Saturday, April 3, 2010

Capitol Punishment on Higher Education

The novel Capitol Punishment is set in the not too distant future and illustrates where we will be if we progress down the path of the last decade.  The novel actually addresses the current debate over the government taking over the student loans and attempting to socialize higher education.  Here is an exerpt from the novel as it describes what happens when the government takes this over.

"...When they arrived at the desired museum within the massive complex, Daniel prepared to just walk right on in as he had the last time he’d visited, but that had been years ago, when the museums were still free. They had been under Federal Government ownership for nearly three years, along with most other museums and all other parks in the nation.

City and state parks were all now considered federal land and any proceeds went to the Federal Government while the maintenance costs were absorbed by the state. Not surprisingly, the quality of the parks and museums had deteriorated. The Federal Government had made the argument that with the entrance fees added on to the current donations, the museums could help to fund the Promotion of Higher Education Act. Considering that museums promoted education, it was only right that their admissions should pay for the higher education that Congress had deemed a right to all.

Daniel had initially supported the idea of the government paying for college for all students, but as with any government program, the costs had skyrocketed, the quality of the education had plummeted, and fraud and abuse of the system was rampant. The schools no longer had to be competitive and the costs just continued to rise. Since neither students nor their parents were spending their own money for this education, the cost of it no longer mattered. When the program was found to cost three times what was estimated, Congress turned to the parks and museums as a source of revenue.

Eminent domain is what they had used to simply take over all of these places, and they had based the revenue gain on the current volume of visitors. It had never occurred to them, not even for a moment, that attendance for the Smithsonian would decline when it was no longer free. The admission fees had started out fairly low, but were periodically raised as the powers that be realized that revenue fell far below projected, while the cost of the new program continued to rise. So they’d adjust the ticket price, and even fewer people would go, and the revenue generated would drop even further.

Now it cost them eighty-four dollars each to enter the Smithsonian, and that was for a single museum. They could have purchased an all access pass for the low, low bargain price of two hundred forty-nine bucks. What a deal."

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