NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 2, 2010

The 2011 budget proposal includes a whopping $173 billion in spending on college student aid programs, a $3 billion increase for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (a.k.a. "No Child Left Behind"), and a proposal to create the federal government's 70th preschool and child-care program (at a cost of $9.3 billion over ten years).  But experience has shown that federal spending increases have delivered few benefits to students, says Dan Lips, a senior policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation. 

For starters: 

  • The massive spending increase for college student aid comes in the wake of a 99 percent increase in federal spending on student aid over the past decade.
  • While college costs continue to climb (following a consistent trend since 1982 which has seen college costs increase by more than 400 percent -- or four times the rate of inflation).  

As economists like Dr. Richard Vedder have argued, generous government subsidies have actually contributed to the college cost problem.  Rather than continuing to follow this failed approach, the time has come for policymakers to solve the college affordability problem through strategies that can lower college costs, says Lips. 

Perhaps the most galling education item in the budget is the $1 billion spending increase proposed for Head Start, the federal government's largest and longest standing preschool program.  In January, the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers Head Start, released the result of a long-overdue rigorous evaluation of the Head Start program: 

  • It found that Head Start provided zero lasting benefits to children by the end of first grade.
  • Since 1965, American taxpayers have "invested" $167 billion in a preschool program that apparently yields no lasting benefits for the children it serves, and now the program could get $1 billion in additional funding. 

Source: Dan Lips, "Education Spending Increases and Broken Promises," National Review Online, February 1, 2010. 

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