Why Students (and Barack Obama!) Should STFU About College Costs...

...and why taxpayers should be worried.

My latest piece for The Daily Beast is about Barack Obama's recent proposal to throw more government money at higher education. Here's a snippet:

It’s back-to-college time, which means it’s the season for bitching and moaning about rising college costs, lack of access to higher education, and the pressing need for even more taxpayer-funded subsidies to the leaders of tomorrow. In just the past few days, we’ve been subjected to breathless reports that “college tuition costs” have risen 500 percent since 1985 and a mini-campaign swing by President Obama touting more free money for students and a federally sanctioned knock-off of college guides already provided by The Princeton ReviewU.S. News & World ReportWashington MonthlyBarron’s, and countless other sources.

Enough already. The plain facts are that college is still well within reach of most Americans, the wage premium for a college sheepskin remains huge, and student loans are not a new form of indentured servitude. You wouldn’t get any of that from grandstanding politicians always looking for a new way to rob Peter to buy Paul’s vote, an educational establishment that’s always on the hunt for new revenue sources, and a news media that alternates between the credulity and ignorance of, well, a first-semester freshman.

Among the revelations that are always ignored by those looking for mo' money:

  • About 68 percent of high school grads go on immediately to some form of higher education, a percentage that's stayed at or near historic highs despite the Great Recession.
  • Only 35 percent of students overall going on for higher education take out loans (about 52 percent of those attending four-year state schools and 64 percent of those attending private four-year schools do).
  • There's no evidence that attending more selective - and typically way more expensive - schools increase earnings.
  • The typical college grad ages 25 to 34 who works full time makes $15,000 a year more than a high school grad of the same age. The college grad is also much more likely to have a job.

Read the whole thing.

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  • wareagle||

    there is one other plain fact that I know from experience will be lost on the TDB crowd: colleges, for the most part, are creatures of the state and most raise tuition by 8-10% per year, every year, for no reasons other than they can because the federal student loan program enables that behavior.

  • DJF||

    “””About 68 percent of high school grads go on immediately to some form of higher education,”””

    Yes, but what percentage of jobs require such higher education? How many of these high school grads would be better off not going or going to a specific job training rather then the 2 or 4 year college?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Don't deny the gender studies majors their importance.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Irrelevant; the question here is that the nannies are moaning about the cost of college, when quite obviously the cost does not seem to be affecting college attendance.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I wish this bubble would burst already.

  • DJF||

    Yes, I can’t wait to buy up foreclosed co-eds

  • AlmightyJB||

    If you're willing to be a sugar daddy, you can pretty easily ro that now.

  • John||

    You already can. It is called sugar daddy dot com. It is expensive. But if you are willing to pay off student loans, I am quite sure there are a lot of coeds who would offer you their services.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I've got to pay off my monocle first, then I can get to that.

  • UnCivilServant||

    If you can't afford the monocle up front, you aren't rich enough to be a "sugar daddy".

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    DON'T DENY ME MY DREAMS

    (runs from room sobbing)

  • Hyperion||

    Barack Obama's recent proposal to throw more government money at higher education more leftist indoctrination.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    It doesn't take a college diploma to write alt-text!

  • John||

    How dare consumers actually expect something for their money or object to state sponsored institutions wasting billions of dollars creating a leisure class of college profs and administrators.

    Tell you what Nick, I will stop bitching about the costs they day colleges stop taking my tax money in the form of subsidies and student aid. Something tells me the day we get rid of those things, the cost part will take care of itself.

    Even if college is still a "good deal", that doesn't mean it can't be a better deal. And that doesn't mean that the prices are not way higher than they should be thanks mostly to the government. That people are finally noticing this giant rip off is a good thing. Why am I not surprised that the Jacket is coming down on the side of corrupt administrators and faculty and telling students who demand better to go fuck themselves?

  • John||

    Gillespie just said that consumers of a product have no right to bitch about the cost of said product or pressure on producers to do a better job and keep costs down.

    I would be curious what other goods and services Nick feels this way about. Next up, Nick explains why trucking companies should shut the fuck up about the cost of fuel. I guess those college grads make enough money in Nick's view and need to stop worrying about those college Presidents and their seven figure salaries.

    God what a stupid fucking column.

  • Zeb||

    Well, what do you expect from a guy with an English PhD?

    It is pretty silly, especially since so much of the price increase is driven by government subsidy. Even if it is still "worth it" for a lot of people to go to college and get loans to do so, no libertarian commentator should be excusing the ridiculous way it is funded.

  • John||

    It is beyond silly. And Nick would never make such an argument in any other context. He only makes it here because college profs and admins are part of the right class and he is okay with propping up their lifestyle.

    By Nick's logic no one should complain about taxes since the government is considered still a good deal by some. It goes back to my argument that Nick is a lefty collecting a paycheck at Reason. I wish the Post or someone would just fucking hire the guy at the concern troll job he so desperately seems to want and get him off the pages of Reason.

  • JW||

    I see his point, I don't know if I agree with it, but it comes off as Kevin Bacon trying to control the crowd in Animal House.

  • Zeb||

    I think Nick does a pretty good job going on mainstream news programs and not sounding crazy. He'd be a pretty good libertarian-ish voice at some major paper or something, but I agree that for Reason, most of his stuff is pretty weak.

  • Irish||

    It goes back to my argument that Nick is a lefty collecting a paycheck at Reason. I wish the Post or someone would just fucking hire the guy at the concern troll job he so desperately seems to want and get him off the pages of Reason.

    This is a weird argument, John. Nick can annoy me with some of his more iffy moments, especially when he's writing for the Daily Beast and decides he has to preen for the crowd, but if you ever watch him on T.V. he clearly comes down on the right side of things.

    I will agree that he gives liberals more of the benefit of the doubt than he would ever give conservatives, but I don't know how you can claim he's a lefty.

  • John||

    He rights too much shit like this for me to trust him. You watch. Some day he will move on to a mainstream publication and the mask will go off and he will be another Weigel.

  • JW||

    My take is that he's pushing the utilitarian argument for the thumb-suckers at the Beast (We don't need any more stinkin' Federales money for college) instead of the moral argument, which would fall flatter than a Shriner's pancake breakfast with those equivocators.

  • Irish||

    My take is that he's pushing the utilitarian argument for the thumb-suckers at the Beast (We don't need any more stinkin' Federales money for college) instead of the moral argument, which would fall flatter than a Shriner's pancake breakfast with those equivocators.

    But the argument that easy credit is driving up college costs and is harming the very students it's supposed to help IS a utilitarian argument. Pointing out that fewer poor kids today go to college (12% of the bottom quintile went in the 70's, 7% go today) is a utilitarian argument too. The point of this easy credit was to get more poor kids in school. It has clearly failed while simultaneously driving up the cost for everyone else.

    Even the mouthbreathers at the Beast should understand such an argument. Easy credit has actually hurt poor people. So has affirmative action, for that matter.

  • JW||

    But the argument that easy credit is driving up college costs and is harming the very students it's supposed to help IS a utilitarian argument.

    The response would be that we just aren't spending hard enough. A few trillion moar ought to do it.

  • JW||

    Even the mouthbreathers at the Beast should understand such an argument.

    I wouldn't make any wagers on that. "Credit and credit! What is credit!?" SPEND MOAR

  • UnCivilServant||

    I left college with about $54,000 in debt. In all, I think it was a massive waste of time and money. To get any real information in classes you have to selectively avoid the tenured professors, as they didn't give a crap, and aim for the adjuncts who taught as a second job (in addition to working the the relevent field). And I got a technical degree, meaning there were actual facts to be picked up rather than "feelings". My main trouble was in getting my required Humanities credit because I'd call out the professors on their bullshit and get tossed from the course. (Not by force of review, mind you, but by the subtle pressure an instructor uses. It wasn't worth my time to keep raging at them).

  • John||

    And perhaps you could have gotten the technical training you wanted and needed in ways that were cheaper and avoided the cost of subsidizing the various hate studies professors who kept wasting your time.

    But Nick says you need to shut the fuck up about costs. You got a good deal and that is enough.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    His point is that costs are not affecting attendance, so calls for more subsidies to increase attendance are nonsense.

  • John||

    But the costs are still screwing people. And yes, the calls to increase subsidies are nonsense. But not for the dim witted reason Nick gives.

  • Lord Humungus||

    I, thankfully, left college with zero debt. It made a life a little easier, especially when first starting out - buying a car and finding a place to live. However, I've since shouldered my wife's law school debt. It's a substantial chunk of change and has been biting into my normal day-to-day living.

    That 10 acres I was going to buy? Nah. Time for a new truck? Nah, this one has to last a few years longer.

    Now that she's a practicing attorney, this debt will soon (hopefully!) be shouldered by her...

  • UnCivilServant||

    I've paid it down to about $34k, but I still can't get a house because no one will loan me the money, even though the mortgage payments would be lower than my current rent, meaning I'd have no trouble paying them back. I'm also somewhat sick of hearing from people who didn't go to college "How can you be broke you make $X a year!" They don't seem to believe that ordinary bills plus debt maintenence can eat up all (most) of my income.

  • Lord Humungus||

    In the past I've owned two houses - not sure if I plan to buy another one any day soon. I've discovered I can live in a rental home in an upscale neighborhood - the type of neighborhood I couldn't normally afford (on our single income) if I bought.

    It's certainly a better place than the two other homes I've lived at - not necessarily in size, but location, location, location. Plus added flexibility if I get crappy neighbors (an issue with the last two places) or I make a sudden life change and need to move.

  • ||

    Buying a house is a sucker's game unless you can get a ridiculously low interest rate or pay for most of it up front.

    I mean, when you figure out that you're going to end up paying the bank 400k for the 100k you borrowed, it's no wonder people think that their home values should always go up.*

    *SLD

  • Zeb||

    Or unless you really want to own a house. I want to be able to do what I want with my house and property. If I had to live somewhere with more restrictive zoning and codes, renting would probably make more sense to me.

    And sure, you pay a shit load of interest if you have a mortgage, but if you rent, all the money you spend is gone forever.

  • ||

    As evidenced by the bubble and the subsequent 5 years, the money you put in your house could be gone forever too.

    But of course, the being able to do what you want (mostly) with your house and property is the biggest selling point to most people.

  • Tony||

    You probably would have been well served to listen to your humanities professors more. They know more about their subjects than you do. To be truly educated you have to figure out that you don't know everything. And unless you're some kind of humanities savant for some reason getting a "technical" degree, the likelihood is that you were letting your lightweight preconceived dogma get in the way of learning, rather than calling out anyone on his bullshit.

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    Yawn

  • Irish||

    And unless you're some kind of humanities savant for some reason getting a "technical" degree, the likelihood is that you were letting your lightweight preconceived dogma get in the way of learning, rather than calling out anyone on his bullshit.

    Yes. Truly English majors are our intellectual superiors. Bow before them, peasants, lest they destroy you by deconstructing a Barth story.

  • Zeb||

    Depends on the humanities you are studying. Sure, if you are taking some history or a writing class or something you can often learn a lot from a knowledgable professor. But if you are taking Marxist deconstruction of Blah Blah class you should call the professor out on their stupid preconceived dogma. Even honest liberals will admit that academia in many areas is dominated by some extreme leftist silliness.

  • UnCivilServant||

    The courses where I argued with the professors were "Art Appreciation" and it's ilk. Anyone with any ability to think seated in that classroom could tell that the person at the lecturn was speaking from their posterior.

    I eventually amanged a humanities credit through "History of American Technology" which was a far more worthwhil course. I now know more about the textiles industry than I ever wanted to.

  • Lord Humungus||

    I would watch a documentary on the textiles industry... but I once sat threw an entire show dedicated to the making of player piano rolls.

  • UnCivilServant||

    There are times that the "Science" channel would run "How It's Made" for hours on end, and I'd never end up changing the channel. It's litterally just footage of undustrial processes with a voiceover clarifying what isn't obvious from the images. By the pitch, you'd never think it would be so mesmerising...

  • Rhywun||

    Heh, I love that show. "Up next: gumballs!"

  • Irish||

    This is a ridiculous argument, Nick. The cost of college should be far lower than it is, but is being propped up by government subsidies and easy credit.

    I don't understand why a student shouldn't be angry when their education costs several times what it should.

    The typical college grad ages 25 to 34 who works full time makes $15,000 a year more than a high school grad of the same age. The college grad is also much more likely to have a job.

    This is actually irrelevant. If far fewer people went to college, which they would if we didn't have such easy credit, then many of those college grads would have ended up in the same type of job but wouldn't have had any college debt. You need a college degree to get a job as a receptionist these days. If it weren't for the college bubble, high school graduates could get that job without taking on $50,000 in student loan debt.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    You need a college degree to get a job as a receptionist these days.

    One of my exes literally did this.

  • JW||

    The big law firm I worked for in the 90's required a bachelors to get in the door for secretaries. They treat it as a proxy for good character.

  • creech||

    I had to deal with three receptionists in person this morning....I'd be shocked if any of them could spell "college" let alone attend it.

  • Irish||

    I ended up getting a paralegal position at a law firm, but things got hairy for a little while and I sent resumes to pretty much anything, including receptionist and low level administrative assistant positions.

    There is no way in a normal market someone with a college degree should even be considering a job that mostly requires them to answer phones and lift boxes.

  • JW||

    I did that as my first "real" job, as I considered law school and hoped to score letters of recommendations from partners. I'm glad I did work there, as it warned me off as to how crushingly tedious and dull, law is.

    I knew the IT director there and begged him for an IT job, despite knowing little about computers then. It worked out very well for me, and does so to this day, but everyone looked at me as if I was nuts, going over to the admin side of things.

  • JW||

    I already told my kids that if they want to skip college and go into a trade, I'll support that decision and move their 529 funds into an IRA for them.

    They'll save all that money from not going to college and they'll start earning sooner. As long as they can live without the status of a college educaton, I'm fine with it.

  • Zeb||

    Nothing wrong with a trade. I kind of wish I had become an electrician.

  • JW||

    Maybe things aren't as dire as the media makes it out to be, but I know that University of Maryland tuition is about 4 times more expensive today, than it was 20 years ago, far outstripping inflation. The flip side of this is that these schools, with so many grads clamoring to get in, have raised their admission standards. My old school now wants a 4.0 average for in-state students. It was 3.0 when I went.

    I am strongly encouraging the spawn to go to community college for the first 2 years. They'll learn just as much and only spend a fraction of the 4-year school tuition. And, if they bomb out, like many freshman who aren't ready yet do, they (I) wont be out as much cash.

    They just won't have the cachet of going to The Big State U.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The plain facts are that college is still well within reach of most Americans

    Maybe if you want the other baristas to snicker at you behind your back for going to some sucky state school in some hick town nobody ever heard of.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    If I had a kid, I would strongly urge him to get a "shitty" job in an old fashioned machine shop, and learn how to run a mill and a lathe by hand, and then go study CNC stuff. As far as I can tell, a good tool and die maker or prototype fabricator can pretty much go anywhere and make a shitload of money.

  • Irish||

    But how would that kid learn to 'self-actualize' without the help of a gender or racial studies program?

  • John||

    Pretty much. MY older brother is one of those people who can fabricate or fix anything. He has fucked up and fucked off more high paying jobs than I care to count. Yet, he always gets another one. Had he been less of a nonconformist and played the game better, he would be making six figures right now. As it is, he still does well when he would be homeless by now had he had any other skill.

  • JW||

    There's no evidence that attending more selective - and typically way more expensive - schools increase earnings.

    It seems to have worked out for the Best and the Brightest in the Obama administration, especially for this Ivy League toddler.

    They have money and ridiculously unchecked power.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Straight from the Onion.

  • ||

    The typical college grad ages 25 to 34 who works full time makes $15,000 a year more than a high school grad of the same age. The college grad is also much more likely to have a job.

    Unless you went to school for architecture. Of course I guess that doesn't make you "typical".

    You know Nick, besides the government intervening and fucking up the costs of college (which everyone, students and taxpayers alike, should be bitching about), they exacerbate the issue by forcing certain people to obtain an even higher level of education in order to practice in whatever field they want to have a career in.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I'm getting this new channel on DISH, which is is like a cheap knockoff of Gore's bullshit channel. They have been running the old Farscape series, undoubtedly because of the inclusive interspecies diversity lessons it teaches us.

    Immediately following, they have a hipster douchebag focus group talk show, which I foolishly watched for a while last night. The topic was education; you quite simply cannot ever get enough of it. Apparently, the government should just pay everybody a living wage to sit in lecture halls until they reach a suitable retirement age, at which time they can be paid a living wage to pursue their lifelong ecotourism dream.

    These people are seriously fucked up. Like maybe they think Star Trek was a documentary -level fucked up. Electricity comes from the wall. Food comes from the grocery store. Toasters work by magic.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    ..they exacerbate the issue by forcing certain people to obtain an even higher level of education in order to practice in whatever field they want to have a career in.

    Our local community colleges offer degrees in technical fields in demand in Jersey. These jobs often pay better and offer immediate entry to their fields, but many high school students are reluctant to attend the community colleges because they're not as prestigious as a 4 year school.

    The college for all thing leaves students feeling like losers if they choose a more pragmatic path - that's really too bad. Now, an associates degree in a technical field can offer better employment opportunities than a B.A or B.S.

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