ACTA in the News | Costs

Supreme Court opens door to real education reform

Higher education has gone woke, while sinking more than half of the students into $30,000+ debt
FOXNEWS.COM   |  August 10, 2023 by Rep. Greg Murphy

Like most conservatives, I was elated to see the Supreme Court strike down race-based admissions and President Joe Biden’s student loan debt bailout last month. I share the belief that the color of your skin should not impact your college admissions application, and folks without student loan debt should not be forced to foot the bill for those who do. However, I also believe that if we don’t lead on the issue of higher education reform, the left will continue to push their radical agenda through different means. 

The Supreme Court’s decisions addressed issues that originate from a much larger malady affecting colleges across the United States. That is, the erosion of the true function of higher education – the cultivation of polished, well-learned individuals capable of taking on the real world.  

Instead, our universities have become estranged from their intended purpose, sinking more than half of their students into debt in excess of $30,000, and have evolved into liberal hive minds. 

When I graduated in 1985, the annual cost of tuition at a public four-year institution was roughly $1,200. Today, that number is over $9,500. The eye-popping hike in the cost of higher education over the last several decades is due to two primary inputs, with inflation being a tertiary factor.

First, society has hoisted upon younger generations an obligation to attend college to succeed in life. The third-party payment model we employ allows young adults to plunge themselves into debt with little understanding of the tangible value of the degree and the stratified return-on-investment different fields of study confer to graduates. Over 2 million individuals now graduate with a bachelor’s degree each year, and because institutions know that there will always be a buyer, they have no incentive to reduce costs.  

Second, university expenditures have exploded due to the theme park-ification of campuses and administrative bloat. In 2021, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni released a meticulously detailed 52-page report on the runaway spending of colleges and universities. Using data from the Department of Education, the report revealed the drastic growth in spending on student services, which includes amenities, and the number of administrators has significantly outpaced instruction. 

Critics often contest my assertions in two ways that are important to address. First, that the federal government should increase subsidies to colleges and universities to reduce the costs of enrollment. That is a recipe for accelerating the woes we are currently witnessing and is a practical example of Einstein’s definition of insanity.  

And second, that student services are critical to the success of students and their wellbeing. While select services may offer value, such as career counseling, data suggests that there is almost no correlation between spending on student services and graduation rates. 

As a former member of a college board of trustees, I observed not only the steady growth in the cost of post-secondary education, but also the stunning forced progressive ideological shift of the school and others across the nation.  

The college president abused the authority of her office to push her own political views upon faculty and students with adverse repercussions should they not confirm. Since then, it has only gotten worse.  

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies are creeping into every administrative office, free speech on campuses is imperiled, and universities are becoming incubators of un-American, cult-like behavior. 

The disturbing ideological drift of American universities is a threat to this nation’s future, both philosophically and tangibly. The principles and rights enshrined in our Constitution are rapidly becoming incompatible with the progressive dogma proliferating on campuses today. 

And the quality of education students receive suffers when greater attention is given social justice theory than practical instruction. As a physician, I am particularly concerned by medical schools engaging in the woke social experiment by loosening application requirements and requiring diversity statements in the name of equity. 

We can continue to document, report and condemn illiberal radicalization of higher education, but without action, intellectual degeneracy and the ostracization of conservative principles will accelerate. 

I am outspoken about the woke progression of universities, lead on several pieces of legislation to combat the progressive blitz on campuses, and host an annual Congressional Campus Free Speech Roundtable to bring together key lawmakers, supportive outside groups and students to collaborate.

Everyone agrees reform is desperately needed, albeit in different ways, and the appetite for change is high. Conservatives must take our seat at the table and engage on this issue if we want to restore excellence in our universities and avoid losing support from young voters motivated by the enormous cost to attain a college degree. 

If we fail to meet the moment, we will allow the left to take ownership of this issue and define the policy narrative moving forward at great consequence.

This opinion piece appeared on on August 7, 2023.


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