Lots of bad op-ed stuff gets published in the New York Times and other mass circulation outlets, so I usually give it a pass, but today’s attack on free higher education by David Leonhardt is about my day job, so I have to make an exception. He repeats the utterly bs line that, since most college students are from the upper half of the income spectrum, using public funds to pay their way is regressive.
No, no no!
First, why is the college student population so skewed to the higher brackets? There are many reasons, but the financial burden of attending—not only tuition, but also the opportunity cost of not working—is a big factor. The problem with free higher ed is that, the way it’s usually framed, it doesn’t go far enough. As in European countries and elsewhere that take this issue seriously, students should not only get free tuition but a stipend. We can afford and should demand the same.
Second, what Leonhardt doesn’t mention is the student-worker phenomenon, the crushing workload on college students holding down part time and even full time jobs. Evergreen State College, where I work, just released the results from its survey of incoming students, and more than half expected to work to support themselves while attending classes, most of them more than 20 hours per week. I see this reality every day in the classroom, where students struggle with not enough time to keep up with assignments, sometimes even nodding out to recover from a late night shift, or the emails apologizing for being absent because of a work schedule change.
Great, just what we need, a million more art appreciation grads living in their parent’s basements. Here’s a better idea, provide stipends for TRADE schools, helping blue collar students while shutting down the work visa racket that is making it impossible for people who are not college material to make a decent living. There are already too many Starbucks baristas with masters degrees–we don’t need any more.
A world with a plenitude of educated Starbucks baristas beats all hell out of a world with ignorant peons abjectly serving a tiny afflluent upper class.
Stifle yourself, Karl. If you have to run around showing your magnificent superiority to normal human beings, go off and throw your chest out while you jump into some big city traffic.
A pleasant conversation with an educated and/or experienced person making your cold pressed coffee is very welcome. We suffer for a good return.
i agree with what Peter says here but i think he misrepresented what Leonhardt said; to my memory, Leonhardt was talking about forgiveness of existing student debt, which does skew towards the wealthier segments of the population…
i have always believed the nation should invest in the education of its youth, just as we should invest in infrastructure or plant and equipment…
that’s probably a goofy comparison, but it communicates my gist, so i’ll let it stand..
Simple debt solution for college loans, have the Fed do qualitative easing on all college loans. Lower the rates and increase the terms to 60 years or so. Infusion of demand in the economy will be incredible.
Then actually have the country subsidize education and avoid this problem reoccurring.
Keeping people from getting college educations needs to be job one for the Republican Party. People with college educations simply don’t vote for Republicans. Any effort to increase access to a college education is going to met with fierce resistance from the right. It is existential for them.
Why would student debt relief be an important policy to pursue? Higher education is promoted on the basis of making major and life-long improvements for the student’s future, which is why funding it with debt makes sense. If it isn’t worth repaying debt, maybe it isn’t worth buying.
Debt that can’t be repaid and can’t be discharged in bankruptcy doesn’t make sense.
Agreeing with you: Yes, it’s all in all a much more pleasant world in which we come into contact with knowledgeable articulate individuals every time we turn around. It’s good for our minds to be frequently engaged, it’s good for our appreciation of others to meet such souls, it adds to the civility and richness of social discourse. We might even regard this as evidence of “Civilzation” — something which in previous eras was considered to be desirable in itself, rather than as some token or index of affluence.
Also, we might reflect that is precisely these “underemployed, over-educated” folks who can smoothly, comfortably, quickly step into more demanding occupations as technological and economic progress occurs. It’s these useless slugs all conservatives have learned to hate who write novels and movie scripts, who paint portraits worthy looking at, who create music that escapes from garage band status, that spend their free time improving open source computer programs and dreaming up internet apps that fill needs most of us haven’t yet realized and thinking about new scientific principles and otherwise moving humanity into a better tomorrow.
“Karl Kolchak” is being conservative and thuggish. That’s his choice and I’ll not argue with his pleasures. But he’s short-sighted, and to that I can legitimately object.