There's just one problem with his analysis. While it kind of sounds plausible as he spins it out of his head, it's completely divorced from reality and therefore completely wrong.
Sowell explains things in three installments. In the first he explains that since there is so much public subsidy the students are blind to the costs. If they bore the full brunt of the cost this would make things much better.
In the second installment he talks about how lots of students are slackers. This is further proof that what is needed is reduced public subsidy. Why should poor taxpayers have to pay for these people to party? Make them pay their own way. Maybe let them know if they want to go we could garnish their future wages. That will flush out those slackers, leaving only the ruling elite.
In the third we learn why college is so expensive. Since the government is so willing to throw so much public subsidy at colleges they have no incentive to reduce costs. So they just charge through the roof. A nameless college president he knows told him this. Professors teach fewer hours, spending more time doing research. Also they're spending money in lavish ways (bowling alley's, posh lounges, Wi-Fi, fancy dorms).
Well, that all sounds really plausible. The problem is public subsidy. If only we could have managed to reduce it we wouldn't be dealing with all these tough problems that seem to have emerged over the last 30 years.
The University of Michigan has a series of slides explaining their budget that you can view here. But let's take a look at one.
So guess what, Thomas. The very prescription you suggest is exactly what has been implemented over the last 30-40 years. Public subsidy has continuously declined just as you want. If you have a problem with what you are seeing in secondary education today and if you are suggesting things are getting worse, why would you suggest that we implement the very policies that have failed you so miserably?
Sowell in his third installment laments that professors today teach less so as to do research that brings in money. That is money from private sources. Isn't that exactly what we would expect to happen in a world where public subsidy is declining? These schools have no choice but to divert their energy away from training students and do the things the private endowments demand. Once again the very outcomes Sowell laments are a direct consequence of the policies he is now advocating.
Some of my readers (Darf and HP) may think the decline in public subsidy is a good thing. Maybe they'd rather live in a world where their out of pocket expenses will be 3-4 times higher for their children than they were for themselves. Maybe they are happy with the skyrocketing school loan debt. Fine. But what makes no sense at all is to complain about the present system and then prescribe the very policies that have created the present system.
If you are wealthy enough that you can sock away $250/mo from the time you have a newborn and then for the next 18 years I suppose it's not a big deal. If not your child will either not have a degree, in which case his job prospects are grim, or he'll graduate with a mountain of debt, and he'll be a slave to that for the next 30 years. If that's what you want in college education you should be happy with the reduction in public subsidy. Sowell should be happy about the present state of secondary education in the US. Strange that he is objecting.