Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

Community Colleges v. Free Enterprise?

Posted by Adam Graham on April 17, 2007

Our friend at the Idahoan rejects the argument raised by proponents of the college that the Community College will save money on educating nurses:

Recently, Bill Savage, the CEO of Saltzer Medical Group in Nampa, made a very strong and compelling case for a community college in the Treasure Valley. But real free marketers had to wince at this comment from Mr. Savage:

“A new college in this area would be able to train prospective nursing personnel at a fraction of the price other schools now do. For example, the cost of training medical assistants in a nine-month program at Apollo College is upward of $11,000. This is the kind of expense needed for jobs that routinely pay $10 to start. A community college can educate medical assistants for far less.”

To understand the weight of this statement, put yourself in Apollo College’s position. Here’s a privately-operated fully accredited provider of education (which, by the way, means a student at Apollo can get financial aid through the federal government). Apollo College recognized the community’s needs, and therefore, as part of the free market, opened its doors in Boise. Should the government then step in and offer the very same services that Apollo does at a fraction of the cost? Is that fair? Certainly not. How long do you suppose Apollo College will be able to offer the same services to the community it has offered all along?

Well, as Apollo College is a national chain that manages to survive in Albuquerque (which has a community college, Las Vegas (which also has a Community College), Phoenix, Portland, and Spokane (all ditto.) Somehow, Apollo College has survived and I doubt they’re in danger of going out of business. They survive on superiority of service, flexability of schedule for working adults, etc.

Also, taken to its logical conclusion, wouldn’t the argument that the government shouldn’t compete with private educational services suggest we should close down BSU? Few would support that (I doubt even our friend at the Idahoan would.)

If it makes good sense for the government to step in and provide services already being offered by the private sector, why don’t we expand the practice? How much are you currently paying for healthcare? Too much money, right? Can’t the government come in and offer healthcare at a fraction of the cost? Wouldn’t that do a world of good for the poor folks out there for are unfortunate enough to have jobs that routinely pay $10 to start? Or is that just an outrageous statement? If you’ve been paying attention to the debate surrounding universal healthcare, you know it’s far less outrageous to some as it may be to you.

This is a slippery slope argument. Let’s consider that every area the size of Boise has a Community College and the vast percentage have not adopted a single payer health system, I don’t think it follows. Of course, the differences between “free health care” and less expensive colleges are many. There have been no exoduses of college professors to “greener pastures” as has happened with Canada’s best doctors under their single payer system. There are no “long lines” for colleges. You simply are dealing with two different animals, particularly since the government has been in the college business here for decades.

He goes on to raise the possibility of government-run grocery stores and government-run restaurants, neither of which are relevant. A restaurant is a luxury item, a basic college education isn’t. It’s not a fundamental right, but it it quite helpful, particularly as Boise is going to soon face a nurse shortage.

Folks, a community college would do WONDERFUL things for southwestern Idaho. But there are a lot of WONDERFUL things we can do with the long arm of the government and the gumption to pull it off. But, in the end, how do those great and wonderful proposals fit in with the model of government that the founding fathers gave us? And how fair is it to those whose free market platform we cut out from under them simply because the government has the power to do it?

Most of these have been addressed. Regarding the private institutions, as I’ve explained before to paraphrase that ’70s song, “They will survive.” Regarding the Founding Fathers, how about we ask the Founder of our Country, who in his eighth State of the Union address said:

I have heretofore proposed to the consideration of Congress the expediency of establishing a national university and also a military academy. the desirableness of both these institutions has so constantly increased with every new view I have taken of the subject that I can not omit the opportunity of once for all recalling your attention to them.

The assembly to which I address myself is too enlightened not to be fully sensible how much a flourishing state of the arts and sciences contributes to national prosperity and reputation.

True it is that our country, much to its honor, contains many seminaries of learning highly repeatable and useful; but the funds upon which they rest are too narrow to command the ablest professors in the different departments of liberal knowledge for the institution contemplated, though they would be excellent auxiliaries.

Amongst the motives to such an institution, the assimilation of the principles, opinions, and manners of our country-men by the common education of a portion of our youth from every quarter well deserves attention. The more homogenous our citizens can be made in these particulars the greater will be our prospect of permanent union; and a primary object of such a national institution should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic what species of knowledge can be equally important and what duty more pressing on its legislature than to patronize a plan for communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?

Indeed, given that many Founding Fathers spent much of their time building colleges and Universities (ex: Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia which competed directly with the private sector, one can conclude that a community college that allows the great spread of knowledge and information is not at all opposed to their vision but strongly in line with it.

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