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George Leef


George Leef is director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Carroll College (Waukesha, WI) and a juris doctor from Duke University School of Law. He was a vice president of the John Locke Foundation until the Pope Center became independent in 2003.

Prior to joining the Locke Foundation, Leef was president of Patrick Henry Associates, a consulting firm in Michigan dedicated to assisting others in advocating free markets, minimal government, private property, and individual rights. Previously, Leef was on the faculty of Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, where he taught courses in economics, business law, and logic. He has also worked as a policy adviser in the Michigan Senate.

A regular columnist for, Leef was book review editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education, from 1996 to 2012. He has published numerous articles in The Freeman, Reason, The Free Market, Cato Journal, The Detroit News, Independent Review, and Regulation. He writes regularly for the National Review's Phi Beta Cons blog and for

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Articles by George Leef

Shocking: The Chronicle Supports the Case Against College for All May 25, 2016
The May 6 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education contains two illuminating and rather unexpected articles: "Should Everyone Go to College?" by Scott Carlson and "When Everyone Goes to College: a Lesson from South Korea" by Karin Fischer. What makes these pieces so interesting is that they say clearly what so many in the higher education community have long been at pains to deny, namely that a country can go overboard on higher education.

College Isn't a Good Learning Environment, Says a Veteran Professor May 18, 2016
What is needed is for students and parents to realize that swallowing the education that's given to them isn't the best way. They'll have to change things from the bottom by seeking out schools and online programs where student progress comes first.

If College Students Are Hungry, Should Uncle Sam Feed Them? May 11, 2016
Since the federal government feeds students in K-12 schools via the National School Lunch Program, it should similarly feed college students who are "food insecure," argues a new policy brief published last month by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab.

At Marquette, Honesty, Free Speech, and Tenure No Match for Political Correctness Apr 27, 2016
No case better illustrates the degree to which American universities are in the thrall of political correctness than the fight that erupted back in 2014 at Marquette, and continues to this day.

Grades Just Keep on Inflating; Why Does It Matter? Apr 20, 2016
The real harm of grade inflation is that it is a fraud on students who are misled into thinking that they are more competent than they really are.

Blind Faith in College Completion Apr 13, 2016
The American higher education establishment suffers from the same problem as ruling establishments everywhere—the inability to look objectively at itself. Do you think that the members of the old Soviet Politburo ever asked, "Do our five-year plans actually do any good?" Of course not, and members of our higher education establishment are no more inclined to wonder, "Have we oversold college?" Illustrative of the inability of elites to question the basic assumptions of their status is the latest book from William Bowen and Michael McPherson, Lesson Plan.

If Adjuncts Are Treated Unfairly, Is There a Solution? Mar 30, 2016
For the last several years, Big Labor has pushed for mandated higher pay for workers, rallying around the slogan "Fight for Fifteen!" Fifteen dollars per hour as the minimum allowable wage, that is. The academic world has something similar: The movement for a large increase in compensation for part-time, untenured faculty who teach on semester contracts—the adjuncts.

To Fund or Not to Fund: That is the Question in Tennessee Mar 23, 2016
Apparently, the more a school fusses over the inescapable fact that people are diverse, the more likely that it will experience campus turmoil—turmoil that will then be cited as the justification for still more diversity programs. Tennesseans are right to question whether the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee's flagship campus produces educational benefits that are worth the cost.

Politicians Eyeing Those Supersized University Endowments Mar 09, 2016
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Representatives Kevin Brady of Texas and Peter Roskam of Illinois wrote a letter on February 8 to the presidents of 56 private colleges and universities, who all hold endowments of more than $1 billion. In the letter, the Republican committee chairmen wrote, "Despite these large and growing endowments, many colleges and universities have raised tuition far in excess of inflation" and said they want to hear officials explain to their committees "how colleges and universities are using endowment assets to fulfill their charitable and educational purposes." The presidents have until April 1 to reply. It will be interesting to see how many defend against the letter's implication that they don’t properly use their endowments as they keep increasing tuition. Of course, the politicians don't just want to satisfy their intellectual curiosity; they're looking for a justification to change the law.

What If Federal Regulations for Colleges Are Themselves Illegal? Mar 02, 2016
We've created a serious problem by allowing federal bureaucrats to dictate education policies nationwide, K-12 through college. Many rules that appeal to ideologically zealous regulators would never be adopted by school and college officials who are in the best position to weigh costs versus benefits.

The Ten Worst Colleges for Free Speech (But Why Are There Any?) Feb 24, 2016
Just how bad colleges have become when it comes to free speech and toleration for anyone who disagrees with those who hold power cannot be underestimated. Many Americans who think back fondly on their college days decades ago are shocked to learn the truth. Toward that end, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has just released its Top Ten list—the worst colleges and universities in the country last year when it came to freedom of speech.

Should Elite Universities Have Preferences for Low-Income Students? Feb 12, 2016
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has just launched the latest offensive in the war over admissions to the supposed elite of America's colleges and universities. In its report entitled True Merit, the Foundation advocates economic preferences so that smart students from relatively poor families can have their fair share of the small number of spots at schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. But admission preferences, whether based on race or income, are clumsy tools for achieving social or educational ends. A much better approach is to identify academically sharp but lower-income students, then help them to find the best college and assist them through to their degrees.

College Leaders Improving the Link Between Education and Employment Jan 15, 2016
Many students and their families are starting to wonder about the value of going to college at every expense only to come back home afterwards and settle into a mundane job that high schoolers could do—a growing problem that Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa examined in their latest book, Aspiring Adults Adrift. That being the case, colleges that can point to successes in preparing students for careers and helping them land jobs that actually call for higher education have a big advantage over those that can't. As a result, the last decade has seen a surge in college programs intended to integrate study and work.

A Nearsighted Visionary Jan 08, 2016
Rarely have I read a book about higher education that is so varied as Michael Roth's Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. As I'll explain, it is by turns intriguing, annoying, and challenging.

Feds Plan to Use Accreditation to Produce More Degree Holders Nov 25, 2015
America's national obsession with raising our "educational attainment" level leads politicians and bureaucrats to focus on the silliest of things. Lately, that has been college accreditation.

Academia Shrugs: The Destabilizing Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Nov 18, 2015
A new report by the National Association of Scholars, "Inside Divestment: The Illiberal Movement to Turn a Generation Against Fossil Fuels," is welcome because it shines a light on the excesses and especially the anti-intellectual nature of this campus phenomenon. Students, parents, alums, professors, and administrators should pay close attention to the report, just as miners needed to pay attention when their canaries started going unconscious.

"Public Service" Loan Forgiveness Will Inflate the Cost of College Nov 13, 2015
It is extremely wasteful to lure students into high-cost degree programs with easy-to-get government loans, then saddle the taxpayers with the unpaid balance when the student later defaults or manages to qualify for loan forgiveness. That artificially inflates the demand for college credentials and helps to accelerate the constant increase in the cost of higher education.

Stop the Presses! Or, At Least, Stop Their Subsidies! Nov 04, 2015
University presses exist to publish scholarly books and journals that might not be published by a for-profit publishing house due to the small market for most academic books. Therefore, they require subsidies from willing donors and/or presumably less willing taxpayers and students. But as Milton Friedman often pointed out, "No one spends other people's money as carefully as he spends his own." That applies just as much to book publishers as to everyone else.

Does Privatizing Higher Education Undermine the Public Good? Oct 21, 2015
How much "privatization" have we actually had in higher education? In one sense, none, because no state-owned college or university has been sold off to private investors. But on the other hand, there has been quite a bit, since to a considerable extent, governmental funding for higher education has been replaced by private funding. In Privatization and the Public Good, Matthew Lambert, vice president for university advancement at William & Mary, gives us an approved "establishment" view of the privatization phenomenon in which it is perceived as a great threat.

Higher Education Is Changing, and So Must "Shared Governance" Oct 09, 2015
William G. Bowen and Eugene M. Tobin, both former college presidents (Princeton and Hamilton, respectively) grasp the crucial fact that the good old days of higher education are gone. In their new book, Locus of Authority, they tackle the traditional shared governance system (that is, the division of responsibility between the administration and the faculty). That system needs to change because it is getting in the way of the flexibility that is now essential.

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