So Obama has had to abandon his plan to tax 529 college savings plans to pay for his “free” community college proposal, because lo and behold lots of middle class people are 529 savers. But Republicans could still enable Obama to pay for this proposal with a tax that actually hits the genuine rich: a surtax on large private college endowments—say on all endowments that are more than something like $1 million per student. This would hit the ivy league schools that these days are raking in nearly $1 billion a year in contributions according to the latest reports. (I recall an old line from Conan O’Brien—a Harvard grad—about Harvard’s donor pitch: “We’re Harvard. We don’t need your money. We just want it.”) Or instead of a surtax directly on endowments, reduce the tax deductibility of donations to college endowments above a certain level.
And if Republicans really want to start riots in faculty clubs, they should pass Obama’s community college plan with one proviso: that all community college credits be fully transferrable to any four-year college that accepts any federal funding (which is every institution of higher learning except Hillsdale and one or two others). Watch the four-year colleges sputter with indignation. Watch Obama veto the bill.
I can think of some other riders that Congress ought to attach to budget bills: cuts in federal funding and grants to any college that has a “speech code.” Cut funding to the Department of Education for Title IX enforcement of the sexual harassment kangaroo courts on campuses.Oh heck, why not just cut federal funding for higher ed across the board, and tell colleges that the funds are needed to shore up the entitlement programs that their faculties overwhelmingly think should be expanded.