Unprofitable Schooling

Examining Causes of, and Fixes for, America’s Broken Ivory Tower

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Unprofitable Schooling is available in stores and online, wherever books are sold.

Most economies advance by simultaneously decreasing costs and increasing quality. Unfortunately, when it comes to higher education, this has been turned on its head. Costs keep rising while quality declines. How has this happened? What can be done?

This exceptional volume looks at the issues facing higher education from the perspective of both economics and history. Each chapter explores how the lessons learned from market competition in other sectors of the economy can be applied to higher education in order to bring about innovation, improved quality, and lower costs.

The opening section offers a history of for‐​profit education before the Morrill Act—the federal legislation that funded land‐​grant universities; reviews the Act’s impact; and concludes with an exploration of federal student aid and how it prevents new funding options from entering the market. Section two examines higher education as it stands today—what is driving up college prices; tenure; administrative bloat; and university governance. And, the concluding third section shows how robust competition in higher education can be energized, and takes a deep look at for‐​profit vs. non‐​profit institutions.

Unprofitable Schooling provides a sober and informative assessment of the state of higher education, critically covering historical assumptions, increasing government involvement, reflexive aversion to profit, and other, maybe unexpected, conclusions.

About the Editors

Todd J. Zywicki is George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University and former executive director of the George Mason Law and Economics Center. He is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, senior scholar of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and senior fellow of the F. A. Hayek Program for the Advanced Study of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics.

Neal P. McCluskey is director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. He is the author of the book The Feds in the Classroom: How Big Government Corrupts, Cripples, and Compromises American Education (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007) and is coeditor of Educational Freedom: Remembering Andrew Coulson, Debating His Ideas (Cato Institute, 2017). He also maintains Cato’s Public Schooling Battle Map, an interactive database of values‐ and identity‐​based conflicts in public schools. His writings have appeared in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Forbes.


Michael E. DeBow, Joshua C. Hall, David A. Hyman, Christopher Koopman, Jayme S. Lemke, Henry G. Manne, Scott E. Masten, Roger E. Meiners, Daniel D. Polsby, Jane Shaw Stroup, William F. Shughart II, Richard K. Vedder