Saturday, February 4, 2012

Student Debt -- Destroying the US?

College:  Your Introduction to Lifetime Debt  (c) Mother Jones
Click here for related story [Washington Post]

We learn today in the Washington Post that "... college is rapidly becoming unaffordable for many."
[Actually, it's been unaffordable for quite some time.]

We also learn that  "Less than fifty per cent of US college students graduate."  

Let's examine what the problem is with our college system.

Back when I was in high school, the curriculum had several tracks:

1) Kids whose interests were not academic;
    a)  Some received training as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, bricklayers, or 
    b)  Some went into retail sales and merchandising, or administrative positions.
         [Notably, many of these folks are not among the unemployed today.]
Trades are in short supply,
so we import that labor   
(c) Forbes

2) Kids whose interests were academic:
    a)  Liberal Arts for those who had no specific goals other 
         than to learn "stuff" and would become generalists; 
         many became corporate, civic, and military leaders; 
         others became academics.
    b)  Business majors, who had set a goal of
         climbing the corporate ladder.
    c)  Pre-Med, Pre-Law, and other specific
         career goals.

The majority of kids in high school were not college bound, basically because they had other interests.  They went on to take jobs which required skills, and which allowed them to make very comfortable livings.

Those who did go on to college had varying degrees of success, as they conformed to one over-riding guideline. During Freshman Orientation, virtually all students were greeted with this directive:

"Look at the persons to your left and to your right.  Neither will be here when you graduate. 
Two-thirds didn't graduate (c) Reuters
Or, will you be the one missing?"  

And, that was probably the most accurate statement I heard in undergraduate school. That translated to a two-thirds drop-out rate.

Back then, your summer jobs brought in enough money for college expenses for two semesters.  If you were hard-core you could work during the academic year and have some spending money, and maybe afford a car.  But, college was affordable.  The campuses were not high tech; professors were accessible,  they made a livable -- but not lavish wage, and living conditions overall were minimal, but acceptable.  Administrators were always accessible, and university presidents routinely hosted students in their homes.

The Johnson Administration introduced the Politically Correct crowd; now dominated by the National Education Association [a union disguised as a (tax-exempt) association].  The PC crowd molded the Great Society [which gave us food stamps, public housing (aka: crime zones, and very crowded prisons) -- and the mandatory college degree.

The PC crowd decided it was discriminatory to keep anyone from attending college;and the basis for attendance then became the designator "Low-Income".  LBJ's cronies jumped on this bandwagon and set up a variety of very profitable schemes exploiting low-income college students, many of whom were neither qualified nor interested in attending.  But, the PC crowd was adamant that they must attend, lest they be excluded from the American Dream (a similar argument drove the home ownership drive which resulted in our current economic plight).

Since the disadvantaged kids lacked the financial resources to pay for college, they were induced to borrow, with long-term repayment terms.

So, Low-Income -- and later Middle Income kids were induced/forced to take out college loans to pay ever-and-ever increasing costs, tied to ever-and-ever increasing spending by colleges to produce academic programs and campus facilities which met government standards -- among which were increasing pressure to graduate the ill-prepared (and in some cases, illiterate), lest they be the victims of discrimination.

Today, costs are massive!  Many administrators, particularly college presidents, are "1 Per Centers" who  live in university-furnished, lavish estate-homes designed to entertain high-rolling donors and politicians -- but certainly not students.  Tenured professors are very well paid, and perch carefully in their ivory towers --  often well-removed from students who might distract them from their profitable consultancies.

In the end though, we have huge numbers of our kids attending colleges which offer academically inferior coursework and which create poorly educated and inferior graduates.  These graduates then are bewildered that they cannot find work in positions which require that they are literate and capable of deductive reasoning.  Today's college degree translates into little more than a high school diploma of  50 years ago.

The American Dream = Perpetual Debt  (c) University Facts
Most disheartening is the fact that these graduates, having been sold the bill of goods called a "college education" now are burdened with a lifetime of student-loan debt -- and concomitant negative credit scores which will put them at a permanent disadvantage throughout their lives.

Current statistics say 50 per cent graduate; but, how many are literate, or solvent?

In the meantime, the kids who were smart enough to take training programs to learn the trades and, of late, technology skills, seem to be doing quite nicely, earning good livings -- but unburdened by student loans.  They remain untouched by the Politically Correct.