Leveling the Playing Field for Online Education
By Bryan Caplan
Governments at all levels annually give traditional colleges about one-third of a trillion dollars. That’s roughly $1000 per American per year, a massive subsidy.
Question: Why don’t cheerleaders for online education loudly call for slashing or ending this subsidy, to put traditional colleges on an even footing with the online alternative? In my experience, even libertarian fans of online education rarely make a big deal out of these subsidies – even though they are a very big deal indeed.
A few possibilities:
1. The cheerleaders want to “level up” rather than “level down.” They want online education to enjoy the same generous subsidies as traditional college, not compete in a genuinely free market.
2. The cheerleaders think arguing for cuts in college subsidies is politically hopeless in the face of Social Desirability Bias.
3. The cheerleaders think online education is so awesome it can beat traditional education despite the tilted playing field.