Posts Tagged ‘College Debt’

Universities as businesses: students as cash cows

September 19, 2013

Thomas Frank wrote a great article in The Baffler of where American higher education is going.  He said a lot of things I’ve long said, but he said them better and more eloquently.

bors-youth-student-loan-debt-trophyYoung people today are told they have no possibility of ever getting a good job unless they have a college education.   But they know nothing about college, or what it has to offer.   Consequently they are helpless to prevent themselves from being cash cows for greedy college administrators, greedy textbook publishers and greedy lenders.  This isn’t true of everyone everywhere, but it is common and becoming more common.

The solution is obvious.   At least it is obvious to Thomas Frank, and to me.

College should become free or very cheap. It should be heavily subsidized by the states, and robust competition from excellent state U’s should in turn bring down the price of college across the board.  Pointless money-drains like a vast administration, a preening president, and a quasi-professional football team should all be plugged up.  Accrediting agencies should come down like a hammer on universities that use too many adjuncts and part-time teachers.  Student loan debt should be universally refinanced to carry little or no interest and should be discharge-able in bankruptcy, like any other form of debt.

But the obvious solution is highly unlikely to be adopted.

What actually will happen to higher ed, when the breaking point comes, will be an extension of what has already happened, what money wants to see happen. Another market-driven disaster will be understood as a disaster of socialism, requiring an ever deeper penetration of the university by market rationality.

Trustees and presidents will redouble their efforts to achieve some ineffable “excellence” they associate with tech and architecture and corporate sponsorships. There will be more standardized tests, and more desperate test-prep. The curriculum will be brought into a tighter orbit around the needs of business, just like Thomas Friedman wants it to be.

Professors will continue to plummet in status and power, replaced by adjuncts in more and more situations. An all-celebrity system, made possible by online courses or some other scheme, will finally bring about a mass faculty extinction—a cataclysm that will miraculously spare university administrations. And a quality education in the humanities will once again become a rich kid’s prerogative.

via The Baffler.

Student-Debt-CartoonPeople wonder why the U.S. economy is so slow to recover.  Young people have no money to spare because they are burdened with college debt.  Their parents have no money to spare because they are paying off underwater mortgages.  Their grandparents have no money to spare because they have no private pensions and they haven’t been able to save.   Again, this isn’t true of everyone, everywhere, but it is common and becoming more common.

People my age (I’m 76) who belittle today’s young people don’t remember how good we had it.  College tuition was affordable, working your way through college was feasible and nobody began life with a debt burden they might never pay off.

Click on Academy Fight Song for Thomas Frank’s full magnificent survey of the American higher education money machine.

Click on How the American University Was Killed, in Five Easy Steps, by the ‘Junct Rebellion for another splendid overview.

Why can’t higher education be affordable?

August 24, 2013

slihouettemanwonderswtf

When I was of college age, back in the 1950s, it was possible for middle-class American families to save  enough money to send their children through college, and for poor but ambitious students to work their way through college.   It also was possible for a hard-working person without a college education to earn a decent living.

Now a college diploma is a prerequisite for a decent job, much as a high school diploma was 60 years ago, and for many students, a college education is out of reach without taking on a burdensome level of debt.   It is a high stakes gamble.   If the college diploma is a ticket to a good job, the gamble pays off.  If it isn’t, then the borrower faces the possibility of a lifetime of debt servitude.

President Obama has proposed a plan for student debt relief, which is to give financial incentives to colleges with affordable tuition and good graduation rates.  Like his heath care form plan, it is complicated, offers opportunities to game the system and may or may not do some good in the long run.

I think the solution is for state universities to provide a good education with free or low tuition to everyone who is capable of doing college work, and for community colleges to provide free or remedial education and job training.  The federal government could provide support to enable them to afford to be able to do this.

I also think the federal government should buy up existing student debt and provide refinancing at a nominal interest rate.  This is part of the larger world debt situation:  People and nations owe more than they ever can repay and there needs to be some means of writing down this debt.

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