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Americans are used to hearing that our higher-education system is “the envy of the world.” That’s nonsense. We have some superb programs, but they’re surrounded by an ocean of expensive mediocrity.

Fortunately, expensive mediocrity never lasts long when people are able to shop around for better value. That’s happening in higher education, much for the better.

George Leef is director of research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy ( in Raleigh, N.C.