Psst…hey, how much will you pay me to fill out these forms to get the government to pay you?

There’s a finite amount of stuff, see, so somehow, someway, we have to distribute it among all the people who want it.

Some people believe that having the government do that job will lead to fairness — a highly educated, expert bureaucrat can decide what goes where and when (and, possibly, why) more efficiently than a brutish system that depends, basically, on who’s willing to pay more.

But here’s the kicker: that system — the expert bureaucrat — still depends on…people. People, whose judgment can be impaired by…oh, I don’t know. Money. Pre-disposed notions. Ignorance. Yes, even experts can’t foresee everything.

Even if they went to an Ivy League school.

So? So what? We’ll make rules for those experts to follow. Procedures. We’ll create forms for people to fill out, and criteria. Regulations. Paperwork.

It’ll be foolproof, and things will be fair.

Which brings me to this story:

Benson Rollins wants a college degree. The unemployed high school dropout who attends Alcoholics Anonymous and has been homeless for 10 months is being courted by the University of Phoenix. Two of its recruiters got themselves invited to a Cleveland shelter last October and pitched the advantages of going to the country’s largest for-profit college to 70 destitute men.

Their visit spurred the 23-year-old Rollins to fill out an online form expressing interest. Phoenix salespeople then barraged him with phone calls and e-mails, urging a tour of its Cleveland campus. “If higher education is important to you for professional growth, and to achieve your academic goals, why wait any longer? Classes start soon and space is limited,” one Phoenix employee e-mailed him on April 15. “I’ll be happy to walk you through the entire application process.”

Rollins’s experience is increasingly common…Such disadvantaged students are desirable because they qualify for federal grants and loans, which are largely responsible for the prosperity of for-profit colleges.

Are we opposed to the homeless furthering their educations? Absolutely not. But…a high school dropout is by definition not prepared for higher education. Yet, he’s being “courted” by university recruiters.

Why?

Federal aid to students at for-profit colleges jumped to $26.5 billion in 2009 from $4.6 billion in 2000. Publicly traded higher education companies derive three-fourths of their revenue from federal funds, with Phoenix at 86 percent, up from just 48 percent in 2001 and approaching the 90 percent limit set by federal law.

…The privately held Drake College of Business, which trains people to be medical and dental assistants, relied on taxpayers for 87 percent of its revenue in 2007. Almost 5 percent of the student body at its Newark, New Jersey, branch is homeless, says Jean Aoun, director of admissions and student services there.

Notice how the story makes a point of calling them “for-profit” colleges over and over. As if a state university couldn’t do the exact same thing.

And why might so many homeless be going back to school — not to mention enrolling in college?

Late in 2008, it began offering a $350 biweekly stipend to students who show up for 80 percent of classes and maintain a “C” average.

If somebody’s offering you $100, it’s in your interest to spend $99 to get that $100. Why wouldn’t a college that depends heavily on federal financial student aid be willing to pay aid-eligible students to enroll?

So: here we have a well-intentioned government program (or programs), heavily laden with rules, regulations, paperwork and bureaucracy, being taken advantage of (allegedly) by two groups — the universities and the homeless students they recruit — both of whom benefit financially.

Whether the classes do the student any good or not…well, that’s not really the point, here.

Oh, sure, if those students were to earn a degree, enabling them to become useful, contributing members of society, then I suppose: no harm, no foul. But how likely is that? How likely that Mr. Rollins, high school dropout, will earn a degree? How likely, that his college experience will change the basic personal and environmental factors that landed him homeless in the first place?

Not likely. And:

Unfortunately, many people who accept such “stipend” offers never graduate, become overwhelmed with student debt, and destroy their already bad financial records.

Which isn’t exactly the result taxpayers are looking for.

Hey, fraudulent sorts of things can happen even without the government’s help. The difference is: when you fall for somebody’s scam, you lose your money. Not mine. And you’ll be more careful next time, so as not to lose more of your money.

When somebody scams a government program, we all lose money. And nobody’s more careful next time, because…well, why should anyone be more careful?

The less government we have, the more freedom every individual has to choose or to not choose. And the more government we have… well, it doesn’t quite reach that utopian ideal of fairness, does it?

(Bloomberg story found via Naked Law, which was found via InstaPundit.)

(Far, far shorter blogging can be found over at The TrogloPundit.)

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