A presidential election approaches and the giveaway bidding keeps rising. The two big ticket bids are “free college education” and “forgiveness of student loan debt.” These two issues are symptoms of a problem. They are not the problem. Too often in our culture we focus on symptoms and politicians pander with supposed solutions. That is why many problems are never solved. The real problem is a higher education system that is far too costly and ineffective in delivering quality outcomes efficiently.
Students and their parents sense that something is out of joint. Increasingly they are questioning the value proposition of the four-year college. (Actually, only 39% of students graduate in 4 years and only about 60% by year six.) The cost is too high. The rigor of the experience is questionable as everything outside of academics seems a priority on campus with socialization atop the list. The enhanced economic promise associated with the degree are diminishing. And the debt burden incurred can be stifling.
Higher education costs have skyrocketed. The quality of education has not improved in any way proportionate to the rise in cost. Government programs to make higher education affordable have in fact had the opposite effect – fueling rising costs. Much of the burden of that cost is placed on the shoulders of those ill prepared to complete college and ill prepared to pay back the debt burden.