Last Thursday, the Obama administration created new regulations targeting “for-profit” universities such as trade and vocational schools, which include everything from medical technicians to chefs. The proposed regulations would cut federal aid to programs that don’t meet the Education Department’s new standards. However, these regulations are an attempt to use government to fix a problem it created; they ignore the benefits of a decentralized market in education.
"These new regulations will help ensure that students at these schools are getting what they pay for: Solid preparation for a good job,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a Fox News article. “We're giving career colleges every opportunity to reform themselves, but we're not letting them off the hook, because too many vulnerable students are being hurt."
As the story reports, both conservatives and liberals are not pleased with the new regulations. Each side offers their own suggestions on how to centrally manage the education of millions from bureaucrats’ desks in Washington, D.C.
This, however, is the problem with education in America: The federal government intervening in what is essentially a private matter. Liberals usually want more involvement due to misguided altruism and garnering union votes for Democrats. On the other hand, conservatives have no problem with government in education, as long as the funding comes from the ROTC and Department of Defense.
What the new regulations reveal is that so-called “private” schools are very similar to “public” schools. They are both beneficiaries of government subsidies, directly through aid and indirectly through federal loan programs (not to mention it devalues currency). All of this government intervention distorts the marketplace for education by raising the price, decreasing the quality, and creating a one-size-fits-all regimentation.
Government intervention has turned education into an expensive mess; if the definition of insanity is continually doing the same thing over again yet expecting different results, what does that say about the proponents of more government involvement in education?
Instead of tinkering how government manages education, why not decentralize control over education to states, cities, communities, and families and allow the market's diversity and experimentation to prosper? The market tends to deliver higher quality at the lowest cost — the exact opposite manner of government — which would do wonders for education, especially the poor.
I understand that creating a system of education guided by liberty instead of top-down, centralized dictate is unrealistic in the climate of political special interests. However, as more young people hold degrees, few job opportunities, and a lifetime of debt, a free market in education will likely spread.
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