A Problem with Higher Education
Some of the biggest problems in America are caused when politicians and bureaucrats decide THEY can manage something better than free market forces. Education, specifically higher education, is one such problem.
Our current policy is to throw money at all would-be students no matter their attitude towards education or likelihood of success. And what do we get for it…
♦ It allows universities to keep the price of higher education artificially high.
♦ It allows universities to pay no attention to the deportment of faculty.
♦ If allows universities to pay no attention to the actual intrinsic value of certain degrees.
♦ It encourages students and parents to take on exorbitant debt that many will never pay off.
♦ It produces dropouts and even graduates who are ill-prepared for the real world (and many in debt up to their eyeballs).
It’s time to put a stop to this mess.
But, it could get worse. There are many a socialist nut out there advocating for “free” education up to and including college. THAT would exacerbate the problem. In fact, we should be going in the exact opposite direction by making college less accessible (note, I said accessible, not expensive).
The problem is government. Think about this. The government (GOP, Dems, all of ‘em) wanted everybody to own a house. Sounds good right? So, they made the banks load money to people who were not responsible enough and/or couldn’t afford a house; making taxpayers accountable. And what happened? The housing bubble, default, and debacle.
With that lesson completely ignored, the government (GOP, Dems, all of ‘em) want everybody to get a college degree. See a pattern?
Right now, colleges have no incentive to keep costs under control because everything is so heavily subsidized. Meanwhile tenure is handed out like pez candy giving academia a license to do or say anything. The money is flowing and shows no sign of letting up, so why improve the product, why be more efficient, why hold faculty accountable, why reduce costs? Blindly subsidizing anything guarantees poorer quality at a higher cost.
Imagine though, if we reintroduced free market forces into this equation. Imagine if universities competed for fewer students who were doing cost/benefit analysis on the university and the field of study. What if there was incentive for universities to give “bang for your buck”? It’ll never happen with the system we have.
While there are many aspects of subsidizing higher education; one of the biggest is the student loan program. Student loan debt is currently $1.5 trillion (more than auto loans, more than credit card debt). Guess who is on the hook for all this debt? Yeah, we are. Again.
Because the money is so easy to come by, many “students” take it, party for about four years, don’t graduate (or graduate with a worthless degree) AND… enter society unprepared, in debt, generally pissed, and of the opinion they are owed something (like the forgiveness of the debt).
The solution is simple. Reintroduce market forces into the process of making and receiving student loans. This would be done by getting Uncle Sam out of the business; completely out of the business. Turn this over to the private sector who will make loans on a risk reward basis. Is the applicant going to a “party school”? Is the applicant serious about why he/she is going to school? Is the student likely to graduate, get a job, and replay the loan? All good questions (and there are many more such questions) that should be asked, but given the current system aren’t.
I can already hear a few of the arguments… so let me address them.
Objection: But if we have less people going to college we’ll have less educated people and not be able to compete the global economy.
Answer: First understand that those we’re trying to weed out probably weren’t going to college to learn and weren’t going to graduate. Percentage and quality of graduates should increase making up for much of that. Second, it is high time to reintroduce vocational training in our high-schools. High School degrees need to be worth more, especially when applied to a specialized vocation. We should have people exiting high school who know basic plumbing, welding, truck driving, (get the picture). No… they won’t be professionals, but they should have the knowledge to get their collective feet in the door.
Objection: But liberal arts will suffer.
Answer: Yes… to a degree, but maybe there are ways to mitigate for that. Maybe a liberal arts degree shouldn’t cost as much as a more “practical” degree. If it’s less likely to pay as much after graduation, let the market set the rate of the costs. Certain colleges that have a passion for liberal arts should concentrate on liberal arts.
Objection: But degrees like Black Studies and Women’s Studies will all but disappear.
Answer: Yes… and good riddance. They’re worthless, less than actually. Get a real degree and study hobby type stuff on the side.
We have a mess our hands with higher education. As with many, many such messes, the problem is… government doing more than it should (bread and circuses). The solution is, get government the hell out of it. A good place to start is with student loans.
College degrees are meaning less and less as is all education. Many people (who were never mature enough or prepared academically) are dropping out of college with huge debt. More and more people are graduating with degrees that are worthless. Colleges have no incentive to change (tuition costs, faculty abuse, degree programs, etc…).
Return higher education to a modicum of sanity through free market forces. Apply a little supply and demand to right this ship.