Politicians and parents often complain that the rising cost of higher education keeps many students from pursuing their dream of a college degree.

They're right. Estimates show that children born today will face tuition costs of $84,000 when they're old enough to attend a four-year public university.

But policy makers can encourage colleges to lower costs by subjecting them to greater marketplace competition—in the form of freelance professors. How would this work?

American colleges graduate many more Ph.D.s than there are academic positions for them to fill. Schools advertising faculty and staff openings are routinely bombarded with hundreds of Ph.D. level job applicants.

Lawmakers can help reduce the demand for—and the expense of—college education by licensing these qualified but unemployed instructors to privately teach students on their own, outside of the traditional campus setting.

Privately practicing instructors could offer flexible scheduling and charge lower rates for college credits because they would not have the enormous costs of maintaining a large campus. In response, universities would have to lower their fees or else lose students to these educational entrepreneurs.

Higher education can learn a lesson in lower costs—through old-fashioned competition.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.