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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

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.

Actually, You Can Discharge Student Debts and the Feds Want to Make It Easier Sep 30, 2015
It is common knowledge that students who have amassed large college debt burdens cannot discharge those debts through bankruptcy. That "knowledge," however, is not really the case—the laws are written to permit discharge of student loan debts in some cases. And, with the federal government pushing for broader interpretations of those laws, they are now an incentive for students to amass debt and then dump it on the taxpayers.

University Endowments: Whose Money Is It, Anyway? Sep 04, 2015
If you think that universities are not making the best use of endowment funds, you should look to persuasion rather than government regulation. There are many ways of trying to convince presidents, trustees, and other college leaders that they should change their approaches to the use of their endowments; that would be vastly better than turning to a recently proposed federal mandate.

Federal Rules Run Afoul of First Amendment Sep 02, 2015
In trying to avoid liability for "sexual harassment" under Title IX regulations, many schools have gone way too far. They have allowed hyper-sensitive or vindictive students to use the regulations as a weapon against anyone whose speech offends or annoys them.

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.

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