To the extent he thinks about it, President Joe Biden is probably expecting to be canonized by millennials whose student-loan debt he’s paring down.

Depending on how the question is asked, though, the move is not popular. In a Trafalgar Group poll released on Sept. 12, more than half of likely voters – 55.6 percent – and 64.6 percent of self-described independents said that they’d be “less likely” to cast their ballot for someone who backed the Biden debt relief plan. Other polls have shown the opposite sentiment.

In truth, however, the issue of student-loan forgiveness is a distraction from the real problem in higher education. Tuition rates have risen faster than inflation for decades. What no one wants to confront, even as we proceed to forgive as much as $1 trillion in student loan debt, is what has created the whole situation: the stranglehold that the higher-education cartel has on colleges and universities.

It’s time to take another look. Mitch Daniels, the outgoing president of Indiana’s Purdue University, has managed to keep tuition flat (and under $10,000 a year) for most of his tenure. He’s the exception, at least among the leaders of big schools. The cost to attend most colleges and universities is soaring, likely because so few people question the activities of “Big Ed.”

The cartel works hard to keep everyone in line. Almost a year ago, the University of Austin (UATX) was founded to provide an alternative to the conformist wasteland of modern American academia. UATX’s ability to move forward was contingent, it said, on its ability to raise an initial $10 million – an amount subsequently pledged by Matt Andresen, a co-founder of the Chicago-based Headlands Technologies LLC., and his wife Teri. That much money may well get the school off and running, but to challenge Big Ed, a much more fundamental problem will need to be addressed: accreditation, a process that the cartel, with the backing of the Department of Education, uses to control the curriculum of virtually every American university.

A classical liberal arts learning environment cannot exist under the current accreditation regime. Until those in academia are brave enough to call it out it for the scam it is, the continuance of intellectual freedom on campus depends on a few underfunded, little-known holdouts like Utah’s Mount Liberty College, Oregon’s Gutenberg College, and the newly founded Thales College in North Carolina.

If UATX insists on getting accredited, it can never be the alternative to the overpriced, inquiry-stifling institution its founders envision. It will slowly but surely bow to the inevitable, becoming complicit in the conspiracy that kills the classics. And Matt and Teri Andresen will have seen their $10 million disappear.

Those who want to reform higher education must realize that they need to break up Big Ed before serious change can happen. And that means abolition of accreditation, the tie that binds.

This article was originally published by RealClearEducation and made available via RealClearWire.

Gordon Jones is a founder and faculty member at Mount Liberty College, where he teaches The Development of Civilization.