• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Chair of House Subcommittee on Higher Education not a Fan of Student Loans

Via Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) on the G. Gordon Liddy Show this week:

FOXX: I went through school, I worked my way through, it took me seven years, I never borrowed a dime of money. He borrowed a little bit because we both were totally on our own when we went to college, totally. [...] I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that. We live in an opportunity society and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” You don’t have it dumped in your lap.

Now, on the one hand, I actually agree with some of these sentiments, insofar as it would be massively preferable for students to be able to work their way through school.  Not all options for college cost the same and it is true that students do not always take these factors into consideration.

It is also worth noting that the numbers she is citing are crazy high.  A recent study notes:

Forty percent of the people under 30 had outstanding student loans, and the average outstanding debt is $23,300. About 10 percent of borrowers owe more than $54,000 and 3 percent owe more than $100,000.

Of course, that’s not chump change.*

However, her position strikes me as problematic insofar as it ignores the substantial problem of the cost in higher education, especially in recent decades, which have increasingly made it more likely that students would pursue loans as a means of obtaining their education.  She is likewise ignoring the degree to which young people see no other options but to acquire a college degree and so face tough choices.  These are things she should understand within her position as Chair of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education.

More to the point, the underlying comparison she makes is dubious.  To wit:  Representative Foxx  was born in 1943 and therefore she is talking about paying her way through school in early 1960s.   This is not comparable to the current era, as we have seen massive amount of inflation in this realm since the early to mid 1980s.

I cannot find data for costs in the 1960s, but one study (Lee and Clery 26) that compares the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s helps make the case:

The real price of attending a public four-year college has risen from $1,900 in 1976 to $4,700 in 2003. Community college tuition and fees more than doubled from $900 in 1976 to $1,900 in 2003.

Those are increases that make working one’s way through school a tad harder now than then, yes?

In regards to the recent trends, see the followingfrom the Economist:

I know anecdotally that, tuition per quarter for the University of California system, in the mid-to-late 1980s (when I was in attendance) was steadily increasing each term and that it picked up speed into the early 1990s (when my sister was in attendance).  I don’t recall the exact ratios, but there was a rather substantial increased from my first quarter to my last and there was no comparison between my first quarter and my sister’s last some eight years later.

I can further note that I have seen tuition increase with regularity where I currently work and that those tuition increases have been directly linked to ongoing cuts by the state (although this has not been the only factor, to be fair).   These are factors that policymakers, such as Representative Foxx, ought to understand when making blithe pronouncements about their moral superiority to the youth of today.

Again:  I am a big fan of self reliance, but we also have to acknowledge that simplistic comparisons to the past are just that.  As one study noted regarding the increases in higher education costs:  “it is unlikely that public institutions can compensate for the reduction in state appropriation through internal resource reallocation other than by raising tuition and fees” (Zhang 2006: 16).

Along these lines, a SHEEO study noted (2008: 7):

Educational appropriations per FTE (defined to include state and local support for general higher education operations) fell to $6,204 in 2005 (2007 dollars), a 25-year low in inflation-adjusted terms.

And:

Tuition charges are the other primary source of revenue used to support public higher education (excluding research and independent operations). Net tuition revenue typically has increased faster when state and local revenue have failed to keep pace with enrollment growth and inflation.

(Emphasis mine).

This has taken place at the same time that things like Pell Grants have not keep pace with higher education inflation (see Lee and Clery, Figure 5).**  Likewise, states are facing increased demands to pay for prisons and Medicaid and universities are facing increased health care costs (and increased enrollments).  At a minimum we have to recognize that we have developed a system in which we expect a large number of high school graduates to go onto get college degrees at the same time we have cut spending to higher education.  It is a problematic model, to be sure.  Is it too much to ask that people who are in positions of power to acknowledge these complexities?

And yes, there are key debates to be had about how to fix these things, but we cannot pretend that 2012 is the same at 1963.

——

*This is an update to the original post.

**Indeed, Paul Ryan is hoping to substantially cut Pell Grants:  Pell Grants For Poor Students Lose $170 Billion In Ryan Budget

Works Cited

Lee, John and Sue Clery (2004).  Key Trends in Higher EducationAmerican Academic.

State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) (2008).  State Higher Education Finance FY 2007.

Zhang, Liang (2006)   Does Public Funding for Higher Education Matter?  Cornell University ILR School Working Paper.

See also:

Dougherty, Kevin (2004).  Financing Higher Education in the United States: Structure, Trends, and Issues.

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Honestly Steven, I don’t think she’s in that position to understand the complexities of the situation, she’s in her position to destroy them. Republicans are consistently taking from that proverbial kitty to fund other things, and she’s not going to rock that boat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  2. If the only way I could have gotten through college and law school was to come out $200,000 in debt on the other end, I would’ve found some other way to do it or taken another path. I honestly cannot understand why anyone would make the choice.

    The broader issue, of course, are the insane increases in tuition as you note, at both the public and private university levels. Until the Higher Education Bubble pops, I don’t know the answer to that public.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  3. @Christopher Bowen:

    Of course one wonders if it should be the role of the federal government to subsidize the higher education choices of its citizens. I can see doing it for useful majors like engineering and the sciences perhaps, but that’s about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  4. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Indeed.

    To have federal taxpayers subsidizing useless degrees and thereby in the same process raising the costs of tuition for those very same degrees — in an environment of Grapes of Wrath-style unemployment and underemployment for the 18-25 year old demographic, no less — is more absurd than having federal taxpayers subsidizing the likes of Solyndra. What takes it from the absurd to the utterly preposterous is the fact that colleges and universities are sitting on hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars in endowment monies. It’s high time for the likes of Duke, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, USC and the Ivy Leagues, etc., to finance their own (inflated) tuition costs.

    Separate but related topic: Waiting for the higher eduction bubble to pop is IMO going to be too late for Generation Y. The Feds should get out of the student loan business. Post haste.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  5. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Of course one wonders if it should be the role of the federal government to subsidize the higher education choices of its citizens. I can see doing it for useful majors like engineering and the sciences perhaps, but that’s about it. ”

    Exactly. The last thing our government should ever do is work to increase the general education and well being of the citizens. The only thing it should do is ease the transfer of wealth from the public at large to the richest few people in the country.

    Look at me — I’m a libertarian!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 5

  6. @Doug Mataconis:

    If the only way I could have gotten through college and law school was to come out $200,000 in debt on the other end, I would’ve found some other way to do it or taken another path. I honestly cannot understand why anyone would make the choice.

    Agreed: that’s a crazy number. I was so focused on other matters that I did not even address that. I have updated the post to include the average loan burden, with is a bit less that $25k.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. @Doug Mataconis:

    Of course one wonders if it should be the role of the federal government to subsidize the higher education choices of its citizens. I can see doing it for useful majors like engineering and the sciences perhaps, but that’s about it.

    Well, the main issue here is, of course, state governments. Regardless, it seems to me that education is central to a range off issues from income mobility and equality to even national security (in terms of economic success and output). This is no small issue and it touched all of us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  8. @WR:

    If the government is going to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize an individuals education it strikes me as perfectly rational to discriminate in favor of fields of study that are needed to help the economy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  9. Scott says:

    Not only has tuition and fees gone up but the student’s ability to earn has gone down. Here is my anecdotal metric that I use. In 1972, I bought my freshman chemistry book for $12.95 (I still have it). At that time, I earned $2.00/hr at my minimum wage job. Therefore it cost a little over 6 hours of labor to buy that textbook. My son’s freshman chemistry book cost $160.00. At minimum wage of $7.25, it takes 22 hrs of labor to buy that book. Not only is there gross textbook price inflation but wage deflation in terms of earning power.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  10. James says:

    “I’m poor and it sucks!”
    “Then you should have gone to college and made something of yourself.
    “But I can’t afford to go to college.
    “To f-ning bad.

    Ah, Libertarians.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 4

  11. Console says:

    Meh. If she had the ability to see past herself, she wouldn’t be a conservative in the first place. So yeah, it IS too much to ask for her to show a semblance of understanding about the lives of people not named Virginia Foxx.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 6

  12. al-Ameda says:

    The Republican vision for America is bleak, thanks to people like Virginia Foxx. Virginia Foxx should be outsourced to Yemen or Somalia, maybe she could their higher education problems..

    She has no idea what kind of world young people are living in today. I put myself through the University of California back when it was actually possible to work through the Summer and take Work Study jobs during the school year and pay for tuition, room and board. Now, it is nearly impossible to do that, as tuition is $12, 000 a year, and room and board plus expenses is another $10,000 per year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4

  13. Console says:

    There is also a premise in all this that not everyone necessarily agrees on.

    It’s stupid to sort potential by ability to pay. One has nothing to do with the other. The fact that education cost could discourage someone that’s capable of being a doctor from being a doctor is a net negative for society.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Another nice chart over at Balloon Juice showing the cost of Higher Education rising by almost 600% since 1985. It mirrors what yours shows Steven, but in different terms.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. DRS says:

    Yes, yes, yes, and I’m sure she walked to work, in the snow (even in the summer), uphill, both ways. She’s an inspiration, I’m sure. Funny thing though: I remember Newtie G. making a similar comment a few months ago and it turned out that it was his first wife who worked to support them while he went to college full-time.

    Has anyone kicked the tires on this particular anecdote?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    If the government is going to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize an individuals education it strikes me as perfectly rational to discriminate in favor of fields of study that are needed to help the economy.

    Wouldn’t it follow that a government capable of deciding what education will be useful in the future would also be capable of picking economic winners and losers? Aren’t they essentially the same thing?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 0

  17. @michael reynolds:

    A fair point, but it doesn’t take much to know that an engineering degree has more economic worth than a Masters of Fine Arts.

    As a general rule, though, I am rather skeptical of the idea of direct government subsidies, and I don’t think that the Obama Administration’s take over of the student loan industry is going to work out very well in the end, at least not as far as controlling the cost of higher education goes

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

  18. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    MR Remember when progressives were pushing a policy of picking the winner and loser by promoting industrial policy. Today the government just picks the winners and losers by deciding who to give the tax break to, who to give the set asides to, and who to give the regulatory protection to.

    Juding by Rep. Foxx’s bio, not only did she improve herself with in educaiton, she actually has experience from working in higher education. However, since Rep. Foxx worked at the bottom end of higher education she is probably very used to the idea that many students are attending open admissions universities and community colleges to get the financial add.

    Maybe four year university that accept federal money should be banned from offering remedial courses and should demand that graduation rates stay above 40% so that those schools stop admitting students unlikely to graduate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  19. @superdestroyer:

    The idea that anyone could be accepted to a university and have to take courses covering material that they should have learned in high school is simply absurd.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. PogueMahone says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    If the government is going to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize an individuals education it strikes me as perfectly rational to discriminate in favor of fields of study that are needed to help the economy.

    Well who is to decide which are the “fields of study that are needed to help the economy”??????
    People like Rep. Foxx?

    Right, because whoever could have possibly benefited from a useless liberal arts degree like say … oh … a BA in English and a Masters in Sociology?
    Oh, that’s right… U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s 5th congressional district, Virginia Ann Foxx.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    Now, on the one hand, I actually agree with some of these sentiments,

    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…how could could disagree….we’ll just ignore the fact that in the context of how the current higher education system works her comments are mindlessly banal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    To have federal taxpayers subsidizing useless degrees and thereby in the same process raising the costs of tuition for those very same degrees — in an environment of Grapes of Wrath-style unemployment and underemployment for the 18-25 year old demographic, no less — is more absurd than having federal taxpayers subsidizing the likes of Solyndra.

    So how did you fund your seven years of education Counsellor Nicko?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It would be impossible due to maximum loan limits for you to come out the other end of law school with $200,000 in government-subsidized student loan debt. The only professions that can take on that level of debt are medical school students.

    The maximum overall student loan debt for everyone one is $138,000. Of that, only $65,000 can be in subsidized loans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    it doesn’t take much to know that an engineering degree has more economic worth than a Masters of Fine Arts.

    Rowling studied A Levels in English, French and German[35] before reading for a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter

    JK Rowling can hire engineers to clean the toilets in her castle.

    Granted, she’s an extreme example. Engineering is a good bet only so long as there is a match between skills taught and jobs opening, and we don’t know if that will be the case in the future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  25. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It’s a crazy number because it isn’t even vaguely true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. @Gromitt Gunn: Quite correct.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. PogueMahone says:

    A friend of mine is currently attending the University of Houston – a fine, comparably inexpensive tier one school here in Texas. She pays $12,000 for tuition, books, and fees per year.
    Let’s imagine that she miraculously finds a job for an unskilled worker that pays $8/hr – that’s $15,300 per year before taxes, assuming she works full time every week.

    Without a loan, that leaves her less than $3300 for rent, food, car, insurance, etc. etc. – for the whole year. Impossible.

    She is pursing one of these “useless liberal arts” degrees with the intention of going to law school. Entering her senior year, she has retained a 4.0 GPA and is taking her LSAT next month.

    If people like Foxx and others have their way, she couldn’t do this.

    Now I took Spanish in college, not French… but pardon me anyway: F*ck Foxx and anyone else who would deny low income folks a chance to go to college.

    Cheers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  28. DRS says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    A fair point, but it doesn’t take much to know that an engineering degree has more economic worth than a Masters of Fine Arts.

    Does it really? You know, one of the few industries where America leads the world is arts and culture: movies, video games, popular music. It seems to me that we might be a little less hoity-toity and – shall we say – dated in our appraisal of this industry. The arts are not frills, they’re money spinners, and one that other countries can only dream of emulating. The days when you could say that about our industrial businesses is past. You’re showing your age, Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  29. There are two reasons for higher education, they can overlap, but they are not perfectly aligned. You can study for personal development, or you can study for career development.

    A system built to satisfy one of those goals, explicitly, would look far different than what we have now. A personal development model would have higher interaction but need less sophisticated facilities. A career development model would need facilities, but offer less breadth.

    The core of the education bubble is the breakdown of a “do it all” four year study plan. It is no longer affordable (whether the state, the parents, or the kids pay). The college loan part of the bubble has just been masking the breakdown, but it can’t continue. It doesn’t matter what this, or any other, politician says. Extend the graphs. They tell the story.

    We all know that I favor reinvention. I back tech-centered plans in large part because they are the ones out there doin’ it.

    Traditional colleges won’t be drivers for change until applications fail to meet university teaching capacity. Look at the graphs. That isn’t happening. As I mention in the other thread, they are filtering, selecting for student who can line up that money or those loans. Until funding fails and enrollment falls, they have no incentive to reduce costs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. @michael reynolds:

    Your “granted” essentially reverses your argument. That is, if if they had any math including “medians” and “standard deviations” in your major.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. anjin-san says:

    I honestly cannot understand why anyone would make the choice.

    Let’s face it Doug, understanding why anyone would do something differently than you would do it is not one of your strengths.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  32. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Doug Mataconis:

    As a general rule, though, I am rather skeptical of the idea of direct government subsidies, and I don’t think that the Obama Administration’s take over of the student loan industry is going to work out very well in the end, at least not as far as controlling the cost of higher education goes

    You think it was better to leave it as a rent seeking opportunity for the banks?

    If the government is going to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize an individuals education it strikes me as perfectly rational to discriminate in favor of fields of study that are needed to help the economy.

    Honestly Doug for an allegedly educated man you say the dumbest things. I personally took the History tripos and ended up running a group of companies making widgets of various kinds; my daughter did basically English lit at undergrad level at Amherst and moved on to a law degree and now runs compliance at a major bank. Your comments do not reflect very well on George Mason.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  33. @DRS:

    When I was in school, art majors used the word “fine,” in “fine art,” to clearly enunciate that their kind was not tied to any commercial advantage.

    So, for we we’re back to the two goals, personal and career development. An “art school” for anti-commercial art would look different than one for “movies, video games, [commercial] music”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. @Brummagem Joe:

    I personally took the History tripos and ended up running a group of companies making widgets of various kinds; my daughter did basically English lit at undergrad level at Amherst and moved on to a law degree and now runs compliance at a major bank.

    If you both avoided a statistics class, then you might indeed think that all degrees have equal outcomes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. anjin-san says:

    Does it really? You know, one of the few industries where America leads the world is arts and culture: movies, video games, popular music.

    Good point. The Academy of Art in San Francisco has a high percentage of foreign students, especially from the wealthier Asian countries. It’s an expensive school, parents are sending their kids there because there are very attractive career paths waiting upon graduation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. anjin-san says:

    The idea that anyone could be accepted to a university and have to take courses covering material that they should have learned in high school is simply absurd.

    Well, the right is working hard to eradicate affordable remedial classes at the community college level. That strikes me as absurd as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  37. BTW, you should probably note the very different angle of attack at:

    Bryan Caplan’s signaling model and on-line education

    I suspect that in your generation, Joe, the signaling power of a College Man was a bit higher.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. Hey Norm says:

    Virginia Foxx on the G. Gordon Liddy Show.
    That’s all you really need to know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  39. Jenos Idanian says:

    @PogueMahone: Apparently you missed the part where Rep. Foxx “worked her way through school,” spending her own money for her education. Your attempt to portray her as a hypocrite backfired — she actually comes across as entirely consistent in her position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  40. An Interested Party says:

    F*ck Foxx and anyone else who would deny low income folks a chance to go to college.

    This does seem to be the key for people like Foxx…I’m sure she realizes it’s much better for her argument to hide behind “$200,000-$80,00 in student loans”….

    Your comments do not reflect very well on George Mason.

    Nor on lawyers, for that matter…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. anjin-san says:

    I grew up in Marin County, one of the wealthiest areas in the country. In spite of all that money, a lot of the kids I grew up with needed student loans to help them get to where there are today. Some of them are doctors now, some lawyers, there are some CEOs in the bunch, and even an astronaut.

    So if a lot of bright kids living in a high wealth area need loans to go to school, it seems that they are probably critical across most of America.

    What is the real GOP agenda here? Quality education for the rich, and only for the rich? I am not sure if I am ready to see such a huge element of the American dream put to sleep…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  42. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    An easy way to tell what the worthless degree are, just look at the student default rate. Want to bet that English majors have a higher rate than petroleum engineering majors. Also, there is the federal statistic of starting pay for majors. The top ten paying majors (bachelors only) are in science and engineering. Of course, early childhood education and philosophy are at the bottom. Another way to tell is what percentage are working outisde of their degree. How many petroleum engineers are working outside of engineering in the first five years out of school versus how many psych majors are working outside of their field.

    I find it odd what progressive, who want the federal government to predict the future of health care are arguing that their is no way to figure out what the worthless majors in college are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  43. PogueMahone says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Apparently you missed the part where Rep. Foxx “worked her way through school,” spending her own money for her education. Your attempt to portray her as a hypocrite backfired — she actually comes across as entirely consistent in her position.

    Bullsh!t. When Foxx worked her way through school, the cost was drastically different.

    My wife and I have this conversation all the time. She went to University of Houston also, but in the early eighties when she went, the cost was about $1000 for the year and she was able to work her way through without taking out a loan.
    Today, my friend pays $12,000 for the same school. It’s just not possible without a loan.

    And this “when I was growing up we worked our way through school” just does not relate to today’s world.
    Foxx could easily just have said, “when I was growing up hamburgers were a nickel and a pack of Lucky Strikes was a dime.”
    Well, hamburgers aren’t a nickel and pack of smokes isn’t a dime anymore. And college tuition isn’t the same either, genius.

    It means f*ck all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  44. PogueMahone says:

    @superdestroyer:

    I find it odd what progressive, who want the federal government to predict the future of health care are arguing that their is no way to figure out what the worthless majors in college are.

    Doesn’t that cut both ways?
    Isn’t odd that conservatives, who want the federal government to predict what students would be worthless, are arguing that there is no way for them to figure out health care?

    Of course it cuts both ways.

    For me, it was always odd that the same conservatives who scream about the government’s incompetence to run health care is the same government they deem competent enough to execute its own citizens.
    But I digress.

    Cheers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  45. Jenos Idanian says:

    Here’s a major part of the problem in a nutshell: we’re loaning large amounts of money to a largely immature and financially naive demographic who don’t fully grasp the consequences of their actions. And an in any case where you separate the spender from the consumer, there is little incentive for the consumer to seek value. They focus on the end goal — the degree — and tend to not look at the details — the amount of total debt, and the burdens of having to repay it. Toss in a strong sense of entitlement — they “deserve” a college education — and a large amount of self-serving propaganda — “these are the best years of your life,” “you need to focus on your education and the whole college experience, so you shouldn’t have to work your way through” and the like — and you have large numbers of students pretty much signing away their future.

    And in that miasma come those who see the opportunity to get their share of the gravy. Colleges and textbook publishers, just to name to big players, realize they can jack up their charges year after year after year at multiples of the inflation rate and get away with it.

    As one of the people who contributes (albeit minimally) to that steady flow of money, I have a right to object. I have a right to say I think the loans should be at least partially based on financial pragmatism — priority given to students in those fields most likely to be able to pay them back. I also have a right to demand some accounting (in several senses of the word) from the schools and textbook publishers as to why the hell their costs keep skyrocketing — under the threat of cutting off their gravy train, meaning being able to accept student loans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  46. Jenos Idanian says:

    @PogueMahone: Mind the language, please.

    And I was addressing your points in a more lengthy comment, as you can see above.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  47. george says:

    There’s definitely a tuition bubble, and the amounts some are willing to pay are insane.

    However, her paying her way through in the 60’s has very little bearing on what’s going on today – anyone who went through school in the 60’s or 70’s, and has kids or grandkids knows this. The question is merely whether she’s uninformed about how things have changed, or deliberately trying to misinform people.

    In terms of picking degrees to support, I don’t see how that would work in practice – all you’ll do is create a glut of (say) engineers. Many of which won’t find jobs, because their jobs are now being outsourced to China and India in any case …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  48. Tillman says:

    Of course, early childhood education and philosophy are at the bottom.

    Actually, it bottoms out at “leisure studies” I believe. Oversaturated market.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  49. @george:

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Software Engineers Remain Top US Job

    For me, the problem with the “outcomes” argument is that it breaks along very weird lines. You’d think that when someone suggests “look at outcomes,” the reply might be “OK, but how?” Instead, the counter-argument seems to be “no, you can’t look at outcomes.”

    It makes it kind of hard for a student of continuous process improvement to get traction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  50. Jenos Idanian says:

    @PogueMahone: Actually, there’s a consistency here that I don’t like.

    “So, you’re going into a field of study where the graduates make very little money, and you’ll be very unlikely to ever repay your loans if you do get a career in your field of study? No problem, here’s a pile of money!”

    “So, you’re going into a business where the vast majority of companies fail, you have a completely unworkable business plan, and no private banks or investors want to entrust you with their assets? No problem, here’s a pile of money!”

    Solyndra was merely a leisure studies major writ large…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  51. anjin-san says:

    @PogueMahone: Mind the language, please.

    This sort of reprimand is Steven’s job, not yours. Show a little respect for the house.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  52. Jenos Idanian says:

    @anjin-san: Hence the “please.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  53. DRS says:

    @john personna:

    An “art school” for anti-commercial art would look different than one for “movies, video games, [commercial] music”

    I work in this industry, and sorry, but that distinction just doesn’t matter on the ground. Many musicians work in both commercial and “fine arts” settings, they also teach music on the side, are available for private coachings with singers of all genres, and often provide the teaching staff (full or contract) for colleges across the country. If you’ve learned graphic arts skills, you can work in videos, movies, gaming, ad agencies or marketing firms and can also be found as art teachers in classroom and private lesson settings.

    Professional artists are flexible. The distinction between fine and commercial arts is a way to differentiate courses in a prospectus, not a clear-cut division in the real world. We should not be so quick to dismiss the arts as a career path.

    Factoid of the night: one of the original investors in Pixar was Steven Jobs of Apple. He appreciated the importance of creativity for sound business reasons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  54. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    If someone is out of line, the James, Doug or Steven will let them know.

    Own your own words, and respect the right of others to speak freely and as they will. Please.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  55. An Interested Party says:

    As one of the people who contributes (albeit minimally) to that steady flow of money, I have a right to object.

    Yeah, and your objection is worth about as little as the objection of a taxpayer who doesn’t like the enormous amounts of money spent on the military…

    I have a right to say I think the loans should be at least partially based on financial pragmatism — priority given to students in those fields most likely to be able to pay them back.

    That taxpayer mentioned previously could also talk about his right to say something about the military-industrial complex and he would get about as far as you will, which is to say, not very far at all…

    I also have a right to demand some accounting (in several senses of the word) from the schools and textbook publishers as to why the hell their costs keep skyrocketing — under the threat of cutting off their gravy train, meaning being able to accept student loans.

    Once again, you have about as much right as that previously mentioned taxpayer…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  56. @Jenos Idanian:

    Solyndra was merely a leisure studies major writ large…

    That’s pretty dumb, as if they sat around writing about how solar made them feel.

    In fact Solyndra had an “iconoclastic engineering” agenda. They gambled big on a very peculiar solar cell design winning. It was a cylinder (hence Solyndra) to compete with all the boring panels out there. Flatness was for other people.

    Statistically such iconoclasts fail, and when it’s just some high risk / high return venture money, it’s no big. Presumably the investors placed other, better, bets.

    The problem with government funding production in this case was that they got caught up in some iconoclastic engineering vision.

    (To those who way it was all China and dumping, I say make a note. Check back in 5 or 10 years and see how many solar cells are round, and how many are flat.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  57. MarkedMan says:

    A large part of this problem is the aging of the American populace. A generation that benefitted immeasurably from a GI bill that sent millions to college with full tuition and a living stipend have now funded it down to the point that it doesn’t even cover half tuition at a private college and certainly doesn’t cover room and board.

    A generation that benefited from a massive government build up in transportation infrastructure (There was no interstate highway system and no airports capable of landing jets at the close of world war II) now refuses to fund basic upkeep on those systems much less pay for the emerging technologies. We are also-rans in this area.

    Bottom line, a generation whose parents sacrificed and worked to make sure their children had a vibrant and forward looking nation now sit on their porches and mutter that these da*n kids today want everything handed to them. We have become a nation of old people who won’t pay for a new roof because they can’t believe you can’t get a laborer for ten dollars a day anymore and a blue tarp and a staple gun is just as good. And our nation falls into decrepitude while they stick their fingers in their ears and sing-song over any inconvenient facts. That so many in our government champion Randian/Libertarian nonsense is all the evidence we need.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  58. @DRS:

    Can you read this table?

    If you are really about “outcomes,” and believe that art school delivers them, can you tell me why “art” as a major is near the bottom?

    Factoid of the night: one of the original investors in Pixar was Steven Jobs of Apple. He appreciated the importance of creativity for sound business reasons.

    Steve was a drop-out, right? Wouldn’t that build the case for unconventional learning?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  59. (Basically DRS, remember that the pool we are discussing is “art graduates,” whereas the pool you meet are “successful art people.” Depending on how many dropped out of the art business, the pools can be very different in size. Michael’s note of one world selling author didn’t really prove that all authors are world-selling for the same reason. Sampling error.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  60. DRS says:

    JP, let’s tone down the patronizing, shall we? Leave it to Jenos. You have no idea who I work with or meet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  61. Jenos Idanian says:

    @An Interested Party: Wow, I’m impressed. You didn’t actually mention Iraq. You skated right up next to it, but you actually stopped short. Well done.

    And yeah, I have a right to object. Deal with it. Note I’m not confusing “the right to speak up” with “the right to be listened to,” like certain twits (no, not you) who confuse the two.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  62. @DRS:

    I assume you don’t meet people who no longer traffic in art, right?

    (What you see as patronizing might just be an attempt at patience.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  63. Jenos Idanian says:

    @john personna: Way to miss the metaphor. I was making the analogy on the government funding side, not the recipient side.

    And your description of Solyndra’s product sounds interesting, and certainly could end up working. But you’re talking theory, and reality always trumps theory. Here, the reality is that Solyndra failed.

    But don’t worry, those loan guarantees made sure the big Obama backers who had backed it were made whole. They didn’t lose out; just us taxpayers did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  64. DRS says:

    JP: Jobs invested in Pixar because he saw that this ground-breaking animation was a sound business investment and bought in. That Jobs was a drop-out is totally irrelevant to that decision.

    And yes, many arts major grads will not make as much money as other professions such as bankers or lawyers. But again, what relevance has that to the strength of the American movie, gaming and popular music industries on a world-wide scale? America is the global leader in this area. We should not be so snooty about recognizing that.

    Plumbers and electricians also make less money than bankers and most lawyers. Should we discourage students from going to college to learn those skills?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  65. anjin-san says:

    F*ck Foxx and anyone else who would deny low income folks a chance to go to college.

    Damn straight :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  66. @DRS:

    The Jobs story interests me because it ties back to education and potential. He’s not at all alone in the list of America’s billionaire drop-outs. It ties back in turn to signaling, the past value of degrees, and the future value of degrees.

    Now, there are vital industries of all kinds, and keeping them supplied is good for the economy.

    The question might be whether enrollments are mapped that well to industrial (including creative industries) needs.

    Here is a dangerous fact:

    40 percent of college grads end up settling for jobs that don’t require a degree

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  67. Quoting kind of messes up this list, so I’ll just paste it:

    1) According to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for college graduates younger than 25 years old was 9.3 percent in 2010.

    2) One-third of all college graduates end up taking jobs that don’t even require college degrees.

    3) In the United States today, over 18,000 parking lot attendants have college degrees.

    4) In the United States today, 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees.

    5) In the United States today, approximately 365,000 cashiers have college degrees.

    6) In the United States today, 24.5 percent of all retail salespersons have a college degree.

    Items 3-6 might be shocking to some of our older members, people who remember a college degree as a big thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  68. anjin-san says:

    40 percent of college grads end up settling for jobs that don’t require a degree

    Where I live the big meme at high schools is “Every student here is going to college”…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  69. MarkedMan says:

    Just for the record (as I know JI will continue to ignore this) it is not true that there were no private investors in Solyndra. The majority of their investment was from private investors, and much of that investment preceded the government loan guarantees. What killed Solyndra was the floor falling out of the price of traditional solar cell panels. And that was in large part due to the Chinese government heavily subsidizing their own players. So basically, the Republican argument is that American companies should receive no help from our government even if they are competing against companies that are heavily subsidized by their government.

    The Republican’s make this argument against helping alternative energy despite the fact that a) many, many companies are subsidized by our government (oil drilling credits for one) and b) many of the largest American corporations benefitted hugely from US government policy. Examples: Aerospace, Electronics, Internet. The fact that Republicans continue to say that government intervention only weakens us despite literally 240 years of contrary evidence just shows how bound up they are in their magical thinking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  70. Jenos Idanian says:

    @MarkedMan: Just for the record (as I know JI will continue to ignore this) it is not true that there were no private investors in Solyndra.

    I was speaking in shorthand; Solyndra didn’t get any federal loans, it got federal loan guarantees. Over half a billion of them. And I specifically mentioned the private investors who were saved by those loan guarantees — including some hefty Obama donors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  71. Hey Norm says:

    My parents didn’t go to college, and couldn’t pay for me to go to college. I got through on student loans and Pell Grants. I then paid them back.
    Virginia Foxx and G. Gordon Liddy would prefer I hadn’t gone to college.
    They got there’s…and want to pull up the ladder behind them.
    Fu** Foxx and Liddy and the rest of the Republicans who agree with them.
    You know who you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  72. Jenos Idanian says:

    @MarkedMan: And I stand by the metaphor: the mindset behind shoveling out student loans indiscriminately is much the same as that which shoveled out money to “green energy.”

    But back to the main point: the costs of education have skyrocketed without any rational justification, and there’s been a lot of pushback against those who have dared question it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  73. MarkedMan says:

    @Jenos Idanian: JI, you appear to moving the goalposts. Your initial post implied, as you have in previous posts, that Solyndra basically existed because th US government picked them, and that no rational investor would have invested prior to the loan guarantees. In fact there was a tremendous level of private investment before the government was involved.

    Despite the moving of the goalposts, which has happened often on this topic, I suspect that a week from now when you are bringing this up in some other context you will do so with your original position as if this conversation never happened.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  74. Tillman says:

    @john personna: On the other hand, we have employers offering jobs only to college degree holders, regardless of whether the degree is needed or not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  75. @anjin-san:

    It’s a difficult time. Degrees are increasingly used to gate people into jobs, like retail, that used to have a lower bar. There are still good jobs and degrees, but mid-line students are working just to signal that they aren’t in that bottom 40%.

    College is still the safe bet, even if it is not as good a bet as it once was.

    There are probably interesting things a kid could do to build an unconventional resume, like just moving overseas and learning a language, but that’s not fore every kid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  76. @Tillman:

    Ah, yes, typing at the same time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  77. Hey Norm says:

    Jenos…
    Solyndra is less than 1% of the DOE loan gaurantee program. As far as I know it is the only guarantee to go south. You Telly should find something else to whine like a little girl about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  78. (Just for emphasis, that 40% go through college for non-college jobs is a tragedy – and not something ‘personal growth’ really compensates for. Not with any kind of college debt load.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  79. Hey Norm says:

    Unlike Foxx I don’t survive on the Goverments teat…and unlike Liddy I’ve never been convicted of a felony.
    Seriously…are there two bigger pieces of $hit out there?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  80. Hey Norm says:

    Other the Dick Cheney and Paul Ryan that is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  81. I must confess, that even with the missing letters and whatnot, I am not seeing how the conversation is being forwarded with the profanity (especially in light of recent discussion about the quality of comments and discourse in some other threads).

    On the one hand, I can easily ignore it, on the other maybe it is worth considering that it may be detracting more from the debate than adding to it? Especially since we seem to have camps of commenters who are looking for reasons to dismiss each other?

    Just a thought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  82. An Interested Party says:

    And yeah, I have a right to object. Deal with it.

    Umm, I don’t have to deal with it, as I never claimed you didn’t have that right…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  83. WR says:

    @DRS: Don’t bother John P with facts about the life of an artist. He’s a very smart and nice guy, but he’s got this weird blind spot — to him, the only career worth pursuing is engineering. Everything else is essentially masturbation. Therefore, the only thing colleges should teach is engineering, because the human soul has no need of art or music or literature.

    I find it infurinating, but mostly I find it sad. People who think the arts are a luxury have a vision of the human state I just can’t understand… and never want to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  84. WR says:

    @Hey Norm: Well. there’s Republican hero Oliver North, a man who committed treason and then skated because of legal trickery — everything the right claims to hate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  85. Hey Norm says:

    Foxx would deny the lions share of a generation a higher education.
    But I apologize for my use of profanity.
    Sigh…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  86. @WR:

    That was kind of an epic fail, WR.

    You could have just advanced “intangible” benefits without attacking me.

    And … if degrees weren’t so darned expensive, I might have agreed with out.

    It is the combination of high cost and low graduate attainment that makes things bad.

    I mean, do you think working retail while starting a family and juggling college loans is a good outcome, for the student?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  87. (And really “the life of an artist?” That predates “all kids go to college” by a couple hundred years. We had “the life of an artist” in the 19th century. Somehow though, it got tangled with state schools and college loans.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  88. One more time, for clarity, this represents a failure of society:

    40 percent of college grads end up settling for jobs that don’t require a degree

    You can judge the failure two different ways though. Either, we should have got them better jobs, or we should have charged them less for the degree. Either this was a failed attempt at economic advancement, or it was worthwhile interlude for personal development.

    It wasn’t both though, or the numbers would be much better, with maybe 5 or 10 percent choosing simple jobs for lifestyle reasons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  89. Console says:

    If you steer people towards certain degrees, I don’t know if you necessarily get a great outcome. Is society better off if we give money to a kid to get an engineering degree that he doesn’t finish, than if we gave him money to get an english degree that was more suited to him?

    Pushing people towards college in general would seem to have less unforeseen consequences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  90. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    Dude, my major was “high school drop-out.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  91. anjin-san says:

    I am not seeing how the conversation is being forwarded with the profanity

    Its quite possible that it is not. Still, there was a certain rough eloquence in PogueMahone’s denounciation of those who sit upon the top of the mountain, enjoying the rarefied air, all the while plotting to deny so much as a walking stick and a decent pair of boots to those at the bottom who are preparing for the long climb ahead.

    Me, I just object to self appointed hall monitors, especially those who have a long history of being less than proper themselves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  92. Jenos Idanian says:

    @anjin-san: Me, I just object to self appointed hall monitors, especially those who have a long history of being less than proper themselves.

    Ever dealt with an ex-smoker? Or a now-fit former obese person? There’s a certain credibility that comes from “learn from my mistakes, and don’t do what I did.”

    And no, I didn’t specifically cite that. I knew I wouldn’t have to, others would gleefully do so for me. Thanks for stepping up to the plate.

    But back on topic… there’s a bit of talk about a “higher education bubble” like the real estate and dot-com bubbles, and they have a real point. The costs have been shooting through the roof for decades, and it’s getting closer and closer to the point where a college education (financed through loans) is little more than a form of indentured servitude.

    And as I said, a hefty portion of the costs shooting up has been the disconnect between the provider of the money and the consumer of the goods and services being bought. To the students, it’s almost like magic: sign these papers, and Party A (the government) will give the money to Party B. Then Party C (the student) will collect the goods and services from Party B (and spend the next four years attending Parties D-ZZZ inclusive, but I digress and stereotype and pun badly). At no point does the student ever possess the money, making it “real” and have to accept the fact that some day, they’re going to have to pay it back.

    Perhaps if every student loan came with a requirement that they take a class in their first semester (or even a week) where they are required to calculate their anticipated level of debt for their education, work it out to how much they’ll be required to pay per month, and also find out their projected income should they get an average job in their field of study once they complete their education, it might bring a little reality to their situation. But instead, they’re told they are “entitled” to the education, that they should pursue their dreams regardless of boring, crushing reality, and they should follow their ideals without worrying about practical concerns. We’re killing them with that “kindness,” and setting so many of them up for decades of misery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  93. Brummagem Joe says:

    @DRS:

    JP, let’s tone down the patronizing, shall we? Leave it to Jenos. You have no idea who I work with or meet.

    It’s his thing….LOL

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  94. @Console:

    Sure, but we can use those starting and mid-career numbers to help kids understand their choices. The old lesson, “do what you love and money will follow” has met cruel reality.

    @michael reynolds:

    The people I’m really feeling for here are those in the 40%, college graduates struggling with debt and low paying jobs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  95. @Brummagem Joe:

    Shrug. How many above think I’m a big meany because I don’t want to send a kid into penury and a retail floor job?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  96. Hey Norm says:

    An Anne Romney quote:

    “…They were not easy years. You have to understand, I was raised in a lovely neighborhood, as was Mitt, and at BYU, we moved into a $62-a-month basement apartment with a cement floor and lived there two years as students with no income. It was tiny. And I didn’t have money to carpet the floor. But you can get remnants, samples, so I glued them together, all different colors. It looked awful, but it was carpeting.
    We were happy, studying hard. Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time. The stock came from Mitt’s father. When he took over American Motors, the stock was worth nothing. But he invested Mitt’s birthday money year to year — it wasn’t much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because he believed in himself. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education.
    Mitt and I walked to class together, shared housekeeping, had a lot of pasta and tuna fish and learned hard lessons…”

    So if you come from money you are entitled to an education…if not…screw you.
    Republicans…it’s all about pulling the ladder up behind them…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  97. Hey Norm says:

    “…But instead, they’re told they are “entitled” to the education, that they should pursue their dreams regardless of boring, crushing reality, and they should follow their ideals without worrying about practical concerns…”

    I’d really like to see where anyone is told that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  98. @Hey Norm:

    I understand your frustration with inequality and insensitivity to inequality, but really, what ladder?

    The thing I think I’m seeing is that people are arguing from an old experience, a lost world. There was indeed a time when a college degree (most any degree) was a gateway to the middle class.

    If that’s changed, and I think it has, then more degrees may not be the answer.

    Do you remember this story? US Labor Market: Increasingly Low-Wage Driven

    As much as I’d like education to change that, it has been a simultaneous development. We have had, tragically, increasing college costs as labor opportunity shifts down-market.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  99. This article actually has a better graphic. Rather than showing recent year changes, it shows the percentage of the workforce in a “low paying job” across a dozen or so developed nation.

    Why on earth would the US have the highest fraction?

    (It is perhaps a minimum wage and benefits issue rather than an education issue.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  100. Rick Almeida says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I don’t think that the Obama Administration’s take over of the student loan industry is going to work out very well in the end…

    Statements like this are why I can’t take any of your “analysis” seriously.

    I wish you were thoughtful enough to do a little research before setting fingers to keyboard. The federal government’s been providing direct loans to students since at least 1993.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  101. @anjin-san:

    Me, I just object to self appointed hall monitors, especially those who have a long history of being less than proper themselves.

    I understand.

    I just figured that after some of the conversations in some recent threads that I would note that perhaps it might be more persuasive to take another route. Just a thought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  102. Hey Norm says:

    @JP…
    I’m sorry…but reeling back educational opportunities is not the way to grow our future. I’m not in favor of reacting to the war on the middle class by surrendering and being satisfied with low wage jobs for our youth.
    There seems to be a a feeling in most of these comments that education is a matter of filling a bucket. It’s not. Education is about igniting fire. When that is lost…so are we.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  103. Rob in CT says:

    I think public investment in higher education is one of the best things we can do with our money. However, I tend to agree with those who are pushing for a re-think about how it’s done. While I certainly have no disdain for the liberal arts (History major, hello!), I think a little bang-for-the-buck analysis is needed. Btw, I think the recent change to federal student loans is a good one.

    I’d like to provide extra funds to state & community colleges and have them spend that money on actual education, perhaps with increased emphasis on STEM, as against seeing them spend it on upgrading their facilities, advertising, sports programs, administrative costs and whatnot.

    I’m not as enthusiastic as JP is about online courses, but if you’re looking for a game-changer (as opposed to the fairly mild tweaks I’ve discussed), online courses at least have that potential.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  104. WR says:

    @john personna: Sorry, JP, didn’t mean personal offense. But I get a little tired of the constant arguments that anything but a career as an engineer is a waste of a life, and that all education must be reoriented to that goal. And if that’s an oversimplification of your point, I apologize again, but after all these months that’s the message you’re sending.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  105. EddieInCA says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    A fair point, but it doesn’t take much to know that an engineering degree has more economic worth than a Masters of Fine Arts.

    I call Bulls**t. My degree in Fine Arts has given me a career as a Film and Television Producer. And I earn a better wage than 99% of the Engineers in this country.

    So, at least for me, your theory does not work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  106. gVOR08 says:

    I do believe everyone, including Professor Taylor, is missing the point here. Steven’s headline is “Chair of House Subcommittee on Higher Education not a Fan of Student Loans.” This is far from the first time Rep Foxx has made the news. The problem is not that the Chair doesn’t like student loans, or that education is too expensive, or that the arts may or may not be less valuable than my own engineering field. The problem is that Virginia Foxx, a complete wackjob, is Chair of a House Subcommittee.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  107. WR says:

    @john personna: Hey, how about this? Why don’t we go back to doing what we used to — supporting higher education for all via taxes paying for good state schools? I realize that’s blasphemy in the new world in which we’re told that any attempt to work together for the public good is communism, but it worked pretty well for most of us commenting here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  108. Hey Norm says:

    @ WR…
    We’ve decided that tax cuts for the rich are more important than education for the not rich.
    Try to keep up…
    (snark)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  109. Jenos Idanian says:

    @WR: In California, they’ve budgeted just under 3.7 billion dollars for community colleges in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

    How much more do you want?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  110. anjin-san says:

    The reality of community colleges in CA (I have been a student at two of them)

    ONTARIO, Calif. — Just after she started working for an ambulance company in this suburban enclave east of Los Angeles, Cierra Nelson came to admire the quick decision making and street smarts of the nurses she met on runs to local hospitals. She soon opted to pursue a nursing degree, settling on a low-cost, two-year program at a nearby community college that has an excellent job placement record.

    But despite her efforts to complete the coursework in the ensuing four years, Nelson is still not a nurse. California’s budget cuts have forced the state’s community college system to scale back the availability of crucial science classes. Nelson found herself repeatedly turned away from the oversubscribed courses required for her degree.

    Frustrated and seeking an alternative, she took out more than $50,000 in student loans to enroll last winter in a nursing program at Everest College, one of many for-profit institutions that have sprung up in the area amid massive cutbacks in public funding for higher education.

    “When I first saw how high it was, it was kind of a shock,” said Nelson, who eventually came to the conclusion that taking out loans made more sense than waiting semester after semester to take the community college classes she needed to advance. “I know it’s a lot of money and I’ll be in debt, but I’ve got to do what I need to do.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/30/community-college-for-profit-college_n_1174243.html

    Students can’t get the courses they need, so they go in debt to attend for profit schools. If they were better Americans, I guess they would just sell off some investments to pay for school like Mitt Romney did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  111. anjin-san says:

    Ever dealt with an ex-smoker?

    I am an ex-smoker. Yet I manage to go through life not presuming to lecture others about smoking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  112. @WR:

    I never actually say “engineering only.” You probably hear that because I say “look at the graph,” and lo and behold, on the graph engineering is clustered at the top.

    What should I do at that point? Steer otherwise interested kids away? Should you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  113. @WR:

    The problem is with Bryan Caplan’s “signaling” argument. We can’t turn back the clock to when Bachelor’s degrees were rare and valuable.

    Anjin mentions “the big meme at high schools is ‘Every student here is going to college’…”

    You get it, right? When everyone goes, the benefit decreases.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  114. (I am very big on education, especially the life-long kind. It’s just that I think we’ve taken some wrong turns, especially with “every student here is going to college.” We need to make all forms of education cheaper, but especially the “personal development” kind, the kind that can’t financially justify high investment.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  115. Jenos Idanian says:

    @anjin-san: That’s a truly wretched story, anjin. But general lack of funding is one explanation; poor allocation of resources is another. And the woman in question has a serious grievance against the school; she paid them in good faith, and they didn’t uphold their promises.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  116. WR says:

    @Jenos Idanian: I don’t know, Jenos. How about enough to keep the system running and return it to its original purpose — to provide free education to those who need and want it and thus give the state an educated populace?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  117. matt says:

    @anjin-san: oh man I am having a hell of a time getting into inorganic chemistry here..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  118. Jenos Idanian says:

    @WR: Let me get this straight: you say we should spend more, I ask how much would be enough, and — apparently unable to find an appropriate left-wing talking point to parrot — you come back with “more! More more more!”

    Get back to me when you can actually answer basic, fundamental questions about the positions you parrot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  119. Here’s some raw news. It’s the kind of thing I actually have been slow to post, because so many readers are hyper-sensitive. But straight up:

    The gap wages rates between electrical-engineering and general-education majors is nearly as large as the difference between college graduates and high school graduates, according to a wide-ranging study by Joseph G. Altonji, Erica Blom and Costas Meghir of Yale University.

    It’s just data, Which College Majors Pay Best?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  120. (Economics actually tops that chart, so if econ is your thing, tear it up.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  121. Rob in CT says:

    In addition to average salary data, is % unemployment data available by major?

    Via some quick googling:

    http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2012/01/05/Want-to-Be-Unemployed-Get-This-College-Degree.aspx#page1

    A study released Wednesday by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that among recent college graduates with undergraduate degrees, architecture had the highest rate of unemployment at 13.9 percent, followed by the arts (11.1 percent) and the humanities (9.4 percent). The degrees that gave graduates the best prospects of landing work were in health (5.4 percent unemployment), education (5.4 percent), and agriculture and natural resources (7 percent).

    Those are broader categories (e.g. Humanities, instead of breaking that down), though. But we see here that the salary level isn’t the whole picture. For instance, Education majors don’t get paid that much (though one wonders if the data JP found is “total comp”), but they have a lower unemployment rate.

    I’m unsurprised to see the “STEM” degrees pay well. I am slightly surprised at Economics topping the list. I put Econ down as a mishmash between the “hard” sciences and the humanities. It combines math, psychology, and philosophy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  122. J-Dub says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The problem is that Republicans would probably prefer to fund fields like Theology over Chemistry or Engineering. They wouldn’t want to support a field that might (further) prove global warming.

    Besides, education leads to atheism. Better to have the population ignorant and under control of the boogey man in the sky.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0