Paul Ryan’s 73-page blueprint for expanding opportunity is chock full of ideas for higher education and job training reform. And rightfully so: opportunities for high school grads have shriveled up, but the cost of postsecondary education is crushing American families. The standard federal solution—upping student aid to temporarily bring prices down—is failing.
Qualified students with college aspirations face a maze of tasks, deadlines, and paperwork that they must complete to access financial aid and a college education. Though the payoff for postsecondary education is large enough to justify the time and energy it takes to complete these tasks, many qualified students still fail to do so.
The current debate about higher education has reached an odd status quo: we’re questioning whether college is “worth it” at the same time that completing some form of postsecondary education is more important to economic success than ever before.
To fix higher education, conservatives must fight for root-and-branch reform by, for example, reinventing the student-loan program, offering new paths to accreditation, forcing higher-education institutions to disclose information on how their graduates fare in the labor market, and supporting occupational opportunities that provide the non-college-bound with real-world skills.