Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Student Loan Debt - The Scam of the Ivory Tower

Long gone seem to be the days when students could pay their way through four years of college by working full-time during the summers, part-time in the summer, and perhaps assuming a little student loan debt. Now, with the cost of college having gone up by almost 1200% in three decades - more than any commodity or investment - Americans are beginning to ask questions about sustainability. And, for the first time they are beginning to ask "Is College is Worth The Investment?" That question gets some support in a new documentary Ivory Tower from director Andrew Rossi.

Certainly, the American belief in the value of higher education and a college degree is an ingrained value and tradition. However, as more and more students are burdened by crushing debt for degrees (some from for-profit colleges who have exploited student loan policies to coax poor and minority students into pursuing potentially worthless degrees), the policies and costs of higher education are becoming more suspect. And, even as President Obama and congressional Democrats attempt to offer a solution, many argue the efforts are too little and too late - and won't solve the problem anyway.

The suspicion of the system and the belief that the President can do little to alleviate the problems are rooted in the flaws inherent in the system. The problem of rising college tuition is the fault of the colleges themselves, argues Thomas Frank who believes "Colleges are Full of It."As the colleges have competed with each other for an ever more valuable slice of the college student loan debt pool - now valued at a staggering, bubble-busting $1 trillion - they have exploited the country's faith in the value of a degree, and have convinced millions of students to leverage their futures on a piece of paper that may not prepare them for the workplace, won't necessarily guarantee them a job, and which they may never be able to pay off. And, for years there has been evidence that "College is Not Worth the Cost."

As far as plans to fix the problem - no easy task - Jordan Weissman believes that students, and especially Democrats, need to forget the claims and plans of Elizabeth Warren and President Obama and instead give credence to "The Best Plan to Fix the Student Loan Debt Crisis" from a little-known Republican congressman from Wisconsin named Tom Petri. For anyone following the issue, or God-forbid planning on incurring tuition costs in the near future, it is worth doing the research on not only the schools but also the issue of student loan debt.

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