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Чтобы выполнить поиск, нажмите “Ввод”. Mythomania about college has turned getting a degree into an American neurosis. It’s sending parents to the poorhouse and saddling students with a backpack full of debt that doesn’t even guarantee a good job in the end. Enter the terms you wish to search for. Get the latest international news, video and opinion from around the world including world politics and world business.
Get the latest international business and financial news, along with opinion and video about unemployment, the economy, politics, debt, markets and more. Get the latest technology news and video about mobile devices, technology trends, the internet, privacy and more. Get the latest news and video about arts, culture, fashion, movies, books, style, and more. Why are we spending so much money on college? And why are we so unhappy about it? We all seem to agree that a college education is wonderful, and yet strangely we worry when we see families investing so much in this supposedly essential good.
Maybe it’s time to ask a question that seems almost sacrilegious: is all this investment in college education really worth it? The answer, I fear, is that it’s not. For an increasing number of kids, the extra time and money spent pursuing a college diploma will leave them worse off than they were before they set foot on campus. For my entire adult life, an education has been the most important thing for middle-class households. Questioning the value of a college education seems a bit like questioning the value of happiness, or fun. If you’re in a position to be able to pay for education, it’s a bargain.
Those who can afford a degree from an elite institution are still in an enviable position. It’s a real imprimatur that’s with you, as well as access to all these relationships. I have certainly benefited greatly from the education my parents sacrificed to give me. On the other hand, that kind of education has gotten a whole lot more expensive since I was in school, and jobs seem to be getting scarcer, not more plentiful. An education can’t be repossessed, of course, but neither can the debt that financed it be shed, not even, in most cases, in bankruptcy. The average price of all goods and services has risen about 50 percent.
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But the price of a college education has nearly doubled in that time. Is the education that today’s students are getting twice as good? Are new workers twice as smart? Have they become somehow massively more expensive to educate? Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economics professor who heads the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, notes that while we may have replaced millions of filing clerks and payroll assistants with computers, it still takes one professor to teach a class. We like getting up in front of 25 people.
It’s more fun, but it’s also damnably expensive. I look at the data, and I see college costs rising faster than inflation up to the mid-1980s by 1 percent a year. Now I see them rising 3 to 4 percent a year over inflation. The federal government has started dropping money out of airplanes. It’s a giant waste of resources that will continue as long as the subsidies continue.
But an investment is supposed to generate income to pay off the loans. More than half of all recent graduates are unemployed or in jobs that do not require a degree, and the amount of student-loan debt carried by households has more than quintupled since 1999. These graduates were told that a diploma was all they needed to succeed, but it won’t even get them out of the spare bedroom at Mom and Dad’s. For many, the most tangible result of their four years is the loan payments, which now average hundreds of dollars a month on loan balances in the tens of thousands. Usually these stories treat this massive debt as an unfortunate side effect of spiraling college costs. But in another view, the spiraling college costs are themselves an unfortunate side effect of all that debt. By the time I matriculated, in 1990, that was already a stretch.
But now it’s virtually impossible to conceive of high-school students making enough with summer jobs and part-time jobs during the school year to put themselves through a four-year school. Nor are their financially shaky parents necessarily in a position to pick up the tab, which is why somewhere between one half and two thirds of undergrads now come out of school with debt. In a normal market, prices would be constrained by the disposable income available to pay them. But we’ve bypassed those constraints by making subsidized student loans widely available. It’s true about the money—sort of. College graduates now make 80 percent more than people who have only a high-school diploma, and though there are no precise estimates, the wage premium for an elite school seems to be even higher.