It makes more sense to channel money to community colleges and less to student loans
The problem is not college loan debt.
This is how we approach college.
And the big lie we perpetuate.
It starts with the big sale.
Higher education, we were told, is an investment.
It’s an investment in America.
It is an investment in the future.
It is an investment in humanity.
It is an investment in ourselves.
The four points – and more – are valid.
Yet the numbers don’t back it up for many people.
According to the data to which Senator Elizabeth Warren refers, 40% of borrowers in debt have never finished university.
Those who earn a doctorate can take up to six to seven years to complete their college education. Worse, unlike loans for undergraduate work which limit the amount they can borrow, there are virtually no limits on loans at the university level.
Still, a doctorate in the humanities in 2019 earned an average of $53,000 per year. That’s less than a vast directory of blue-collar jobs.
Data shows that white-collar workers with advanced degrees hold 56% of the $1.6 trillion in federal student debt.
Those with a doctorate may be saddled with debt of $130,000 or more upon leaving college.
Keep in mind that the same data shows that roughly more than half of federal loan program borrowers have less than $20,000 in debt. It’s about what you should buy a Toyota Camry with a few thousand up front.
To be honest, too many of them approach “buying” a college education as if they were buying a car.
They may be convinced by sales pressure that they want a certain model.
Instead of getting down to it or saving a hefty down payment, they want it now.
They want a new Ford Mustang when a Kia will do.
In fact, the same things happen to people who have to have the bloated and tricked-out Mustang as opposed to a basic sedan.
They may end up paying more than they should have for essentially transportation. Starting out with $60,000 car debt makes it difficult to do anything else and often delays the prospect of buying a home.
Often, about a year after purchase, they decide the car is not what they got. In some cases, they will dig the hole deeper and trade in for another expensive car.
It’s an apt analogy.
How many of those with $150,000 in college debt have taken a path that started at places like Modesto Junior College or Delta College?
Both community colleges can report many success stories. And that includes those who have transferred into the California State University system, the University of California, and even private institutions where they end up pursuing higher education that has led to professional careers as varied as lawyers to brain surgeons.
To be honest, there are those who push for higher education who, in their breath, despise community colleges.
Yes, there can be more atmosphere and synergy in a four-year college. But the difference in cost for the first two years must be taken into account.
It also makes more sense for people to “find themselves” by exploring options while eliminating the basics or dipping their toes into various disciplines at a community college.
There is also another big difference.
Community colleges, by their very nature, need to be more cost-conscious. This is not the case the higher you go up the education ladder.
This is why the federal student loan program, which exerts little pressure on prices, makes higher education less affordable. Indeed, whatever the cost, the government guarantees the loan.
It is this carte blanche attitude towards education that undermines perspective.
No one is going to say it’s wise to spend a lot of time or money on a business you’re not ready to commit to. Yet people do it all the time with higher education.
And if everyone is being honest, people are more driven by the financial return than the self-fulfillment angle.
Learning more about the world and about yourself in an academic setting has immense value, not just for individuals but for society as a whole.
But that is not the problem.
It is the price to pay for what people and the nation ultimately get from higher education as it is now structured.
And that has to be weighed against what it costs society, just as we have to weigh what it would cost society if fewer people were partially “educated” in the form of more than 50% students in debt who never finished their studies.
The points on how loan forgiveness is fair when considering those who have paid off college debt, never went to college, or are making the required payments are legit.
Does this warrant some type of wholesale loan forgiveness?
It’s a good question, but it’s not “the question”.
What needs to be addressed is the lack of perspective on rising college costs, especially when the pockets of Uncle Sam — who collectively represents all Americans — are seen as fair game to keep deepening them. more and more.
There are plenty of good arguments for just saying no to loan forgiveness on a blanket basis at this rate being explored.
At the same time, various scenarios present strong arguments for finding ways to ease the burden on those in targeted circumstances.
But what needs to be addressed before — or alongside — any proposal on student debt forgiveness is the cost of a college education that continues to rise and rise.
It makes more sense to funnel more money into community colleges and less into student loans to pay for the bottomless tabs of doctoral work.
Also, as things stand, there has been little discussion of the obvious: why don’t we start with student loan reform with spending caps and more vetting of borrowers in terms of path than they borrow and why they do it?
Canceling student debt solves nothing for America as a whole unless we change the process while pushing back on carte blanche through federally backed student loans to underwrite bloated education budgets superior.