College Debt as a National Issue

Why is college debt a national issue? Because the national government is the source of the debt? Amid the whining about student debt being a drag on the economy, nobody questions how the college debt levels got so high.

First, why aren’t the parents paying more? Because they don’t feel responsible to educate their children? A loan is available, therefore we must use it? But who pays back the loan? The same people we’re saddling with a trillion dollars of new national debt each year? Doesn’t anyone save for their children’s education? (It’s not just the poor who have entitlement issues.)

Second, why does college cost so much when it delivers so little? Perhaps because no one pays for college at that time and it becomes a hidden cost? (Eat, drink and make merry; worry about tomorrow tomorrow.) Maybe students should avoid under-performing colleges.Maybe loans shouldn’t be made to colleges with high un- and under-employment rates for the graduates?

Third, why are the debts so high? Because everything is piled into the debt, including discretionary expenses like pizza and beer. (see above) One of the old—and, yes, discarded—rules of borrowing used to be: don’t borrow for something that doesn’t last as long as the debt. Under this system former students are paying (plus interest) for the pizza they had ten years ago.

Like a lot of issues these days, we think we solve it by making it a national issue when perhaps we’d be better advised to seek to reduce or eliminate the problem. No, we don’t. We just burden our children and their children with a dysfunctional economy.

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