“Is the College Debt Bubble Ready to Explode?,” asks Laura Rowley at Yahoo! Finance. College tuition has skyrocketed much more than housing did during the housing bubble, in percentage terms. One hundred colleges charge $50,000 or more a year, compared to just 5 in 2008-09. College tuition has surged along with federal financial-aid spending, which effectively rewards colleges for increasing tuition. College financial-aid policies punish thrifty families, so that “parents who scrimp and save to come up with the tuition are in effect subsidizing the others.”
“University administrators are the equivalent of subprime mortgage brokers,” notes Facebook investor Peter Thiel, “selling you a story that you should go into debt massively, that it’s not a consumption decision, it’s an investment decision. Actually, no, it’s a bad consumption decision. Most colleges are four-year parties,” he says, an assessment shared by prominent law professor Glenn Reynolds.
My wife is French. She spent twice as much time in class at her second-tier French university as I did in my flagship American university (the University of Virginia), and more time studying, too (even though I was studious by American standards, and as a result, later went on to attend Harvard Law School). France spends less per student on higher education than we do, to produce a more literate and knowledgeable citizenry.
Much of college “education” is a waste of time. I learned more practical law in six weeks of studying for the bar exam and a couple summers of working for law firms than I did in three years of law school. I spent much of my time at Harvard Law School watching “Married… With Children” or engaged in political arguments with classmates, rather than studying (much of what I did study was useless). Even students who were high on drugs had no difficulty graduating.
(Higher education is no guarantee of even basic literacy. When I worked at the Department of Education handling administrative appeals, I was dismayed by the poor writing skills of the graduate students who lodged complaints against their universities.)
I used to work for a polling firm, and found that people with a couple years of college were frequently factually dumber about the world around them, and more politically correct, than people who had not attended college at all, in their responses to public-opinion surveys. An electrician with no college degree is far more likely to know who his congressman is and to understand the economy than some liberal arts college dropout.
When law schools claim almost all of their graduates find jobs, what they don’t tell you is that they include low-paying, part-time and temporary jobs in non-legal fields in making that claim. Sending excessive numbers of people to college results in even unskilled jobs being performed by people with college degrees.
Image credit: Honeywell-Nobel Initiative’s flickr photostream.