Societal changes through tuition rates

SOCIETAL CHANGES THROUGH TUITION RATES…. The National Council for a New America, the Republicans’ “rebranding” initiative, got to work over the weekend, hosting an event in a D.C. suburb to talk a bit about GOP policy ideas. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t much in the way of new and/or creative thinking.

But Slate‘s Christopher Beam noted that there was at least one vaguely new idea.

The most original ideas came from perhaps the most establishment person in the room: Jeb Bush. When someone asked about how to make college affordable, Bush proposed incentivizing tuition by charging different amounts for different degrees. “We need nurses, scientists, engineers, qualified teachers…. If the government is going to subsidize at the fed level, there needs to be strategic nature to it,” he said.

As Republican ideas go, this is at least a little different. As the former Florida governor sees it, America needs more nurses and engineers, so it’s not unreasonable to think universities should charge lower tuition rates to those who major in those fields. Why should philosophy and poli sci majors pay the same tuition rates as nursing students, Jeb asks, if the country needs more of the latter than the prior?

The reason I found this interesting is that it doesn’t sound like an especially conservative idea. In fact, it sounds like social engineering — the government wants to encourage people to do certain things, so it’s using the power of the state to reward those who are willing to work in the government-approved fields.

Jeb Bush, as a rule, hates social engineering and loves the free market. Government tinkering with “incentives” to encourage certain behavior seems like it would be anathema to conservative Republicans.

I can’t wait to see what the NCNA comes up with next.