The long-term effects of the moment we're in are hard to know exactly. Restaurants and hotels have a long road back — that's clear. But what about higher education?
The nation's entire college population is at home right now, at exactly the same moment the economy seems to be heading south because of the coronavirus. So what effect will that have?
Well, the first thing to know is that whatever happens next, it will not affect Harvard, Yale, Stanford and a handful of schools like those. These places are richer than some countries. They'll be fine no matter what happens, perhaps unfortunately. Big state schools are likely to weather the crisis, too. They have legislators behind them.
But for everyone else on campus, this is a life-changing moment. Consider the confluence of factors right now. First, endowments are likely to shrink as the broader economy struggles. Donations will drop, too, for the same reason. There will almost certainly be a big reduction in students from China, a group whose main appeal has always been their ability to pay for tuition. Take that money off the ledger.
Meanwhile, and most critically, an entire nation has just been shown that it's possible to deliver higher education in an entirely different way. You don't have to drive to campus, buy textbooks, pay for room and board in order to get an education. You can do the whole thing online.
The higher education establishment is hurting this country and has for a long time. Reform is essential — this is a good and needed thing.
Now, this fact won't change everyone's behavior. Affluent families will continue on as they always have — 250 grand to send your kids off with their friends to have fun for four years.
To people who can afford it, that's not such a bad deal. It's cheaper than four years of touring Europe, which is what our ruling class used to do. But let's say you're not rich. Maybe you make 120 grand a year. That's high enough to disqualify you from most need-based aid at most schools, but it's low enough that paying 30 or 40 or 50 thousand dollars a year in tuition hurts a lot.
If you're paying full tuition — and many people at that income level are — that means you could be assuming hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to send a single child to college, every child. Imagine if you've got three kids. Some of you watching don't need to imagine that because that's you.
Suddenly an online education doesn't sound so crazy. Your kids won't like it as much. Hanging around a fraternity is a lot more fun than studying on a computer screen. But so what? And actually, is that a downside? You might start thinking about that.
You might also begin to wonder what a college degree is worth these days. An engineering degree from, say, CalTech will always have value. Medical school or law school might be worth it under some circumstances. But a communications degree from a mid-tier liberal arts school? Totally and utterly worthless. Maybe less than worthless, since it signifies such obvious mediocrity.
Colleges know all this, of course. They know their value. They've been bleeding the middle class dry for decades and they're self-aware enough to realize it. And that is why Washington is swarming with higher ed lobbyists, so that Congress will keep funding this charade as long as possible.
Well, the impossible may have just arrived. The charade is exposed.
Stanford University just kicked students off campus and moved its operations online. That's happening in a lot of places. But here's the amazing part: Stanford, along with Harvard and some other schools like them, has already announced that students will not get a single cent discounted from their tuition, despite being denied everything that makes an expensive college expensive.
Even more insulting — and baffling, really — Stanford students aren't even being fully-refunded rent for the dorm rooms they were kicked out of. Keep in mind that Stanford has a $27 billion endowment. They could afford to do this for their kids. They just don't want to because they're pampered and arrogant and indifferent to the suffering of others.
As noted, Stanford and Harvard and Yale and Princeton all have enough in their cache to get away with things like this. But other schools don't.
Unless they change radically, a lot of these places are likely to go under in the coming years. There is not enough federal bailout money in the Treasury to save every pointless university in a bad recession. They will be gone for good, closed, repurposed, we can hope, into much-needed efficiency apartments with loads of appealing green space.
Countless deans of diversity and inclusion will be out of work. They'll wail and moan, and they will write outraged editorials in The New York Times about the end of knowledge and the coming Dark Age.
Yeah. ignore them. These people never deserved jobs in the first place. The higher education establishment is hurting this country and has for a long time.
Reform is essential — this is a good and needed thing. In fact, it's one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dark moment.
Adapted from Tucker Carlson's monologue from "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on March 19, 2020.