Over the past several decades, it has become accepted that the cost of higher education will continue to rise every year, far outpacing inflation or any other category (save perhaps health care). Every year, more and more colleges raise tuition to ungodly levels, fully knowing that the federal government will cover the difference. There is little incentive for them to do otherwise. Quite simply, college is not anything close to resembling a free market. We have come to accept the idea that everyone should be able to go to college, including ones that are wildly overpriced, and that government - that is, taxpayers - should foot the bill.
And yet, even questioning this is akin to wanting poor kids to suffer. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney, supposedly from the party that likes free markets, was a staunch defender of Pell Grants, one of the primary government programs used to subsidize college tuition. Romney even expressed a desire to expand the program. For those who don’t know, the basic principle of Pell Grants is that the government gives you money towards your tuition - with no obligation to pay it back. There are various qualifiers for this money, but it is basically a gift if you get it. So needless to say, when I heard this during the debate, one thing was clear - you’re not allowed to question the basic idea that government has an interest, even an obligation, to pay for college for those who cannot afford it.
Written by Jason Bedrick, a visiting policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama pledged to make college more affordable. President Obama kept his promises to increase grants and expand loan forgiveness, but the cost of attending college continues to rise. As the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center reports today, tuition at public universities rose 4.8% this year. While tuition didn’t grow as fast as in previous years, tuition continues to rise faster than inflation and growth in family income. And, as we know, student debt is exploding. Graduates of the class of 2011 carry an average of $26,600 in student loan debt, up 5% from the class of 2010. Nationwide debt from student loans exceeded $1 trillion this year, surpassing all other forms of debt that Americans carry, including credit card debt and auto loans.
As fall approaches, hundreds of thousands of high school students are being asked that nagging question: “What college are you going to?” These students would be wise to follow the advice of Peter Thiel, a billionaire Silicon Valley investor. For most of us, college is an expensive waste of time.
Not only is entrepreneurship a nearly impossible skill to truly teach at college since true entrepreneurship boils down to risk-taking (read: outside the box thinking) and self-motivation (read: not a classroom environment) — but enormous amounts of student debt severely limit the options of graduates in the marketplace by forcing them to take jobs that cover loan costs and provide for basic living costs.
This may be the ultimate folly of college education in my eyes. How many bright, young people are stuck in the rat race of professional jobs, or worse government, who are simply unable to follow their passions, be entrepreneurial, or develop something socially useful because they took on $100,000 in student loans when they were 18 and they just are not able to take the risk due to that looming $600/mo tuition payment.
This is why the Thiel Foundation is offering $100,000 scholarships to budding entrepreneurs to drop out of college for two years and develop their ideas. At least 20 students are awarded the scholarship each year, with some impressive results.
40% of full-time students fail to get a degree in six years, and with roughly one of three college graduates in a job the Labor Department says requires less than a bachelor’s degree, it is clear that our emphasis on the need to go to college is misguided.
People are spending a large amount of time getting degrees for jobs that may never be there.
A while back, I wrote a post asking the question of whether college was over-hyped. This was based on a John Stossel column and it really deserves some consideration. After all, many very successfully people never went to college, and some college educated people are sleeping on park benches in this country. Well, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Maureen Downey isn’t ready to say they’re over-hyped, but she seems to think they’re definitely overcharged:
My niece loves most of her academic classes at grad school, but found that some living legends of her department are only there because of reputation rather than teaching skills and put in minimal effort or appearances.
“Ultimately, the faculty are really what makes a school,” says Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of “The Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For.”
“They have the most long-term effect on campus atmosphere and student’s educational experience,” she says. “Students on campuses come and go, but faculty are there forever in many cases.”
In her book, Riley deconstructs the cause of such faculty longevity, taking on one of the most cherished perks of high education, tenure.
She asks whether the awarding of jobs for life, often as a result of a professor’s research and publication in rarefied journals, leads to some faculty staying too long at schools and doing too little of what ought to matter most — teaching.
Tenure, she contends, is dragging colleges away from their original and most important mission, and stifling the young, innovative professors, in addition to cheating students of the education they deserve.
John Stossel, former anchor of 20/20 and current host of Stossel on the Fox Business Channel has a piece over at Real Clear Politics about whether college education is something of a scam. For people actually in college, this isn’t something they want to hear. For people who didn’t go to college or dropped out, it’s a different matter entirely. [Fair disclosure, I’m essentially a college drop out myself]
It’s a well known fact that those who graduate college tend to earn more over the course of their lifetime. Up to $1 million more. Study after study seems to show this, making it an inescapable fact, right? Well, Stossel doesn’t seem to be so sure of that:
I spoke with Richard Vedder, author of “Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much,” and Naomi Schafer Riley, who just published “Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For.”
Vedder explained why that million-dollar comparison is ridiculous:
“People that go to college are different kind of people … (more) disciplined … smarter. They did better in high school.”
They would have made more money even if they never went to college.
Honestly, it’s a fair point. Driven, intelligent people have a tendency to do more than folks who just don’t care, regardless of education. The idea isn’t exactly groundbreaking, is it? However, Stossel doesn’t just stop there. Of particular interest to me was this paragraph:
Also, lots of people not suited for higher education get pushed into it. This doesn’t do them good. They feel like failures when they don’t graduate. Vedder said two out of five students entering four-year programs don’t have a bachelor’s degree after year six.