April 11, 2009

Bewildered at arguments about rent-seeking

Not to accuse the conservative left hand of not knowing what the conservative right hand is doing, but I am bewildered by the latest publication of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. (Hat tip.) The report repeats an argument I have heard before why student aid is horrible: it feeds rent-seeking behavior from colleges and is therefore counterproductive in terms of larger spending patterns. Apart from the thin evidentiary base and failure to consider alternative hypotheses (primarily, that public colleges universities raised tuition as state appropriations per student have fallen), there's a gaping inconsistency between the "it just encourages them" argument against student aid and arguments in favor of publicly-funded vouchers that pay part of private-school K-12 tuition.

Some K-12 voucher programs are conditioned on schools' accepting vouchers as complete payment, but that is not true with either Florida's tax-credit voucher program or its voucher program for students with disabilities. Yet--not to my complete surprise--I don't think that anyone who has argued that college student promotes rent-seeking basis has lifted a finger to see if there is rent-seeking behavior with K-12 voucher programs. This is not a call for anyone to research this, particularly, since I don't think the salient issues with K-12 vouchers are the possibility of rent-seeking.  But it's an inconsistency in conservative education policy arguments that is rather curious.

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Posted in Education policy on April 11, 2009 10:19 AM |