Here’s another of my Facebook screeds, typos and all, discussing one possible contributor to why college costs too damn much (to borrow a line from the NY Gov. debate this past week):
Ask yourself this question Andy: Why is college so expensive? Answer: Because the federal government makes it possible (is an enabler).
We could easily get into a chicken or the egg debate, but simply put, if the Gov’t didn’t spend Billions and Billions of dollars underwriting low-interest, no-collateral loans to students that can be up to a quarter million dollars to study anything they want, colleges would either find a way to cut costs or would either scale back considerably or go out of business.
I know of a fellow in my local school district, working part-time as a substitute teacher that just graduated last year (2009) after spending four years of his life studying Theater Arts. Now I’m all for education, and I enjoy the arts, but this kid took on $160,000 worth of loans to pay for his education. His loans came due, what, 6 months after graduation? He had no job prospects, and wound up taking on a part-time sub position just to generate some money – $85/day, when he works, and most days he doesn’t work.
I can’t even imagine what his loan payments look like (happily, my college was paid for in large part by employers, with a few early semesters paid for by my family – I was lucky, but many employers offer tuition assistance), but he must owe over $1,000 month (assuming 10 years to pay it back, 120 months, $160,000 debt).
Anyway, if the Gov’t didn’t ‘enable’ him to think a $40,000/yr college was an option, he would have found some other way to get his education – instead, he’s $160,000 in the hole, with a degree that he stands a good chance never working professionally in. (“working professionally” in this statement means working in a job related to his major, earning enough money to support either himself or his family, if he has one. This is distinct from working in a field related to his major that doesn’t pay enough to meet his needs.)
And No, these amazing ‘work for the Gov’t and your loans are forgiven’ programs are not the answer. Hiring a college graduate for an entry-level job, paying them what their job is worth BUT with the promise of forgiving $100,000 to $200,000 in student loans after zafew years of service amounts to a $10,000-20,000/yr bonus (which, of course will be considered a tax-free bonus/benefit) after 5-10 years of service. Shorten the requirement, and the size of the ‘bonus’ only goes up. And in exchange we get well-educated clerks serving indentured servitude to the Gov’t to pay off their loans.