Monday, November 16, 2015

Free College and Student Loan Forgiveness?

Last week, college students across the country rallied, demanding free public college tuition and the erasure of all student loan debt.  Obviously, they'd gotten their cue from socialist Democratic candidate for President, Bernie Sanders.  Their simple solution to pay for this is to tax the richest 1% at 90%.  Thus, the lowest paid 1%-er would be left with $34,400 after a 90% income tax was collected against his/her $344,000.  Less than that when state taxes are also applied.  But, that's only fair in their minds.  After all, why should a senior law partner and Harvard graduate be paid more than a high school dropout garbage collector?

However, my biggest problem with "free" college is the fact that we already graduate too many college students who never fully utilize the degrees they have.  In a study conducted by the New York Federal Reserve,  one-third of all college graduates will never work at a job in which the degree they earned was a requirement; including all too many jobs that require no degrees.  And, for recent graduates, those under 27 years of age, that underemployment rate jumps to 45%.

According to the same study, of those underemployed, 45% will spend their working life in non-degreed but good paying jobs.  15% will never achieve a good paying job.  And, another 15% will spend their lives working part time.

To put it bluntly, these protesting students are asking the tax payers to pay for a full third of degrees that are, at times, more like hobbies than productive  or job creating.  For example, 63% of the people working in the Leisure and Hospitality industry have a degree, but are working in jobs that don't require one.

There's another side to this story as well.  American college students don't always dedicate themselves to a degree program.  From another study covered by U.S. News, we have this chart:

While lack of funding may be the case for some, most of the low on-time graduation story has to do with students making bad choices or not being prepared for college.  Twenty percent of all new undergraduates lose time towards their degree by having to take at least one remedial course.  Delays in graduation are also caused by changing majors or by losing credits due to transferring to another school.  Also, too many students prefer not to take a full course load in any given semester.  Or they simply  dropout for a variety of reasons not necessarily related to money.  Also, lets not forget that another study found that 30% of high school seniors, moving on to college, are doomed to flunk out.

In my opinion, making college free, will only exacerbate the problems outlined above.  College should not be a "right" as some would say. In fact, the goal should be to reduce college enrollment by focusing on better qualified students enrolled in degree programs that have a realistic chance of getting them a good paying job.  Does anyone really believe that the fastest growing degree program in this country should be in the fields of parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies?  31,667 degrees were earned in the last 10 years; most will never be used as originally intended. 


Students across U.S. march over debt, free public college:

Lowest Income For Top One Percent:

New York Federal Reserve:  Are Recent College Graduates  Finding Good Jobs?:

Most College Students Don't Graduate On Time:

20 Surprising Higher Education Facts:

Over 30% Of High School Seniors Are On Track To Flunk Out Of College:


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