writers at the Post on summer break? Did the temps have to dust off headlines from the Reagan era? Reagan's ideas were constantly dismissed by the bien passant as "simplistic." So anyone who gets tagged as simplistic by the Post gets an immediate benefit-of-the-doubt from me. As Margaret Thatcher said at Reagan's funeral, " . . . his ideas, though clear, were never simplistic. He saw the many sides of truth."
So what has Perry done to earn this epithet? He's taken on the higher education establishment in Texas. He has proposed - gasp -- that Texas's four-year institutions develop a plan to offer bachelor's degrees for no more than $10,000. "Skeptics," the Post tells us, say that the goal cannot be achieved without sacrificing "academic quality and prestige." It shows, these same unnamed critics assert, that the governor has a "record of plunging into splashy ventures, at times, despite the complexities, constituencies, or sensitivities involved."
So it's half-cocked to suggest that universities, even public universities, reduce their fees. But when President Obama suggests digging ourselves ever deeper into debt to further subsidize higher education, that's a complex and nuanced approach? Has Obama thought deeply about the problem of the higher education bubble? Has he considered that for decades the federal government has been subsidizing college and graduate work (through grants and loans) and that as a consequence, institutions of higher learning have been jacking up their fees?
Mark Perry, at The Enterprise Blog, has offered a handy chart showing the trend lines for the consumer price index, housing prices and college tuition from 1978 to 2011.
"Between 1978 and 1997, home prices increased annually at about the same rate as general prices, but then appreciated at a faster pace over the next decade. In the ten-year period starting in 1997, home prices increased by 68 percent, or more than twice the 29 percent increase in overall prices, and that home price appreciation caused an unsustainable housing bubble that burst in 2007 and contributed to the financial crisis of 2008-2009.