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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

Why Colleges Churn Out Poor Writers and Poor Thinkers Aug 28, 2015
People in and out of the academic world have been pointing to a glaring defect in our education system for many years. That defect is the failure to teach students to write competently. Unfortunately, it's hard to see how colleges will break their bad habit of allowing students to coast through with miserable writing skills. Despite the presence of a few traditionalists and reformers, academic writing instruction still seems to be heading in the wrong direction.

Subsidizing Higher Ed Makes It More Costly; It Also Makes Incomes More Unequal Jul 22, 2015
Federal student aid programs were expected to have nothing but good economic and social consequences for America. Instead, however, they are simultaneously making higher education more costly (that is, soaking up more of our limited resources) and, owing to "credentialitis," making the distribution of income more unequal.

Why Professors Are Obsessed with Student Course Evaluations Jul 17, 2015
At many colleges, keeping the students happy is the paramount concern. School officials still pay lip service to academic excellence, but the truth is that revenue maximization is far more important to them.

Critical Thinking, or the "Expectation of Confirmation"? Jul 08, 2015
With so many more Americans going to college than in the past, you would think that anti-intellectualism would be a distant, rapidly fading memory. But you'd be mistaken argue Mark Bauerlein and Adam Bellow, editors of a sharp new book The State of the American Mind.

A Wharton Professor Asks, Will College Pay Off? Jul 01, 2015
Wharton School professor Peter Cappelli has taken a careful look at the relative costs and benefits of college and concludes that going to college can be a terrible decision for many young Americans. He objects to "unqualified statements about the big payoff to a college degree." His book, Will College Pay Off?, also provides some insight into the crucial question: What are employers looking for?

Lani Guinier Wants to Transform Higher Education Jun 17, 2015
Higher education will work better for all Americans if academic theorists like Lani Guinier would stop using it for social engineering and just let each individual search for the education or training that best suits his abilities and circumstances.

College Is Not a Theater Jun 10, 2015
I am delighted to see that Asian-Americans are speaking out against racial preferences in admissions. That stands to reason, since their children are the big losers in the racial preferences game. But they should be joined by non-Asians who understand that the purpose of college is for students to maximize their learning, not for administrators to play at social engineering.

A Supreme Court Case on Race-Based Admissions Has Produced Strange Bedfellows May 29, 2015
On May 21, the Supreme Court held a conference to discuss whether or not to accept the Fisher<.i> case—again. At this time, I don't know the decision, but I do know that a seemingly strange mixture of liberals and conservatives wants the Court to take the appeal.

Is it possible to calculate how much value a college adds? May 13, 2015
According to a new report by Jonathan Rothwell and Siddharth Kulkarni of the Brookings Institution, yes.

Sustainability: A new college fad with fangs Apr 15, 2015
There is a new fad rampaging across the college landscape—sustainability. For the last ten years, this mania has been gathering momentum because, like identity studies, sustainability pushes the hot buttons for leftist academics: environmentalism, anti-capitalism, salvation through liberal activism, and the chance to hector all those wrong-thinking people. It's almost irresistible.

Cheated turns over a rock, fully exposing UNC's "student-athlete" scandal Apr 08, 2015
Although UNC has tried to maintain an image of running squeaky clean sports programs that ensure student-athletes a high quality education, for decades it has actually been recruiting players who shouldn't have gotten out of high school, then ushering them through a "curriculum" consisting largely of easy courses with negligible educational value.

The impending surge for the University of Everywhere Mar 25, 2015
The U.S. (make that the world) is on the brink of the greatest educational change since Gutenberg invented printing. That is the argument Kevin Carey presents in his new book The End of College.

Jobs data cannot prove that college is a "good investment" Feb 25, 2015
All that the favorable job statistics for college graduates tell us is that having a degree positions you better in the job market compared with people who do not have those credentials. Many employers who need workers for jobs that require only basic abilities and a decent attitude now screen out people who don't have college degrees. Companies looking to hire for positions such as sales supervisor and rental car agent, for instance, often state that they'll only consider applicants who've graduated from college. What they studied or how well they did is largely beside the point.

Stanley Fish on the five schools of thought about academic freedom Jan 14, 2015
When we speak about "academic freedom" what, exactly, do we mean? How far should academic freedom extend? How do we know when someone claiming it has actually abused it?

Yes, students can get a good education at a big football school Jan 05, 2015
Veteran Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews writes mostly about K-12 education, but he is also interested in the results for students after they’ve graduated and enrolled in college. He’s also a self-professed college football freak, looking forward to the first-ever playoff series for the national title.

We can thank the Supreme Court for credential inflation Dec 22, 2014
Perhaps you have noticed that many jobs requiring only basic skills and a cooperative attitude are now walled off to Americans who don’t possess a college degree. The mania for college credentials hampers upward mobility for individuals without a college degree. They are confined to the shrinking and mostly low-pay segment of the labor market where educational credentials still don’t matter. (As I argued here, that explains much of the earnings gap between workers with and without college degrees.)

The "gainful employment" rule won’t make students better off by decimating the for-profit sector Dec 03, 2014
At the end of October, the Department of Education released its much-awaited "gainful employment" rule. It is supposed to fix (or at least lessen) the problem that many students who pursue vocational training with federal student aid money wind up without a job that pays well enough for them to cover their loans.

How did we get into the Student Loan Mess? Nov 12, 2014
For all of the words devoted to our student loan mess (or "crisis" or "bubble"), little has been written on its origins. We know that student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion and that many young Americans are struggling with a heavy burden, but how things got that way is largely a mystery.

Leisure studies: an academic field based on a utopian mistake? Nov 10, 2014
With most academic fields, we know what they are about. Political science teaches about political systems and their workings; philosophy about how people have thought on questions such as ethics; literature courses have students read and contemplate worthwhile books.

Student course evaluations aren't worth much, and there are better ways Nov 05, 2014
One of the first books about the state of higher education that I read after coming to the Pope Center was Generation X Goes to College by Peter Sacks. The book was published in 1996 and in it, the author wrote about his first year of teaching at an unnamed college, one where most of the students had little intellectual interest or ability.

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