The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

The Ivory Debtors' Prison

Neetu Arnold

Administrative bloat and extraneous spending by colleges and universities are draining the American middle class while enriching administrators and politicians. 

The College Board is Abandoning 'Adversity Scores'—But Not Completely


The College Board backtracks but continues to push a new adversity score regime. David Randall gets the scoop in RealClearEducation.

What the Tax-Reform Law Could do to Higher Education

Peter Wood

The new tax-reform bill has the potential to reshape the landscape of higher education. 

ACTA Releases New Report on College Costs


ACTA is publishing a new report on rising administrative costs in higher education.

How to Stop Complaining and Start Fixing America's Higher Education Crisis

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood surveys higher education's problems and offers solutions. 

Under the Ivy

Peter Wood

Ivy League universities picked up $41.59 billion in taxpayer-funded payments. How do these universities spend their share of the public purse? 

On the Alleged Exploitation of Adjuncts

George Leef

Are adjunct professors treated unjustly?

College Scorecard: How Much Will You Earn?

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood examines the fuzzy numbers of the U.S. Department of Education's new College Scorecard.

Two Unintended Consequences of Federal Meddling

George Leef

George Leef dicusses the dubious effects and soaring costs of federal intervention in higher education.

How Data-Mining Hurts Higher Education

Peter Wood

The promises of data-mining in higher education are that we will end up with more students achieving degrees at lower cost, but the soft totalitarianism that will be required to achieve these gains is a high cost.

Are College Degrees the New Taxi Medallions?

Rachelle Peterson

Much like taxi car medallions, college degrees are viewed as pricey but essential investments.

Will MOOCs Cost Money?

Rachelle Peterson

The cost-free model of MOOCs may not last forever. College administrators speculate that they may soon need to start charging tuition.

Course Correction: It’s Time for UT-Austin’s President to Step Down

Publius Audax

A faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin calls on the president of the university to step down. 

“Kickstart” Your Academic Career: Crowdfunding to Pay for College

Marilee Turscak

Crowdfunding websites allow students to earn support through the Internet to cover tuition costs.

Our two bubbles: housing and college

George Leef

George Leef writes that the housing bubble and the college bubble both stemmed from an entitlement mentality fueled by government programs.

Five (Mostly True) Myths About College

George Leef

A recent article in Money purports to bust myths about college costs - but the myths turn out to have a lot of truth.

What Do MOOCs Cost?

Rachelle Peterson

MOOCs are often hailed as the cost-savers of higher ed, but it turns out they're rather expensive to make. 

Utopian Solution to Higher Ed's Problems: Make It Free

George Leef

Robert Samuels argues in a new book that public higher ed can and should be free; George Leef disagrees.

An Embarrassing Portrait of a State Flagship University

George Leef

Paying for the Party confirms many of your worst fears about big state universities.

Cut the Cost of College by Unbundling

George Leef

College education wouldn’t cost so much if students could “unbundle” and buy just what they want.

The Youth Vote

Jason Fertig

We know why faculty lean left.  But why do students?

Colleges Use Space Inefficiently

George Leef

The poor utilization of campus space is one of the many reasons why higher education costs too much.

A Degree that Students Can Afford

Crystal Plum

A recent report shows a decline in college enrollment due to a weak economy. Texas Gov. Perry hopes to offer a more affordable option with the $10,00 degree.

American Higher Education: Is It in Crisis?

Richard Vedder

Vedder foresees big changes coming in American higher education.

Why Higher Ed Costs So Much and Delivers So Little

George Leef

The Pope Center looks at how higher education funds are allocated, for better or for worse.

Misdirected Rebukes: For-Profits Aren't the Real Problem

Ashley Thorne

Pushing people into junk education is a problem; whether the junk is for-profit or not-for-profit is irrelevant.

Helium, Part 2

Peter Wood

Peter Wood considers how the higher-education bubble could pop.

Universities Neglect Financial Sustainability

Ashley Thorne

Mission creep in higher education turns out to have some serious monetary consequences for individual institutions. A new study urges college and university leaders to get back to the core and stop trying to be an all-purpose operation.

The Texas Model of Higher Education Reform

Thomas K. Lindsay

Texas is trying some innovative ideas for higher education, setting a good example for the rest of the country.

More Good News on the Value of Your College Degree

Glenn Ricketts

NAS board member Tom Lindsay describes the rewards of your degree in popular culture.

The 12 Reasons College Costs Keep Rising

Richard Vedder

NAS Board member Richard Vedder discusses the probable reasons for continually rising college costs.

College Is a Drain

Ashley Thorne

This week brought a shower of pronouncements about how college is squandering American resources. 

A Rolls-Royce For-Profit University?

Richard Vedder

An elite, high-quality, for-profit, residential university is feasible, writes Richard Vedder.

Community College Presidents and Compensation

Glenn Ricketts

Price Controls: Obama's Higher Ed Agenda, Part 2 of 8

Peter Wood

In the second of an eight-part series, Peter Wood examines the president’s newly announced goal of capping tuition increases via federally imposed price controls.

Defending Online Learning, Part One

Thomas K. Lindsay

Once a skeptic, Thomas K. Lindsay now sees online education as a powerful means to address the crisis in American higher education.

Why They Seem to Rise Together: Federal Aid and College Tuition

Peter Wood

Peter Wood, Richard Vedder, George Leef, Hans Bader, and Herbert London weigh in on the Center for College Affordability and Productivity's new study on whether colleges raise tuition when they receive federal aid.

Bennett, Biden, and Boondoggles

Richard Vedder

The vice president appears to be the latest to agree that federal student-aid programs are contributing to rising college costs, writes Richard Vedder.

Parents Pile Up Education Loans, Imperil Retirement Years

Glenn Ricketts

Well-meaning parents who borrow heavily to finance their children's college education end up with mountainous debts and endangered retirements

Obama, Higher-Education Costs, and Student Aid

Richard Vedder

Yes, President Obama is showing concern over rising college costs, but he is failing to look at the dysfunctional system of federal financial assistance, Richard Vedder writes.

The Coming Assault on Beadledom

Glenn Ricketts

The Ivory Tower is submerged in academic administrators.

Video: Neal McCluskey on Student Loans Driving up Tuition

The associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom discusses college cost inflation with Andy Nash.

I Don't Usually Recommend Rap Videos....

George Leef

But here's a very pointed one about the student debt bubble, with many sad college grads appealing to Barack to save them.

No Undergrad Degree Is Worth $250,000

Ashley Thorne

So says financial expert Dave Ramsey to a woman whose stepdaughter wants her parents to finance her $250,000 private college education.


What If There Were Prison Loan Debts?

Kate Hamilton

The average cost for one year of prison is more expensive than one year at Princeton University.  

NYT Writer Observes That College Costs a Lot, But Students Learn Little

George Leef

While higher ed expenses and concomitant student debt loads have risen greatly, many students put in little effort to get B or better averages. 

Is Higher Ed on the Brink of Major Change?

George Leef

In the recent book by Clay Christensen and Henry Eyring, The Innovative University, the authors contend that many colleges and universities will be left in the dust unless they figure out how to adapt, much as companies have crumbled when innovative technologies hit their markets and they couldn't rapidly adjust to it.

Western Governors University Moves Online Education Forward

George Leef

Duke Cheston writes that Western Governors University has found solutions to some of the problems that have plagued online higher ed. 

Disrupting the Textbook Machine

David Clemens

The higher education bubble was inflated by various pumps and gases:  expensive but useless degrees, an ideological straitjacket, grade inflation, administrative bloat, and proliferating programs, centers, and offices of enigmatic, malign, or Kafkaesque purpose. 

Video: Andrew Ferguson on the College Admissions Circus

"The entire edifice of higher education now has a huge propaganda machine at its heart, relentlessly pounding home the idea that everybody should go to college." - Andrew Ferguson, father of a college student

Is the "College Cost Disease" Incurable?

George Leef

John Moore, who served as president of Grove City College, discusses the recent book by Professor Robert Martin, The College Cost Disease. He thinks that Martin’s analysis is mostly correct, but argues that it is possible for colleges to overcome the disease or never contract it in the first place. Smaller institutions with a clear educational mission and careful oversight from trustees can maintain high academic standards while keeping costs down.

Profitable Nonprofits

George Leef

Professor Vance Fried in “Federal Higher Education Policy and the Profitable Nonprofits” argues that nonprofit colleges act like profit-making enterprises, but they simply spend their excess revenues in ways that keep the people in and around them happy — the faculty and administrators primarily. 

Admissions Insanity

John C. Chalberg

Historian John C. Chalberg reviews Andrew Ferguson's Crazy U, and concludes that the title has some merit.

Video: John Zmirak on How to Choose a College

What makes a college overpriced? How do you identify

Another Degree-less Individual Makes Good

George Leef

In today's Pope Center piece, Joe Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, writes about his unusual experience with the University of Chicago. Lots of courses and lots of learning, but no degree. Fortunately, he got into a field where the lack of college credential did not bar him from working with the skills and knowledge he had -- the think tank world.

Video: The Federal Takeover of Higher Education

Peter Wood spoke about the effects of federal direct lending on rising generations and higher education at a panel with the Family Research Council.

Video: George Leef on Higher Education - Oversold and Underperforming

George Leef warns that Americans will soon realize they are paying too much for too little education at our colleges and universities.

Federal Student Aid Helps Colleges, Not Students

George Leef

That is the finding of a recent study done by Robert Martin and Andrew Gillen for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and I write about it in this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call. 

Video: Richard Vedder on the "Nearly-Everyone-Should-Go-to-College" Idea

Richard Vedder, president of the CCAP, interviewed with Inside Academia this week on the economics of college education and on why tuition costs have gotten to be so high.

Video: Anne Neal on the Responsibilities of Universities

Anne Neal explains why students should not be thought of as customers, and how colleges must be held accountable for providing solid, affordable education.

College Costs More Because States are Defunding It

George Leef

So goes one of the standard explanations for the continual rise in the cost of going to college. In this Cato@Liberty post, Neal McCluskey tears it apart. Until recently, college and university leaders found it fairly easy to get money from politicians and donors and they delighted in spending it. As Thomas Sowell has observed, when college leaders spend more money, they claim that their costs have increased, thus justifying still more appropriations and requiring yet more giving and higher tuition. With state budgets deep in the red, family portfolios down, and increased skepticism that college is such a good "investment" for everyone, the easy livin' is over.

The Provocative Ideas of "Publius Audax"


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.

Could the UNC System Do Without Diversity Offices?

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Duke Cheston looks at the numerous diversity offices throughout the UNC System. College campuses would still be highly diverse if we stopped trying to increase the percentages of students who have certain ancestries.

Rich Vedder Responds

George Leef

In this extensive Inside Higher Ed piece, Rich Vedder responds to criticism by Anthony Carnevale, who takes issue with Vedder’s argument that many college graduates derive no financial benefit from their degrees. 

Examining For-Profits and Cost Structure

Peter Wood

Continuing his series on for-profit colleges, Peter Wood sees an advantage in their pared-down offerings in the context of spiraling higher-education costs.

$200K in Debt for Her BA in Sociology

George Leef

Kelli Space is a poster child for the damage done by our college degree mania, fueled by easy federal money .

Student Riots in Britain

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews the student protests over tuition hikes in Britain and the emergence of a 15-year-old as the YouTube star of the protest movement.

Do We Really Want to "Stabilize" State University Funding?

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I take a critical look at a proposal made in the Nov. 23 Wall Street Journal by University of Oregon president Richard Lariviere. He repeats the usual lines about how the US is becoming less well educated since fewer young people are obtaining college degrees, rapidly rising tuition, and falling state appropriations to conjure up a scenario meant to alarm Oregonians. He wants them to "save" the University of Oregon through a plan whereby the legislature would borrow half of the endowment he thinks is needed to "stabilize" funding. My contention is that this is a bad deal for taxpayers. It only saves U of O officials from having to compete for tax dollars, along with many other possible uses of money. Everyone would like to have guaranteed revenues and escape the need to persuade people to buy or donate. We get better results, however --more efficient use of resources--when decision makers have to worry that if they aren't doing a good job, people will say "no."

Is This the Way to Improve College Admissions?

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I review Robert Sternberg's recent book College Admissions for the 21st Century. Sternberg's contention is that colleges can admit a better student body -- more students with leadership potential, creativity, and wisdom -- if they would plumb students for their hidden talents. I doubt that it's really possible to engage in anything more than guesswork in that regard from reading essays by college applicants. Even if it's possible to accurately identify those with stellar hidden talents, all that accomplishes is a slight redistribution of where kids go to college. It's not worth the considerable cost. Sternberg argues that revising college admissions as he suggests will help bring about greater "equity" and "social justice" in the world. Color me skeptical about that, too.

More Ideas for Reducing the Cost of College

Ashley Thorne

Here's the next installment (chapters 6-12) from our CCAP friends in their report, “25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College.” We at NAS especially appreciate #6. And we recently published a major article on #10 in Academic Questions. 6. Reduce Administrative Staff 7. Cut Unnecessary Programs 8. End the “Athletics Arms Race” 9. Overhaul the FAFSA 10. Eliminate Excessive Academic Research 11. Streamline Redundant Programs at the State Level 12. Promote Collaborative Purchasing

CCAP: 5 Lower Cost Alternatives to Help Reduce the Price of College

Ashley Thorne

Our friends at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) have released the first in a 5-part, book-length report called "25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College." NAS applauds this initiative and looks forward to reading the report in its entirety.  Peter Wood recently blogged about how colleges transform increases in federal student aid into higher tuition and fees. And we join with those who predict that either (a) the higher education bubble will burst or (b) the college degree will become a nearly empty credential. What can we do to forestall these unwelcome outcomes? The CCAP has some ideas. The first part of its report is "Use Lower Cost Alternatives." 1. Encourage more students to attend community college 2. Promote Dual Enrollment Programs 3. Reform Academic Employment Policies 4. Offer Three Year Bachelor's Degrees 5. Outsource More Services Click on the links to read each section.

Money on the Table

Peter Wood

How colleges transform increases in federal student aid into higher tuition and fees.

Colleges Just Can't Avoid Rising Costs

George Leef

That, anyway, is an explanation we sometimes hear from the higher education establishment. Colleges are supposedly helpless victims of rising costs, particular because rising productivity elsewhere in the economy increases the opportunity costs of faculty members to remain in the education sector. In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, economics professor Robert Martin takes a very dim view of a new book that sets forth that exculpatory argument. Martin refutes it, then gives his own explanation for rising costs, which implicates administrative bloat and declining faculty productivity. Martin's own book on this subject will be published early next year by Edward Elgar.

"How Much Higher Should We Set the Prices for Next Year?"

Ashley Thorne

Peter Wood gives some insight into how colleges and universities answer that question.

A Debate on the Higher Ed "Business Model"

George Leef

Last February, I participated in a debate organized by the Miller Center of Public Affairs and broadcast on PBS. That was one in a series of debates on issues of national importance the Miller Center has done. They followed that debate with another one on higher education, with the question being whether the business model of higher education is broken. In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, I take a rather critical look at the "business model" debate. It generated a little heat (specifically the hostility one debater, a community college president, has for the for-profit sector) but didn't shed much light on the key question: why does higher education cost so much?

Financially Failing Colleges

Ashley Thorne

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that 150 colleges have failed the Department of Education's test of financial responsibility this year. That means these colleges could be in danger of either closing or being bought by for-profit entities. Last year 114 colleges were on this list, and at least one - Dana College - did not survive.

Click on the chart below to see the Chronicle's interactive map of failing institutions for the last three years.

Liberals Begin to See the College "Bubble"

George Leef

Writing for Huffington Post, Anya Kamenetz compares the huge level of student loan debt to the housing bubble. I'm glad to see understanding that we have oversold college spreading, but Kamenetz misses the role of the government in the college bubble, just as leftist writers turned a blind eye to the role of the government in the housing bubble. There would have been no housing bubble if it hadn't been for federal policy pushing home-ownership as if it were a good investment for everyone and making unrealistically cheap loans available. Similarly, government officials, starting with Barack Obama, keep telling young Americans that they need to go to college (otherwise, they're letting not just themselves but the nation down, says BHO) and enabling even the most academically weak, disengaged students to get into college with financial assistance from Uncle Sam. Kamenetz makes it sound as though the bad actors are all in the for-profit sector: "Someone with experience in the for-profit college marketing business told me that the same online sales geniuses who used to work for mortgage brokers are now employed by for-profit colleges. Their business is the same: fill out the forms, get the money, consequences be damned. Will we stop them this time?" Ah, but you'll find lots of kids drowning in their student loan debts who went to public colleges and universities as well. Those schools are just as eager to lure in warm bodies to fill the dorms and school coffers, just as eager to keep them enrolled even if they are learning little, and just as eager to slap educational credentials on them and send them into a job world that many will find as hospitable as Antarctica. The trouble is not the profit motive; non-profit institutions are no less hungry for revenue than proprietary ones. The trouble is that government policy makes it easy for people to misjudge the ratio between costs and benefits, leading to a profusion of decisions that borrowers later regret. Letting students escape from their debts in bankruptcy, which Kamenetz favors, only deals with the symptoms. I say we should attack the underlying pathology.

College Tuition vs. Home Prices vs. CPI...No Comment

Ashley Thorne

Chart: is college education the next bubble set to burst?

Why College Education Is Becoming Obsolete

Ashley Thorne

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting opinion piece by Seth Godin called "The Coming Meltdown in Higher Education (as Seen by a Marketer)" [subscription required]. Godin suggests alternatives to the four-year college, such as "gap years, research internships, and entrepreneurial or social ventures after high school," and believes that "There are tons of ways to get a cheap liberal education, one that exposes you to the world, permits you to have significant interactions with people who matter, and teaches you to make a difference (see DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, by Anya Kamenetz)" without going to a mainstream college. Godin argues that from a marketer's point of view, the typical American college is headed for obscurity for these reasons:

  • Most undergraduate college and university programs are organized to give an average education to average students. [See "Seven Imaginary Curricula"]
  • College has gotten expensive far faster than wages have gone up.
  • The definition of "best" [college] is under siege.
  • The correlation between a typical college degree and success is suspect.
  • Accreditation isn't the solution, it's the problem.

March Forth

Peter Wood

Today thousands of students at universities around the country and especially on California campuses are rallying to protest tuition hikes in public higher education. College costs have indeed become exorbitant, but is this the right way to confront the excess?

California Tuition Turmoil

Peter Wood

Protesters at the University of California have some demands that reflect ignorance of basic economics.

What Makes College Worth the Cost?

Ashley Thorne

Expected future earnings? A rigorous and complete education?

Thirteen Is A Start

Peter Wood

The NAS applauds the Chronicle of Higher Education's awakening to the systematic "mistakes" of American colleges and universities.

Hand It Over III

Dean Chin

Stop the spin: inside the financial aid numbers at Stanford

Hand It Over II

Dean Chin

Colleges Collect on Students' Summer Jobs

Hand It Over: Colleges Take Outside Scholarships for Granted

Dean Chin

Will outside scholarships, state and federal grants, or corporate employee tuition benefits help reduce my child

The Sweet Lemon Effect: College Grads Doubt Value of College Degrees-Except Their Own

Ashley Thorne

The American Council on Education released a survey showing that, although most people think that colleges in general charge unfair prices, most people also believe that their own alma mater charged them fairly. Whence the self-confidence?