Department of Education

The Department of Education operates a wide range of aid programs for elementary and secondary schools. The aid and related federal regulations have generally failed to lift academic achievement. The department also subsidizes higher education through student loan and grant programs. Unfortunately, that aid has fueled inflation in college tuition and is subject to widespread abuse.

The department will spend about $79 billion in 2016, or $630 for every U.S. household. After adjusting for inflation, spending has increased 67 percent since 2000. The department employs 4,000 workers and operates 114 different subsidy programs.

Department of Education Net Spending in Billions of Constant 2017 Dollars
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  • K-12 Education Subsidies. Federal intervention into the nation’s schools has consumed great deals of taxpayer money and created large bureaucracies to administer the funding and regulations. It has produced little, if any, improvement in academic results.
  • Higher Education Subsidies. Federal grants and loans for college students have contributed to soaring inflation in tuition costs. Student grant and loan programs have also been subject to high levels of fraud and abuse.
Timeline of Government Growth
Cato Experts
"Only a truly competitive educational industry can empower the ultimate consumers of educational services—parents and their children."

Milton Friedman, Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2000

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