Conservative Solutions for Colleges Actually Call for More Government

A conservative column critical of colleges calls for some "classically liberal solutions" to their problems. But in reality, it's just another conservative pushing for more government regulation of education.

Victor Davis Hanson, a self-described classicist and military historian, and winner of the 2007 National Humanities Medal, authored the column "Is the modern American university a failed state?" Yet he might want to brush up on his humanities, especially those free market economics classes.

After chastising colleges for not teaching students to reason inductively, for being too politically correct and not allowing "edgy speech," poorly training students for the job market, and costing too much, Hanson lists his suggestions for improvement.

Colleges need to publicize the employment rates of recent graduates and the percentage of students who complete their degrees so that strapped parents can do cost-benefit analyses like they do with any other major cash investment.

A national standardized exit test should be required of all graduates. If colleges predicate admissions in part on performance on the SAT or ACT, they certainly should be assessed on how well -- or not so well -- students score on similar tests after years of expensive study.

Finally, the federal government should hold universities fiscally accountable. The availability of federal grants should be pegged to a college's ability to hold annual tuition increases to the rate of inflation.

At this late date, only classically liberal solutions can address what have become illiberal problems.


Whenever someone says colleges "need" to do something, like publicizing employment rates, or "requires" a national standardized exit test, it means government regulation. Sure enough, Hanson's line about the federal government holding universities accountable shows his true colors, saying nothing about "for-profit" colleges who make up the biggest recipients of government aid, and the most student loan defaults.

And there's nothing "classically liberal" about government regulation. Classical liberalism comes from a relative dearth of government control, not an expansion of it.

His plan for forcing colleges to publicize more information and regulate the cost of college fits well with Obama's plans for greater scrutiny of universities. I wonder if Hanson and his conservative friends know that.

As for a national standardized exit tests, well, my students take the GRE to get into graduate school, or the LSAT to get into law school. My education students take the GACE tests to get their teacher certification. Others take the GMAT. Our nursing students take...well, you get the picture. We have no shortage of standardized tests. And would we get another "common core" boondoggle as a result? It's highly likely we would.

If Hanson's plans were acted upon, we'd probably wind up with more government, something like a "No College Student Left Behind." And all that "No Child Left Behind" Act did was leave American education behind those of developed economies.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at