Of all the ideas “reform conservatives” have come up with, the most promising is overhauling higher education. Haphazard and increasingly expensive federal subsidies for college education offer one of the few areas where the Republican party’s political need to address the economic insecurities of the working class can be accomplished without betraying the conservative movement’s anti-government impulses.
In some ways, college subsidies work like fee-for-service medicine, which pays doctors and hospitals to provide more medical care but not necessarily better health. College tuition subsidies encourage colleges to enroll students, but do not give them an incentive to furnish these students with useful skills. There’s no cost to the providers for a school that fails to graduate a huge proportion of its student body, or leaves them laden with debt — the feds pay the bill, regardless.