Today, college is pretty much accessible to anyone with a pulse, despite claims to the contrary.  But the laws of mathematics explain this should not be so.  Besides, most college kids devote much of their waking hours to Comedy Central, MTV, and half-naked drinking games.  How could it be possible for the typical student of moderate means to account for upwards of one-hundred thousand dollars (or more) of post-education debt?  Are art history and gender studies majors really necessary?  The numbers don’t add up.  College costs too much, but who is to blame?

Fantasy Finance

Consider the situation, writ large. Average Joe can take out heavily subsidized and guaranteed loans, courtesy of Uncle Sam, in order to pay for books, booze, and board.  Students are sucked in via a misguided government scheme, which encourages kids to enjoy four to six years in a distorted world that is the college community.  Much like the housing and automotive industries, Washington will continue to neglect the looming student loan crisis through ignorance.

As long as the same powerful politicians continue propping up loans (i.e. the touted Stafford program), droves of students will continue majoring in worthless fields and institutions of “higher learning” will continue raking in huge sums of cash.

While it is true that too many kids occupy overpriced dorms across the country, the overall price tag of a college education is just as inflated.  The main reason families and individual students are able to make the university commitment is due in large part to government intervention in the market.  If taxpayer-funded loans were not offered, a substantial portion of students could not afford to live the college life – and, case in point, both state-run and private schools would be short quite a few greenbacks.  In other words, the feds have artificially populated the college campus.  The political fulcrum must be pushed by the people: the taxpaying and student-supporting American citizenry.

Something’s gotta give

The education bubble may soon burst to the sarcastic surprise of seasoned statists.  But until then, little action can be expected of our U. S. Senators, Representatives, and related federal agencies.  American post-secondary academia is deemed too-big-to-fail by most proponents of the status quo.  A pundit on FoxNews recently compared Congress to a college student: they procrastinate until the very last second.  And you thought you would cease rushing frantically to meet deadlines upon matriculation!

The Future…

With the countless “prerequisite” courses colleges demand their pupils pass (read: pay for) aside, it would seem that a traditional four-year span should be reduced for the better.  Students could receive degrees quicker while still taking the meat of the curriculum.  Classes which may appear harmless and actually beneficial on the exterior – 100-level Introduction to College Writing comes to mind – can be a prime chance for progressive professors and teaching assistants to sound off on their favorite talking points, namely to the tune of ‘Bush lied, people died.’  I’ve heard horror stories, from far-left indoctrination to communist indoctrination — there’s only a subtle difference.  You get the message.  And just about every post-secondary academic setting bank rolls revenue from these laughable excuses for instruction.  For instance, at Michigan State University – a large, public, land-grant school – the per-credit-hour charge is $406.75 to freshman and sophomore in-state students this year. Tack on an extra $37.75 for juniors and seniors, in addition to totals of $1,038.25 and $1,071.00 for “non-resident” students respectively.  Multiply that by 120, the magic amount of credits to graduate, to get an absurd sum.  Think about how much you have paid (or will pay several years down the road) for your own credits in College Algebra and High School Biology: Revisited.  It is highway robbery, if you ask me. So what must be done?

A wholesale elimination of these expensive, deceitful brainwashing seminars is a start.  Did I mention these eager youth would enter the work force, and hence contribute to society, at a younger age?  Education is a means to an end, not a drawn-out experience to be half-remembered due to alcohol-related mishaps and one-night-stands – interpret the latter as you see fit.  Thus, students should spend no more than two years studying in selected areas of interest en route to an undergraduate degree.  Appropriate graduate schooling would then follow, albeit a bit sooner in life for efficient young scholars.  I can already hear the suction of the higher education vacuum quieting!

Adding insult to financial misery, a 2010 CBS News article highlighted the finding of a CollegeInflation.com study that revealed that public universities tend to give out less A’s and B’s than their more selective private counterparts. Ironically, while enjoying the luxury of easy grading, private school students also receive friendlier financial aid packages according to a Princeton Review report.

I’ve seen the light, now what? 

The college education ponzi scheme must come to an end, or our greater nation will suffer a very realizable fate to be dreaded.   Nevertheless, cheer up, look in the mirror – better yet, convince an elitist university official to do so – and lobby to save the minds and wallets of the future generations. A failure to usher in a new era of American educational success will yield more of the same: inflated costs, rising unemployment, and low academic standards. The time to act is upon us.

Nick Kowalski :: Michigan State University :: East Lansing, Michigan :: @NKowalski