You Take 16 Credits, What Do You Get? (Another Day Older and Deeper In Debt)

Politicians, economists and educators continue to trumpet the importance of a college education.  At the Montana Conference for Education Leaders in Billings this week, academic experts nodded to each other that in our modern knowledge-based economy, finding a job without a degree will become increasingly difficult.

Yesterday we learned that two-thirds of college graduates last year had student loan debt, averaging $27,000.  Half of recent graduates can’t find jobs, and if they do, they find starting salaries have declined.

The issue is pretty complex.  College tuitions have increased at a greater rate than inflation.  Few students now work while at school.  Employers say colleges are not preparing students to meet their needs.  Americans  have become less nervous about debt and more comfortable with relying on government financial help.  Parents and students have not saved for college.  Many students use loan proceeds for all kinds of spending that is unrelated to school.  Some who receive loans and grants are not really students at all.

Add it all up and we face a $1 trillion student loan bubble.  And if you think all of that debt will be repaid to the taxpayers, I have a bridge . . .

Like the housing bubble, there will be a hue and cry to forgive the debts.  Some will say college education should be free – just like (gulp) Greece.

Is it a hopeless situation?  I don’t think so.   Here are just a few of many course corrections for our state universities that could turn the college cost/benefit dilemma around in fairly short order:

  • Limit student loans to educational costs only – tuition, books, perhaps on-campus room and board, and monitor recipients’ school attendance and performance
  • Take a hard look at the cost-drivers at our state-funded universities – is that new stadium necessary?  Are professor salaries commensurate with student benefit?
  • Eliminate the kickback corruption in the textbook industry – replace printed texts costing over $100 each with electronic media
  • Require student borrowers to have a documented plan for their educational path that leads to economic success – would a commercial bank make a business loan without a plan?
  • Allow and encourage employers (yes, those terrible profit-hungry abusers of the common people) to collaborate on-campus to make a direct connection between education and employment
  • Break up the radical left-wing academic bloc, eradicate their failed social engineering objectives and culture, and replace it with economic realism – the understanding that the reason one attends a university is to improve one’s ability to generate wealth for him or herself, a potential employer, and our nation.

Most important of all – we must prepare our K-12 students with a fundamental working knowledge of economics so that they are equipped to make rational career decisions at graduation.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

You load 16 tons –
What do you get?
Another day older
And deeper in debt

Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford