By Richard Vedder
A few days ago, I wrote that the proposed new Master Plan for Ohio was a disaster. I wrote that, however, based on scanty information on what was in the plan. I thought to myself, "Perhaps I was too hasty. I need to read more about what the Board of Regents in Ohio is proposing to do."
I have done so. My initial comments stand --indeed, if anything, the more I read the madder I get. The Columbus Dispatch headlined yesterday, "State to create report cards for colleges." There are 20 benchmarks for these report cards. Most of them have nothing to do with learning. For example, the State is saying, "we prefer you to take adult learners rather than teenagers, blacks and Hispanics instead of whites." In short, the obligatory institutional racism popular among the left (the Ohio Board of Regent chancellor is a liberal Democrat ex-Congressman) is included. Predictably, higher marks come the more the state spends. The plan considers the state as succeeding to meet its goals if it increases its spending relative to the national average, if it lowers the cost to the student of going to college, and if endowments go up. Never mind the fact that there is abundant evidence that the marginal rate of return on state spending on higher education is low and possibly negative. Summing up the plan, if colleges are politically correct and spend a lot, Ohio is perceived to be doing well. The state wants to more than double the number of over 25 learners in less than a decade, while increasing enrollments in the traditional age groups by nearly 30 percent at a time the population pool is falling noticeably.
With a few exceptions, the plan is about increasing spending rather than increasing the quality of learning. It is about increasing numbers when much of the evidence supports the view that we may be over investing in higher education in some regards, particularly given high attrition rates. To be sure, there are a few good dimensions to the plan. It promotes more college students going to four year schools from community colleges, and it also favors more college study during high school. For some reason, it promotes internships, and wants to increase math and science majors relative to psychology and communications ones (because it is the "in" thing to do).
Again, a government goes off on a bold new plan --without a scintilla of evidence that this will improve incomes or the quality of life for the populace, and without any regards for who and how they will pay for the plan. The Buckeye State, declining relatively for decades, will see that decline continue, and arguably accelerate, if this plan is adopted. The Brain Dead political opposition in the legislature (Republicans) are mute on all of this. It is a shame.