Where Health Care and Education Bureaucracies Meet

A recent article in the Las Cruces Sun-News outlining a new $1.9 million award by the U.S. Department of Labor to Doña Ana Community College’s nursing program caught my attention. As the article points out in its opening paragraph, nurses are in high demand and have been for some time. In fact, some would say there is a shortage of nurses.
Much later in the Sun-News piece, however, David Pearse, dean of health and public services at DACC, tells us that “there are typically 200 applicants each semester for 24 slots in the nursing program. That means we are turning away 176 students each semester.” That is where the $1.9 million from the feds comes in.
So, is there some kind of market failure here? Not likely, especially in two heavily-socialized areas of our economy like health care and education.
The reality is that in a “free” market in health care and education, nurses would likely be paid enough that no shortage would exist. Places of learning would spring up to fulfill the demand to educate nurses who would be happy to pay for the education necessary in order to get into the field just as they do for other fields.
Unfortunately, in the absence of anything resembling a “free” market in health care and medicine, nurse’s salaries are apparently too low, thus creating a shortage and the need for federal subsidies to educate them. Clearly, this is not ideal.

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