Pajamas Media have published a series of posts on higher education in Texas, authored by “Publius Audax”, a pseudonym for a professor at an undisclosed state university. Readers of this blog might be interested in what Publius has to say. In “Needed Reforms for Public Higher Education in Texas (and Elsewhere)”, Publius advocates what he calls the “Entrepreneurial Professor” model.
That view is hardly surprising among the limited government types who frequent the NAS blog, but quite surprising when you hear it from a "progressive" writer. That's the case, however, with DIY U by Anya Kamenetz, and I write about the book in this week's Pope Center Clarion Call. I entitle my piece "Three Cheers for Half a Book" but it's really only about the first third that is marred by the author's fondness for hard-wired leftist ideas such as that we need to "fix the economy" with more redistribution and by fomenting labor unions. That stuff isn't relevant to Kamenetz's core argument that higher ed is being transformed to make it far more user friendly and less expensive. Although she doesn't exactly say so, change is happening through laissez-faire capitalism. The free market's process for discovering what works well and abandoning what works less well is boiling away and will lead to dramatic changes in higher education -- unless the institutions of the status quo manage to stop it by the use of political influence. This is something that "progressives" and free-market advocates can agree on: established institutions (businesses, universities, professional associations, etc.) usually attempt to protect themselves against change by appealing to politicians for favors. To the extent that they succeed, progress is thwarted. As momentum for change builds, look for colleges to start lobbying for regulations designed to slow or stop it.
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about the "Capitalism on Campus" conference sponsored by the Manhattan Institute. It was a first-rate event that brought together scholars to discuss how capitalism fares these days (not very well, on the whole) and what approaches we might take to ensure that more students get something other than the anti-capitalist mentality (as Ludwig von Mises termed it) that is so prevalent among professors.
Economics professor Steven Horwitz has written an article for the Foundation for Economic Education taking further issue with the scurrilous piece I mentioned here on Monday. Like so many others who have an instinctive hatred for the system of voluntary production and exchange (generally called "capitalism" but that term is so loaded with both emotion and misinformation that it's better to avoid it), the writer of the piece in question doesn't get his facts straight. Horwitz provides some needed instruction.
In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, Hillsdale economics professor Gary Wolfram discusses the recent study on for-profit higher education published by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. He finds that the authors have correctly identified the factor that makes the for-profits efficient, namely that their incentives are aligned with the interests of students. Being "non-profit" may sound lovely to those who have been raised with what Ludwig von Mises called the anticapitalist mentality, but non-profit status doesn't mean that self-interest disappears. The quest for profit drives all kinds of businesses, including educational ones, to make the best use of resources.
In today's Pope Center piece, Michael Strong gives a ringing defense of programs such as those funded by BB&T that are designed to teach students about capitalism and particularly the value of entrepreneurship. Students usually enter college knowing little or nothing about the role of the entrepreneur, and most graduates leave with some degree of hostility toward business, thanks to professors who harbor an ignorant hostility toward capitalism. (In this article, Strong provides an example.) So if we think it a good thing for young people to complete their college studies with a more informed and realistic view of how economic progress comes about, what is wrong with programs like those BB&T has been promoting? Nothing, Strong argues.