Wednesday, December 28, 2005


From Reason:
College Kids Need to Hear the World's Smallest Violin

Neal McCluskey relies on a very selective reading of the statistics to determine that students are living "higher on the hog." For example, he says that aid dollars are increasing: "Between 1994–95 and 2004–05, total inflation-adjusted student aid provided through state and federal grants and subsidized loans ballooned from $37 billion to almost $69 billion." Well, to most students, especially poor and minority students, loans don't really function as aid, because they have to be paid back, with interest.And the proportion of grants to loans has reversed since the 1980s, to 58% loans and 41% grants.

He also pulls out the old saw that a BA provides a lifetime "million-dollar payoff"--"That means after factoring in loan debt, the average bachelor's degree holder will turn a huge $982,400 profit on college!" To me, this "point" betrays such a narrow view of the purpose of higher education. I'll borrow the words of Bob Shireman here: Yes, it is true that a college graduate, on average, earns close to a million dollars more over a lifetime than a high school graduate. But there are two trick words in that sentence. First, you have to graduate from college, a feat that barely half of those who start college currently achieve within six years. Second, the high economic returns to education are an average. Actual salaries of college graduates vary enormously because of career and life choices, skills, geography, fluctuations in the economy, and plain old luck.

A college education is not an expensive painting that you buy to turn a profit on. It's an investment in America's future growth--each person with a BA contributes more in taxes and in productivity than a person without one. To cut off access at the start by forcing students to borrow their way through is an extremely short-sighted use of funds.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An article from Iowa on the impact of student debt that gets it right: