Patrick Callan’s statement reminds me of something Herbert Stein said many years ago when he was on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (Nixon, I think). In response to one of those hand-wringing arguments that began, “Things just can’t keep going this way . . . ,” Stein said in essence, “If something can’t continue, it will stop. There’s no obvious reason why the government needs to get involved.”
If college costs keep escalating the way they have for another 25 years, hardly anyone will be able to afford college. That may be true, but it doesn’t follow that government needs to do anything. College officials can and will find ways to reduce costs so they don’t find their classrooms (and coffers) empty. Just as the Big Three prefer a federal bailout to the difficult task of fighting tooth and nail with the UAW to lower costs, higher-education officials would rather have government throw more money their way so they can continue operating in the high-cost, low-effectiveness manner to which they have become accustomed. If they don’t get more revenue, they’ll be compelled to do what ordinary people and businesses do when faced with a budget crunch — lower costs.