Religion & Liberty Online

Scandal and school, education and freedom

It’s not news that a college education costs a boatload today. But as we’ve all learned over the past week, the cost of a college education is much more – about $500,000 more over tuition, room, and board if you’re a TV celebrity like Lori Loughlin. Add $1 million bail and the possibility of prison time to boot. Some people will do anything for their kids, up to and including bribing school officials to admit their less than stellar students to a prestigious, brand name school.

Lori Loughlin and Olivia Jade
Lori Loughlin and daughter Olivia Jade Editorial credit: Kathy Hutchins /

There’s so much to unpack here, it’s hard to know where to start. The absurdly inflated cost of higher education is one aspect. The cronyism that comes with a fistful of cash is another – so much for “meritocracy” in academia. Then there’s the idea that elite schools are actually graduating well-prepared students, and thus, it’s actually worth having a diploma bestowed by that institution. (Maybe that last sentence should have come with a trigger warning. Ms. Laughlin’s daughter, by her own admission, wasn’t all that interested in school to begin with, telling her 2 million social media followers that she didn’t know how much of school she would actually attend but she did want the experience of partying.)

At Acton, we focus on the intersection of faith and free markets. From this perspective, it becomes a little more fascinating to see a socially responsible investing superstar choose to game the system because he can. (Bill McGlashan, I’m looking at you.) As a businessman specializing in virtue signaling, it makes his crash and burn all the more spectacular.

Matthew 23:25-26 comes to mind: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”

While it would be easy to fall into schadenfreude over this latest scandal, our energy is best spent digging into the myriad of issues surrounding higher education today and begin proposing real solutions.

In autumn 2017, Acton’s Education & Freedom conference tackled some of these important issues:

  • Student loan/debt crisis
  • Declining enrollment rates
  • Hostility to free speech

The clip below has been edited for length and features excerpts of Richard Vedder, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus at Ohio University. Perhaps Loughlin, McGlashan, and the other implicated parents would do well to watch it as they prepare for their inevitable trials. (To watch the full, unedited panel discussion with Richard Vedder, Joe Cohn, Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin and Tom Lindsay, visit this YouTube link.)