Why again, exactly, does college cost so much?

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Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 10/2/15

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There is no political campaign without pandering and there is no pandering absent “making college affordable for everyone.” Both parties are guilty but the Democrats’ treatment of the subject is usually the more egregious.

Hillary Clinton’s pandering takes the form of a $350 billion dollar plan that she says will, among other things, make it unnecessary for students to borrow money to attend in-state public colleges. The whole thing looks and sounds good – particularly to those pre-disposed to believe that the government will solve their problems. The problem is, we must always remember that they called it the Affordable Care Act.

It is the federal government’s do-good-until-the-point-of-complete-collapse involvement in the financing of higher education that is largely responsible for skyrocketing college costs in the first place.

Federal sponsorship of student grants and loans has emboldened universities to raise tuition, fees and housing costs at fantastic rates with little to no regard for what effect this has on either graduates or society at large. With a nearly unlimited supply of taxpayer money flowing into the higher education industry via student loans, universities and colleges have been spared any incentive to manage costs. Costs have thus exploded.

Hillary Clinton’s ‘no-debt plan’ notwithstanding, college admissions counselors are at this very minute helping students borrow money from the taxpayers with no regard as to the life-changing consequences that high levels of debt place upon a 20-year old.

Universal availability of money for college has created the incentive for colleges to vigorously recruit prospective students. And thus we have seen across America – particularly at private schools (not covered by Hillary’s ‘no-debt plan’) – the transformation of traditional college campuses into “lifestyle villages” complete with restaurants, entertainment venues, pools, spas, athletic complexes and “green spaces.”

It’s probably not much of a stretch to say that for a meaningful percentage of today’s college students, they will never again live as well and have at their disposal as many amenities as they do right now.

All of this would be somewhat tolerable if a.) graduates were getting a good economic return on the money they so lavishly borrow, and, b.) the taxpayers weren’t on the hook for it.

Unfortunately, as college costs have gone up, the return on the investment in a four-year degree has suffered. We almost to a person know of families who have grown, college-graduate children back home living in the rooms in which they slept as high school kids – unable to find work that will recoup the couple of hundred grand spent getting a degree in gender studies. Bad news for those debt-ridden young men and women.

Bad news for the rest of us when that more than $1 trillion in student debt starts to default in the same way those mortgages did in 2008. That’s when we’ll realize – too late – that the country can’t afford country club colleges that don’t turn out employable graduates.

Nothing that Hillary Clinton is proposing addresses this problem. Nothing being proposed by the GOP candidates does either.

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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2 Responses

  1. Here, yet again, students and taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners, in this instance by the higher education industry. When I graduated from East Texas State in 1970, I graduated owing NO debt whatever. My folks divorced in 1965, the year I graduated high school, and my dad died two years later. I got no help from family. I worked my way through college and, although the pay wasn’t anything to write home about, it was enough for me to cover tuition and books, feed and clothe myself, pay rent, and have enough left to enjoy a bit of social life. I repeat, I graduated with no debt and a better built character, having had to depend on myself and not the generosity of parents or Uncle Sam. And because I had no debt eating my income for years to come, I had the opportunity to invest in a business of my own. That business grew and thrived and today I provide jobs to more than 90 people. I find it sad that there are young men and women today who will not have the opportunity I had because they are saddled with massive student loans.

  2. Stan Drake says:

    I worked in financial services for about 15 years. I ran into people all the time who weren’t working and saving toward retirement. They were “saving” for their kids college education and those kids were typically 6 years old or younger. They were typically “saving” in the wrong vehicle as well. I always said to them, “you know you’re going to need to retire some day, but you have no clue at this point whether your kids are college material or will want to go to college.” Nobody paid for my education but me. I told my kids, 4 of them, that if they had a desire to go to college, they better work hard and figure out how they were going to pay for it. I made it clear that nobody else would or should have more interest in their education or future than they should. They all worked their way through college THEMSELVES. 3 of the 4 are business owners, and the youngest is career Army with 16 years service in Special Forces and Special Operations. He will put his degree to work when he gets out in 3 1//2 years, and NONE of them ever had a penny in debt for their education. The idea of going into debt for college education is just a trap and is for those who are too lazy to earn it for themselves. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be more affordable, but it’s not. I see no reason for taxpayers to pay for college education. There is far too much “welfare” and entitlement mentality out there already. Anything worth having is NEVER “free”.

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