Senator Mark WArner has just sent out a message about student debt, noting that 44 million Americans have student loan debt of $1.4 trillion. This may be the elephant in the room with respect to higher education, making it inaccessible to the majority of Americans. Senator Warner (and others) proposes relief at the Federal level to reduce the burden of this debt on individuals. Today, many students graduate with a large debt from their education, but are unable to find a job to pay it back. There are many negative factors about these loans, and Republicans in Congress are working to make the situation worse.
The proper approach, however, is to look also at the root cause of this problem. A University education has become increasingly expensive. Costs have risen much faster than inflation for many years. One of the root causes is that there are no constraints on costs. The student loan system allows colleges to raise costs above what normal people can afford by invoking loans to pay the difference. This is wrong. Part of the bame goes to universities that provide increasingly luxurious accommodations and surroundings for students. One reason for these seductive surroundings is a competition for students. Colleges must fll their freshman classes. We might also look at productivity of professors. What about the administration? Do we really need a Dean for Left Handed Students?
Perhaps Congress should provide some financial relief for the burden of student debt. Ultimately, however, the cost of higher education must be reasonable. There are, today, colleges that provide excellent education at an affordable price. Go there. Pick a school that doesn’t have a football team or doesn’t charge admission to games. Let admission counselors know that cost is important to you and that a student loan is not an acceptable option.
When I graduated, the president of our univesity told the graduating class that half the cost of our education came from tuition. The balance came from alumni gifts. There were no loans. Ahhh, the good ol’ days.