Rolling Stone recently wrote an article about college loans:
they called the loans a scandal. This article is stupidly off base.
The premise is that principal is the problem — college tuition is too high — and loans shouldn’t be needed at all.
And I keep asking — is college needed at all?
Colleges are free to charge what people will pay. There’s only so many colleges in the country, and a new college is fairly rare. You get the occasional startup college( Say Phoenix school of Law… ), but for the most part, colleges are there to supply the demand people have to be perpetual students. So, the real question isn’t, “Supply is too little, so prices are too high” But, “Why has demand shifted?”
The problem is the Nixon administration. They’re to blame. Well, not really.
See, America has always been a “Me first” society. So much so, it’s even changed our language! The correct way to say two people went someplace is, “My friend and I” — the rules of English say you’re supposed to put the other party first. Today, everyone says, “Me and my friend.” Symptom of the problem. this “Me first” attitude makes sense if government is less efficient than it used to be. If you don’t trust the government to do what is in your best interest, then you’ll become more self-centered. Natural human response. The most selfish people on earth come from corrupt societies.
Our society has improved in many ways — less crime, less overt discrimination. But one things has gotten much worse — people’s faith in government. We believe that there are too many special interest groups, too many tax loopholes, a Justice system that is ineffective. Indeed, the prosecutions of pfc Manning or the Snowden affair highlight how we are right to distrust our government.
At the same time that our distrust of government grows, our workforce is changing. Historically, America’s corporations provided training for new workers. But, the “deregulated” corporate world lost the incentive. Now, we’re assumed to provide our own training. So, enter college. College has become the de-facto “entry level training” program for most corporations. This has turned a college education into a high-school one. Except, high-school is free, and college has never been so.
This shift to less regulation of corporations( who has a pension plan anymore? Unions? ) has created a game theory coordination problem — a “prisoner’s dilemma” if you will. See, if we all agreed not to go to college, corporations would be forced to bring back worker training programs. However, the incentive to cheat in that system would be high. Any person who breaks the agreement and goes to college would gain an advantage over anyone who doesn’t. Conversely, if we all go to college, then we all are worse off– we lose years of productivity, delay starting families, and have crippling debt. Corporations love this combination — younger workers who are more productive and more desperate! What happens when workers are both more productive and more desperate? Wage gaps — the power of capital v. labor increases, and the pay of capital owners( CEOs and the like ) increase faster than the pay of workers. College only works, economically, when very few of us go. Surprisingly, this creates an incentive system no-one looks at. The supply of the labor market shifts to white collar jobs, while conversely, the blue collar jobs don’t increase their pool as quickly. Hence, you’re better off becoming an auto mechanic or plumber in this type of economy than you are becoming an english professor.
The real problem is that we don’t see the cause of the problem — deregulation of corporations — but rather the effect. In fact, we defend the cause! So far, deregulation has made every industry in which it has happened worse. Deregulated airlines? Deregulated energy? Deregulated banks? The sum total of all this deregulation and union busting has made society worse off.
If we want to address the real problem, it’s neither the loans that enable students to bid up college costs. It’s not greedy college admins. It’s the lack of regulation/unions that make it so college is needed at all.