It’s seldom that I find myself offering the Prez advice which I feel he might actually accept – but here it is. As background, remember that Mr. Obama just completed a two day bus tour in New York and Pennsylvania to discuss the issue of the cost of college education.
Naturally, in keeping with his underpinning philosophy that there is no program in existence which government cannot handle best, he suggested that what we need to do is predicate academic achievement on the basis of lowest cost. To this end he suggested that we should index colleges and universities by the tuition fees that they charge their students and reward the students at those schools with the lowest tuitions by offering them the greatest amount of financial aid.
The theory, of course, is that this will force down the cost of college and make it available to more students. I presume that the administration assumes that in order to attract students, colleges will cut unnecessary waste, trim the fat from their budgets and operate on a more cost-efficient basis. Perhaps they may look to the example set by the federal government for guidance in this worthwhile effort. Or perhaps the Obama administration is planning on opening a new branch within the Department of Education – the O of BS – Office of Bloated Spending to help implement the program.
The background behind this is that college students have now accrued educational debt which is in excess of $1 Trillion. No rational person would willingly enter into a loan agreement unless he believed that he was getting something of greater value than the encumbrance. In the case of college loans, it seems reasonable that the college student believes that he is going to get a better job than he would without the sheepskin and therefore earn more during his working career which would enable him to pay back his student loans.
The stark reality is that we have a jobless “recovery” and more than half of those who are graduating from college cannot find jobs at much higher levels than minimum wage. A significant percentage of college graduates have found themselves having to move back in with their parents in order to survive.
But even by eliminating the expenses of maintaining an individual residence, buying their own food and paying their own expenses, many of them simply do not have the money to pay off their student loans. Thus the default rate on these loans is now in excess of 50%.
The story might be different if we had a robust economy where employers were hiring. But if we look back to the first Obama term, rather than address the recession in an effective way, the administration and the Democrat controlled Congress spent their first two years producing their signature piece of legislation, Obamacare. Incidentally, the uncertainty which this legislation has caused among businesses is one of the reasons that they are not hiring and will not until they understand the costs and ramifications that are associated with this law.
What we do know about the law is that most of the promises that were made by Obama have proven to be – well, let me be charitable – mistaken. It is apparent that we may not be able to keep our current insurance; we may not be able to keep our doctor; and our premiums will, for most people, probably rise, not fall. What the full impact of this law will be, should it be implemented, is anyone’s guess.
But to return to our college students. We now know that their expectation of getting a better job because of four years of higher education is not being fulfilled. And they have encumbered themselves with a massive debt that under the present economic realities they cannot pay back. So, I would like to offer a solution to this thorny problem.
Rather than actually educate college students, our institutions of higher learning should merely offer a diploma without the students’ having to go through all the effort of actually attending class and meeting the school’s current academic standards. (This is simply an extension of our current primary and secondary schools’ philosophy that every kid should be recognized for merely showing up – if that is even still a requirement).
Of course, we should expect that since students would not be using a school’s facilities causing depreciation to the property, would not be taking up the time of professors, who would now be supernumeraries and whose ranks we could reduce as a consequence, there should be a consequent reduction in the cost of tuition to, let’s say one-tenth the current rates.
Let’s go further and offer them a special rate for a four year degree and allow them a 25% discount if they pay in full up front (through student loans or otherwise). As there would be no need to attend class, they would have an additional four years of earnings in the fast food industry and might actually achieve a management position at their local Burger King instead of spending their time getting a BS in Business Management.
With only one tenth of the financial burden in student loans, they might actually be able to send in a few payments, thus reducing the burden on taxpayers caused by defaults on these loans.
Lest anyone be concerned that our college athletic programs might suffer as a result of this innovation, I want to set those worries to rest. We would still recruit for our basketball and football teams from our inner cities. Since the vast majority of these student/athletes are minorities of one flavor or another, no one could accuse our institutions of higher learning of being discriminatory. And based on the amount of education that most of these athletes absorb during four years behind those ivy walls, whether or not we had professors on campus, would be just as irrelevant as at present.
Naturally, this is only a brief overview of what I believe could be a major overhaul of our higher educational system. I really don’t have the time right now to go into detail of my plan to offer mail order bachelors’ degrees in Tattooing or Body Piercing, as I want to send this to the White House as quickly as possible.
I’ll let you know what I hear back from the Prez and his staff. But should you happen to read that the administration is moving in this direction – just remember who gave them the idea.