At Least They’re Not Blaming Bush

Paul notes immediately below that it is unlikely that Fred Ryan, the former Reagan aide who has just been named the new publisher of the Washington Post, will make any serious changes to the Post’s ideological profile, or he wouldn’t have been picked. It will be fun, though, to watch low-information liberals (but I repeat myself) react to the headline “Former Reagan Aide Named Publisher of the Post.” Who could ever have imagined such a headline?

Ryan is being brought in to run the business side of things, which means the inmates will continue to run the asylum that calls itself a newsroom. To be fair, the Post is more sensible than the New York Times in many ways, though that’s like being the tallest building in Wichita. (Except, isn’t the tallest building in Wichita likely to be owned by two brothers the mention of whom makes liberals break out in hives? Heh.)

Anyway, were Fred Ryan inclined to bring some sense to the newsroom, he might start with an article appearing in the Post today: “My Students Pay Too Much for College. Blame Reagan.” The author is Devin Fergus, a professor of African-American and African Studies at Ohio State University, and I’m sure students with degrees from his department are in high demand by employers everywhere. Fergus’s complaint is that the Reagan administration cut federal funding for student aid, and the states followed!

In the 1970s, states paid 65 percent of the costs of college. By 2013, states covered a mere 30 percent of college costs. Like students who had to pay more, the federal government seemingly upped its commitment, covering just 10 percent in the 1970s and 16 percent today.

Instead of grants, students have had to take out loans instead, and it’s all Reagan’s fault.

It’s not clear what the bigger problem with Fergus’s analysis: the premise that the federal government should underwrite everyone’s college education—even majors like ethnic studies—or the failure to note that for the states, public universities are at the end of the line for the funding priorities of liberalism. When state budgets are squeezed, K-12 education and welfare programs are first in line to be kept whole. Public universities will always get the brunt of the budget ax. Maybe university professors might want to rethink their support for the welfare state?  Because guess what: even if state budgets recover, growing social service programs (and public employee pensions) will assure that public universities will face budget pressures from now on. The good old days of lavish state spending for colleges and universities are over.

Moreover, Fergus doesn’t have a thing to say about the insidious role of the federal government in spurring the massive inflation of higher education costs. As is well-known, the cost of college has risen twice as fast as health care costs or housing prices during the bubble years. Fergus’s view can be reduced to this: taxpayers should cough up the money so I can teach African-American Studies for free.

At least it isn’t George W. Bush’s fault. No excuse left behind I guess.


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