Last week I had a column that was a discussion opener about the role of higher education in our state and nation particularly considering the present budget problems (“Dire Education,” 4-7-2011). Today I would like to move the issue along and examine some other factors surrounding education at our colleges and universities. In the earlier column I referred to a piece by Neal McCluskey that suggested that federal government in the form of the Higher Education Act was a major cause of higher education inflation. His premise was that the government’s willingness to lavishly spread taxpayer monies around contributed to colleges and universities failing to seriously attempt cost controls.
Charles Hugh Smith of www.OfTwoMinds.com has written an interesting article entitled, “Students: You Are Exploited Debt-Serfs.” He describes what he calls the “Education Cartel” wherein the banks reap immediate profits at the moment they issue a loan. In addition, the college or university can receive bundles of funds from the government and the designated banks every term. Roughly 10% of those who receive direct government school payments or bank generated guaranteed payments do not graduate. So, in a sense it’s a scam that uses taxpayer dollars. The banks and the schools benefit, and students either leave school or graduate with huge debts. Added to the loan scheme is the government grant shuffle.
If a student does graduate, then he or she may end up with a $100,000 debt that cannot be eliminated via a bankruptcy. In other words, the government, the banks and the “schools of higher learning” scheme together to place the young and hopeful people of America in a situation of inescapable debt . Meanwhile the smoke and mirrors public relations campaigns continue to browbeat young people into deciding for a college education when that may not be the best choice for certain individuals. Even if college is the proper path for someone who has aspirations, why not educate and encourage the students to pursue a fiscally responsible path? A serious student can begin with a community college, take nine (9) hours per term, and work at waiting tables, serving Happy Meals or any other menial starting position and perhaps complete a degree in six or seven years with little or no debt. Who is better off…the 25 year old with a freshly minted degree and no indebtedness, or the 25 year old who has struggled in the work force for three years and continues to have the $100,000 debt plus interest hanging over her or his head? Which one has the greater peace of mind? Which of the two has the most freedom for making life’s decisions? Plus, one of the two has the certain knowledge that she or he earned the degree.
Carrying the argument forward, I submit that government involvement in the subsidization of students (through banks and schools) is unconstitutional, immoral, fiscally irresponsible, discriminatory and stupid. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution makes NO allowance for subsidizing education—higher or otherwise. It is immoral for the government to be the prime impetus for inflationary educational costs and the subsequent result that students are saddled with massive personal debt. The fiscal irresponsible factor comes into play because government overreaches, over commits, over promises and overspends. Too many of our national obligations must be met with borrowed funds because of government irresponsibility. Underwriting college educations when students should be able to devise a method for obtaining a degree without government “help” and its ultimate debt is gross fiscal irresponsibility. Funding only those who choose to go to college is discriminatory. Providing varying plans for government involvement based upon demographic factors is discriminatory. By participating in the cabal to loan money to the young so they may attend college, government becomes a major contributor to the extension of adolescence in the United States. Government dollars and Nanny State intervention help to delay the maturation process for many of our youth. A politician may like the idea because uninformed and immature voters are either indifferent or “easy picking,” but as a national policy, it is stupid and potentially deadly.
The time has come to remove the government from underwriting or funding students who wish to go to college. The costs of schooling will go down as colleges compete for private dollars from parents and students. The costs for four-year schools will drop radically as they compete with one another and with community colleges for students. The students will not face the specter of massive debt as they don their caps and gowns for a final stroll down the 50 yard line on a beautiful June day. The federal government will take one tiny step back into its constitutional box. Oh yes, Miss future lawyer, I do want fries with that.