The Real Cost of a College Education

Last week, the total amount of debt emanating from student loans in the U.S. reached $1 trillion.  With the Great Recession still present in the daily lives of the middle class, salaried jobs for college graduates are tough to come by.  Many have had to settle for low-wage positions stocking shelves in retail stores or serving coffee at the local Starbucks.  According to the Associate Press, three out of five new graduates are unemployed.  The dissatisfaction these bachelor's degree-holders have with the lack of jobs manifested into last fall's Occupy movement.  Many "occupiers" naively directed their anger at capitalism and corporate greed as the bills came due for loan payments.

All the while, the institution from which they sought salvation is plotting to tighten the shackles of dependency.

This July, the temporary freeze on interest rates for college loans is set to expire.  The rate, currently capped at 3.4%, is expected to jump and cost grads at least an extra $1,000 a year.  President Obama, in a desperate attempt to reaffirm his "cool" credentials among college students, campaigned on university campuses in a few swing states to rile up the bully pulpit to push Congress toward passing an extension of the rate cap.

How the president's base of student supporters don't realize that their tax dollars finance Obama's trip to their campuses for political photo-ops says a great deal about their critical thinking skills.

This is to be expected, however, since many economic departments are staffed with neo-Marxists, who often describe themselves as Keynesians.  Because of a lack of knowledge on how free markets work to lower costs through competition, many students have come to accept ever-increasing college tuition as an indisputable reality.  Going into debt by an average of $26,000 is assumed to be the price to pay for an education.  In a recent Huffington Post editorial, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan perpetuates this myth.  He writes:

We all have a role to play -- the President, Congress, parents, students and schools in making college affordable and keeping the middle class dream alive. Our Administration is continuing to do its part: despite being in one of the most challenging budget environments in history and cutting almost all-domestic spending across the board, President Obama is increasing the investment in higher education.

The Obama Administration is providing billions of dollars a year in aid to needy students through Pell grants and helping students to better manage their debt after graduation with programs like income-based repayment and public service loan forgiveness. The President is also proposing a number of initiatives that would continue to make college more affordable, including doubling the number of work-study jobs within five years; making the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent; and providing new incentives for states and institutions to keep college costs from escalating.

Common sense says that if you subsidize anything, you get more of it.  Pay people not to work, and they generally won't seek employment.  And giving students increased access to financing their way through college via debt offers no incentive for colleges to lower tuition costs.

Guaranteed loans for higher education are merely a ruse to buy votes from naïve students.  The steady stream of funding ends up being passed on to pay for the electoral support of the unionized professors and administration.  Meanwhile, the president is slowly driving to make college attendance necessary.  Duncan admits as much:

A postsecondary education is the ticket to economic success in America. We know that the jobs of the future will all require some kind of education or training after high school.

Contrary to popular belief, the state's intervention into and monopolization of education has nothing to do with angelic motives.  As college is incrementally being pushed to be the next mandatory step after high school, the real goal is to keep young minds infatuated with the state.  As Freeman editor Sheldon Richman points out, the purpose of public education is not to aid in the development of a learned populace, but to produce unthinking workers.  Based off the educational system of 19th-century Prussia, America's public schools were originally designed to condition children toward a sense of "obedience, subordination and collective life."

The goal was compliance, never enlightenment.

The progressive movement has been successful at turning public schooling into an unquestioned sacred cow.  If you disagree with the idea that government should have any control over education, you are automatically accused of desiring an ignorant population.  This is why home-schooling and attendance at private, parochial schools are subtly referred to within the mainstream media as backwater methods of learning.

How dare children be taught in an environment where Washington isn't looked to as the great provider?!

Creating an orderly citizenry incapable of critical thinking makes sense for the ruling class.  Control and order are the bread and butter of the state.  Creative intelligence poses a challenge to central planners.  It makes it harder to tug at the marionette strings.

In a recent Indian Supreme Court decision over a piece of controversial educational legislation, the dissenting judge in the case cited, of all people, libertarian economist Murray Rothbard on the evils of government education.  He writes:

Mr. Murray N. Rothbard, an eminent educationist and professor in economics, in his book, "Education: Free and Compulsory," cautioned that progressive education may destroy the independent thought in the child and a child has little chance to develop his systematic reasoning powers in the study of definite courses. The book was written after evaluating the experiences of various countries, which have followed free and compulsory education for children for several years.

The more children are indoctrinated with the belief that the state is the cure for all of society's ills, the more likely they are to vote for those politicians who seek to regulate everything from proper light bulb wattage to how much fluoride drinking water should contain.

College is just the next step in this process as young adults graduate high school and continue their brainwashing for another four to five years.  These students believe they are getting an education when in actuality they are learning how not to rock the state's boat and how to regurgitate test answers after a long night of binge-drinking.

The goal behind stalling the jump in interest rates is not to help students.  It is to continue the cycle of union payoffs, campaign kickbacks, and fostering a learning environment where government decrees go unquestioned.

The irony is that a valuable lesson in teaching the real price of an education is being missed.  Subsidizing degrees in unpractical subjects such as English literature or gender studies results only in more such degrees being issued.  Students then graduate with just as much work-related skills as they had on their first day as freshmen.  Between lectures on the evils of capitalism and on the greatness of Franklin Roosevelt, out-of-the-box thinking is never encouraged.

It therefore shouldn't be surprising that Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs were all college dropouts.  The fact that their creative thinking wasn't a byproduct of the college industrial complex is a real lesson in itself.

The sad truth is that when Congress does what it does best and spends billions passing an extension on the student loan interest rate cap, the establishment will rejoice as the scheme is allowed to continue.

But millions of potential visionaries will be the real cost.