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and Democratic senators that allied mainly with Republican House members to push through the direct aid model- a victory for Pell, economists, the intellectual class, and the Nixon administration. The direct aid model's centerpiece was Pell's Basic Educational Opportunity Grant for low-income students, later renamed the Pell Grant after the senator who championed it. The law also opened up federal aid to for-profit institutions and encouraged states to create their own direct aid programs, which virtually every state ultimately did. Thus in 1972 the federal government engineered a mass experiment in education vouchers at the college level, not unlike the kind conservatives have long argued-so far unsuccessfully-should be tried in the K-12 system. King's thesis attempted to determine the ultimate effects of that mass experiment. Central to his analysis was the work of M. M. Chambers, an expert in higher education finance at Illinois State University who in 1968 predicted disaster if a voucher-type model were put in place. Direct government aid to already high-cost private institutions, Chambers wrote, would fuel further increases in tuition at those schools, thus "pric[ing] out" the very low-income students the program was trying to help. Additionally, he argued that federal direct aid would create an incentive for states to reduce support for public institutions, thus depriving lowincome students of the free and low-tuition education that the vast majority of them depend on. In his 1996 thesis, King marshaled an extensive amount of data to show that Chambers's predictions have proven true, and that without a change in federal policy things will only get worse for lower-income students and the public colleges and universities supporting them. U pon completing his PhD, King became an academic at the University of Illinois. He got his first big break in 2001 when the Economist picked up one of his journal articles, "The Silent Crisis," which demonstrated that while professors at public and private universities used to be paid the same salaries back in the 1980s, by 1998 professors at toptier privates were paid $20,000 more than their public counterparts. (King says the differential has now grown to $45,000.) Soon after, King took over, quite literally, the family business: he succeeded his father as president of Murray State University in western Kentucky. He spent four years there slowly raising his national profile as a thinker on higher education funding issues, once even testifying in Congress. He was then chosen to lead California State University, Long Beach, a larger school with a significant number of low-income students that gave him a better platform to inform the world about the catastrophe of the 1972 amendments. He began writing op-eds in the higher education trade press and working the halls of Congress on behalf of an idea called "maintenance of effort": that as a condition of federal higher education aid, states should be required to provide a minimum amount of their revenues to their public colleges and universities. It was the same concept King would later argue with Lamar Alexander about in the hearing this summer. But in 2008, with the Democrats controlling the House and Senate, he had a bit more luck. King helped successfully lobby for the inclusion of a maintenance of effort provision tied to a small matching grant for states to encourage enrollment of lowincome students in the reauthorization of the HEA, against the objections of Lamar Alexander. It was a big fight to even get that provision in at all, but funding in the program was too small to significantly affect state behavior. A few months later, during the financial crisis, Congress included maintenance of effort language in a massive stimulus package allocating $40 billion to states to, in part, support higher education. King points out that many states cut their budgets to within 1 percent of the threshold, but did not go below it: it was the closest he could get to a proof of concept for his idea, and he says he's not sure he'll "ever get a bigger accomplishment" than that maintenance of effort provision. After three years, when the In 1972 the federal government engineered a mass experiment in education vouchers at the college level, not unlike the kind conservatives have long argued-so far unsuccessfully-should be tried in the K-12 system. money dried up and states were no longer subject to maintenance of effort, many states further decreased support below the floor that had been set by Congress. The disagreement over maintenance of effort is one over the proper role of the federal government. Lamar Alexander reflected the Republican Party's view on states' rights when he told me that maintenance of effort "usurp[s] the prerogative of the constitutional authority of governors and legislators to decide how to spend state dollars by, in effect, being coercive." King, for his part, describes himself as a "federalist" when it comes to education policy and says "states' rights is George Wallace standing in front of the Alabama admissions office not letting anybody in." To King, the debate over maintenance of effort is nothing less than a battle over whether Americans of modest birth will have anything like the same opportunities as the affluent to better themselves through higher education. Spend enough time around King, and you get the sense that he became a public university president less because he wants to run a school than because it provides him Washington Monthly 55

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