…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 Review, U.S. News & World Report, Washington Monthly, Barron'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.