Instantly transform higher education (retracted — see update)
Hereby retracted. A reader sent various rebuttals, but the one that resonated is that subsidized loans are not really voluntary, because the unsubsidized rates are so much higher.
I checked, and found this was even more true than he suggested: unsubsidized loans are now mostly unavailable at any price, due to the credit crisis. Thus poorer students have no alternative to subsidized loans. So the above would amount to an unavoidable invasion of privacy unduly targeting poorer students.
The reader posted other arguments. Another that held some weight with me was that alcohol is far more abused, yet unregulated.
My goal in this proposal was to try to reverse a decades-long descent of American universities from educational institutions into a form of subsidized arrested development, in which late teens party their way through waning adolescence in the absence of either supervision or consequences. But clearly this isn’t the way.
Require recipients of federally subsidized student loans to take regular drug tests.
This does not violate privacy, because subsidized loans are voluntary. If you don’t want to take a drug test, get unsubsidized loans instead.
Sometimes a situation arises so slowly, and becomes so established, that we forget how outrageous it is until we state it bluntly: for decades, we have offered public subsidies for illegal drug use at universities. Phrased thus, it doesn’t sound like such a good idea, and obviously delivers negative return on investment.
Among many other advantages, testing would be a social leveler: the poorer students will be less able to afford drugs, putting them at an academic advantage. So we have a rare case where we can equalize opportunity while simultaneously making government more efficient.