“…a National University; and also a Military Academy. The desirableness of both these Institutions, has so constantly increased with every new view I have taken of the subject, that I cannot omit the opportunity of once for all, recalling your attention to them.”
The Military Academy was soon built at West Point. But despite leaving $22,222 for its establishment (a lot of money back then) in his last will and testament, Washington’s National University never came to pass.
Instead, lawmakers chose to rely on state governments and religious denominations to build and finance new colleges and universities.
Today, the American higher education system is in crisis. The price of college has grown astronomically, forcing students and parents to take out loans that now exceed $1.2 trillion in outstanding debt. Many of those loans are falling into default as graduates struggle to find work. The latest research suggests that our vaunted universities are producing graduates who haven’t learned very much.
The time has come to revive George Washington’s great idea, in 21st century form. Advances in information technology that would have seemed like pure magic in colonial times mean we can now create a 21st Century National University that will help millions of students get a high-quality, low-cost college education — without hiring any professors, building any buildings or costing the taxpayers a dime.
The federal government’s higher education approval powers are long-established. Now it just needs to use them on behalf of students, instead of traditional colleges and universities that are charging far too much. George Washington was right all along.
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