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“I owe my soul to Sallie Mae”

August 30, 2013

The practical advice to college students remains much what it was when I was an undergraduate: Go to a less expensive public college that serves your educational goals. Work double time in summers. Live cheap, cheap, cheap.

The problem is that college has changed since I was an undergraduate. Thomas Frank tells how in The Baffler. His solution is exactly the purpose for which many state universities were founded:

What ought to happen is that everything I’ve described so far should be put in reverse. College should become free or very cheap. It should be heavily subsidized by the states, and robust competition from excellent state U’s should in turn bring down the price of college across the board. Pointless money-drains like a vast administration, a preening president, and a quasi-professional football team should all be plugged up. Accrediting agencies should come down like a hammer on universities that use too many adjuncts and part-time teachers. Student loan debt should be universally refinanced to carry little or no interest and should be dischargeable in bankruptcy, like any other form of debt.

Where is the state governor willing to turn back the clock on Big Money U? Which congressmen will propose undoing the special treatment of student debt? It is egregious that America has created a form of indentured servitude from the tension young people face between furthering their education and the cost of doing so. Matt Taibbi digs into the student loan scandal in Rolling Stone. An article in The Atlantic explains why for-profit schools such as Phoenix University are particularly to blame. Though Obama’s grading system should hit these schools, it would be simpler just to ban federally-guaranteed loans to for-profit schools. Alas, they have their lobbyists, so look for congressmen soon to run to their defense.

Ben Grosscup puts the sad story an old Merle Travis song (youtube).

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