Making College Affordable
Board: Macro Economics
I should add that the student loan debacle are at least partly based on cultural memes that are unfortunately (in my opinion) wrong and destructive. These memes include "everyone should have/ deserves a college education"
I have to disagree here, not that this meme is wrong, but that this meme is real. I know of no one who actually believes or says that everyone should have a college education. I'm sure someone has said it at some point in time, but not many. The only time I ever hear this meme is when people who don't want to pay taxes start fighting to strip funding from university education investments.
What is more commonly said is that everyone should be able to afford a college education. That's a very different statement. It is a statement prompted by the realization that human potential is not an asset that lies only among the wealthy. Many with incredible potential to contribute great things to our society are not born wealthy. We do not serve society well if we eliminate the possibility that deserving people with great potential can afford college. So it is a very noble thing to say, "It is a goal to make college education affordable by everyone."
Now, there are at least two ways to make college affordable: 1- subsidize university education to bring down the cost, or 2- simply reduce the quality and expense of earning a degree until it is cheap enough. The first method is what used to work. The second is the "for-profit" education approach that is failing so miserably right now.
When university educations were subsidized well, universities could focus on providing superior graduates. They could accept the students who seemed to have most potential. There was no pressure to accept "unqualified" students nor to grant degrees to those that did not perform. Not all were accepted, but most of those who graduated were well-prepared to contribute to society.
By stripping public funding from advanced education, we opened up the possibility for "for profit" diploma mills to appear competitive with state schools. We placed the primary emphasis of colleges to be to turn profit - not to provide outstanding graduates. And the best way to turn profit was to make every consumer happy. Half of you want a degree in Underwater Basketweaving? No problem. Pay us and we'll give it to you.
Capitalism is a wonderful system for making the cost of toothpaste low. Competition and the quest for wealth breeds innovation that benefits the consumer. But for-profit diplomas have not served society well. They have not served our education system well. Our population is out of work at least partly because they are unqualified to do the jobs the world needs done right now. There may be hundreds of people with a degree from Interstate 40 College of Anything for Price, but they aren't qualified to do anything but play video games or draw fashion models or . . . They got what the college sold them - a diploma. They didn't get an education because that would have cost more money and cut into profits.
. . . and "college is a time to find oneself/ learn great thoughts/ learn how to think, not acquire useful skills" and several more.
I don't think college has to be a trade school for everyone. I studied electrical engineering, so it was for me. But society can afford to educate some to think great thoughts. And if someone can afford to take a year off in college to backpack Europe (that's what the rich kids did when I was an undergrad) I don't begrudge them. Myself, I hitchhiked across the country during 1/2 of my Summer break a couple of times. It made finances more difficult when I got back to school, but I made it up with extra hours at my part time jobs during the Semester.
The student loan debacle affects both parents who borrowed (or spent their retirement funds) to educate their children and students who borrowed on their own.
When I went to college, no one in my family had ever graduated from college before. My father was a coal miner. My mother a housewife and part-time clerk. My parents wouldn't have known the difference between a degree from Downtown College of Big Ideas and MIT - except for the cost. They could never have afforded to send me to MIT. Fortunately for me, the University of Illinois was a really good engineering school and I was able to win a scholarship, work part time and get a degree without debt. That couldn't happen today. I almost certainly would have ended up with a mining engineering degree from the local community college because that is the best I could do. Or ended up with so much debt that the degree would never pay for itself.
But I wouldn't be the only loser from the loss of low cost quality education. Thousands of others who were able to get quality college educations have contributed significantly to society in countless ways.
We have cluttered up the college decisions with too many schools and too many majors of dramatically varying quality and value. How are people with no college experience from backgrounds of little or no college experience supposed to make an informed decision?