by Bob Barr
Higher education in America today should come with the disclaimer, caveat emptor. The cost of tuition has more than doubled in the last two decades, with the value of a four-year college degree heading in the opposite direction.
The “fix” championed by Democratic Party leaders – a bailout for those already graduated, and “free” tuition for those entering the pipeline – will only make matters worse.
A part of this long-developing problem is simply supply and demand; the overabundance of bachelor’s degrees in the market means they are worth less in the eyes of employers. There also is more talent in the marketplace for specialized jobs, meaning graduates with narrowly tailored degrees in obscure fields are less likely to find employment regardless of how much they spent on those degrees. Moreover, employers cannot be sure about the quality of graduates; are they getting someone who is smart and capable in the workplace, or a lite snowflake who melts outside the “safe space” sanctuary of college.
It is a badly broken system, and cannot be remedied by the Democratic Party’s much-ballyhooed “bailout” proposals.
The $1.6 trillion student loan crisis is not to be ignored or overlooked. The massive amount of debt shouldered by mostly young Americans has been shown to have a sweeping economic and social impact — from delaying marriages and having children, to stunting small business entrepreneurship. Yet, a bailout of student loans, in the form of cancellation or forgiveness such as supported by almost all of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, absolves from responsibility those whose policies caused the problem, while doing nothing to address the root cause. In other words, the standard Democratic strategy.
No one really believes that the quality of education has risen in proportion to its cost. In fact, the value of a degree in 2019 is far less than it was in 1999. Students may enjoy more lavish dorms, massive student centers, and cushy classrooms, but nothing of substance that translates to value in the working world. Students who arrive on campus for a classical education, end up paying for liberal vanity projects with zero real-world value — expensive administrators tasked with “social justice” and leading “bias response teams,” along with liberal arts programs that pay inflated faculty salaries for teaching “courses” on Brazilian transgender prostitutes, and riffing on Twitter about Republicans being serial rapists.
The Democrats’ drive to define college education a “human right” has helped to make student loans as easy to get as sub-prime lending in the mid-2000s. This, of course, virtually ensures colleges and universities can continue to charge whatever they want, because students (and their parents) will somehow secure the dollars demanded. This warped arrangement carries virtually no risk for the lenders, since student loans are difficult, if not impossible to discharge in bankruptcy; with many guaranteed by Uncle Sam himself.
Why should the rest of America shoulder this burden, especially those generations who worked hard to repay what they owed? Why is an expensive education at a northern school (the top seven statesfor highest average student loan debt are in the north), for a degree the student should have known had no marketable value, but was simply something he or she “wanted to learn,” suddenly the responsibility of American taxpayers generally?
A bailout of student loans is a great marketing ploy by Democratic presidential candidates, but it represents nothing other than another higher education scam; one that rewards the perpetrators and punishes everyone else. Colleges will continue to charge astronomical tuition. Lenders will continue handing out money at zero-risk to them. And, irresponsible students will rest easy knowing that someone else will be picking up the tab for a four-year luxury vacation to study a field that only they care about.
The crisis in higher education is the product of liberal hubris and government meddling, and has produced an educational system designed more for the personal and political vanity of edu-crats, than for the benefit of our nation’s young people.
A bailout of this broken and corrupt system will greatly harm America’s global competitiveness in the decades to come. In fact, it already has.