Class Warfare Blog

June 26, 2013

The Outrageous Costs of Higher Education

If you missed it, outstanding student loan debt now surpasses that of credit card debt in this country. College tuitions are skyrocketing. State governments and local governments are cutting back on what funding they provide. The rate of increase of college tuition over the last few decades has only been matched by the increases in health care costs, yet the health care situation was a national scandal and college tuition situation doesn’t seem to rate a “meh.”

I have commented before that my college education in California in the late 60’s and early 70’s was virtually free (the cost were trivial). Now, I couldn’t afford to go to college were I of that age and of similar circumstances to what I had then.

What happened?

We are a richer nation now than we were back in the 50’s and 60’s when college was almost free. Sure Harvard, Yale, and Stanford charged quite a bit but they were reserved for traditionalists who wanted a “blue chip education,” what we now know to be bragging rights. We are far richer as a nation now, but we can’t afford to underwrite higher education? A study done in, I think the 1990s, in California showed that the State recovered $13 for every dollar spent on the State University system (not the University of California system, the other, less well-known one). Cheap higher education was a driving factor in California’s post WWII economic boom. Highly educated workers were available in droves in the state, thanks to its accessible higher education system. So, shut it down, I say! WTF?

Check out our neighbors. Mexico is a poor country yet has a good educational system with free tuition. When the Mexican state wanted to raise tuition back in the 1990’s, there was a national student strike which had popular support and the government backed off. The situation in Canada is much the same. Germany is a rich country which has free tuition. Finland has the highest-ranked education system in the world and it is nearly free. The same is the case with Denmark.

These are poorer countries than the U.S. so it will be hard to make an economic necessities argument to explain the incredibly high increase in tuition in the U.S. A number of prominent folks have pointed to the Free Speech Movement, which appalled conservatives and even quite a few liberals. There was more than a bit of talk about students having “too much freedom.” Since student unrest (think Vietnam War protests) were centered on college campuses, some thought it necessary to rein in college student’s freedoms. One way of controlling students for the rest of their lives is simply by saddling them with debt. Of course, this is not the only force in play in this arena.

Conservative efforts to gut unions resulted in a severe reduction in high paying, high-skilled jobs. Instead of those, college graduates are now offered “service sector” jobs that pay so little they can neither support themselves nor can the service their college loans.

And somehow, one cannot declare bankruptcy and absolve oneself of student debt. It is perfectly all right to steal billions of dollars through the financial industry supported by government bailouts (not only free but actually had negative interest) but fail to pay off a college loan, no, you can not do that!

Who, in your mind is so greedy and shortsighted that they want to kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs—higher education? Go back and look at who sponsored the bills that were key and who still wants to raise rates for student loans and . . . and. . . . It shouldn’t take you long to find out who is mostly responsible for the futures of our children being severely truncated. Any other country would consider it an act of war if we were to do this to them.


  1. It is madness. As too are the pennies tossed to NASA despite the evidence of a better than good return on the investment. Still, a new artillery system (to go with the six pre-existing systems and the four already in development) is terribly important…


    Comment by john zande — June 26, 2013 @ 4:13 pm | Reply

  2. Norway has higher GDP per capita than us, also they aren’t the ones responsible for maintaining the military side of the empire, but they still benefit from it.

    However, good point about debt-shackling students. Similar to the efforts to get people to sign mortgages to quell interest in civil unrest.


    Comment by History of Capitalism — June 27, 2013 @ 9:43 am | Reply

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