Thousands of American higher-education administrators will spend part of Labor Day weekend trying to plumb the meaning of the ideas President Obama dropped on them last week to "reform" the American college and university system. Given the political genome of college administrators nowadays, they’ll try to make the Obama plan work. But for the handful who want to preserve and protect their hallowed institutions, here’s a recommendation: Drop by the nearest medical school for a chat with the doctors about how it’s going with the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.
Insofar as all these higher-ed reforms will be tied to federal rules for getting the money, it is beyond dispute that this will be ObamaCare for education, just as Dodd-Frank was ObamaCare for banking and finance.
A clue to where this is headed may be seen by clicking on the White House backgrounder’s link to the "Financial Aid Shopping Sheet" jointly developed by the U.S. Department of Education and Dodd-Frank’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The sheet has a striking name atop it: "University of the United States (UUS)"—with a logo, no less.
The education proposal reflects the Obama modus operandi. First, identify an American industry that long ago made a Faustian bargain for federal support, such as hospitals and housing. Then describe the subsidy-dependent industry’s inevitable bloat and inefficiency in images so stark no reasonable person could disagree. "Burdened with tens of thousands of dollars" in student debt, Mr. Obama said at Binghamton University in New York, "they have to put off buying a home, or starting a business, or starting a family." [Footnote: That was federal student debt.] Then after getting buy-in from the mortified industry, he imposes the solution—on his terms.