Not only are American colleges and universities strangling the humanities, they are bankrupting an entire generation to do so. Another article by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus in The Atlantic provides the latest on the college loan bubble, which is nearing one trillion dollars across the country, and the misplaced priorities of American universities:
A fact of academic life is that the tuition-debt nexus keeps most colleges going. At Loyola University in Chicago, 77 percent enroll with loans, as do 85 percent in New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce. At historically black colleges, where endowments are low and students are often poor, it’s usually 90 percent. Nor is soaring private tuition the only reason. At public Kentucky State University, with only $6,210 in charges, 76 percent sign up for loans; so do 85 percent at the University of North Dakota, where state residents pay $6,934. What these figures suggest that borrowing is as much to finance living away from home as for bursars’ bills. Books, travel, and socializing quickly add up. Room and board charges have doubled in actual dollars since 1982 to enhance campus life. Bowdoin’s menu features vegetable polenta and butternut soup, while Penn State provides legal downloads of music numbering two million songs a week. But let’s be clear. It’s not the colleges which are paying for these and similar amenities. It’s the students, mainly by borrowing, which the colleges actively encourage.
As the quality of liberal arts education falls, the cost rises; many universities attempt to lure students with fancy sports complexes, fine dining, and luxurious amenities while forsaking their basic mission. Misplaced spending priorities are partially to blame, but government subsidies play a role as well. Government-subsidized loans and aid have become a fundamental part of the college process for a growing majority of students at private colleges. On the one hand, this seems reasonable — intelligent students should not be barred from a good education simply due to the poverty of their parents. These loans, however, pervert incentives for the schools: rather than forcing schools to compete by delivering a better education for a lower price, the abundance of loans guarantees a steady flow of students even as prices rise into the stratosphere. Instead, schools compete based on frills such as gourmet dining and extravagant dormitories — even as officious governments shackle colleges with ever more onerous and unsupportable burdens.Fears of another financial crisis fueled by student loan debt may be overblown, but the dangers of crippling, “non-dischargeable” loan debt are a very real danger for America’s young. The worst cost may not be the poverty; it is the loss of freedom in the twenties. These are the years when young people should be traveling, chasing dreams, experimenting with ideas, identities and vocations. Student loans chain them to desks and routines.Wrong, wrong, wrong. One of the largest threats to America’s youth comes from the unintended consequences of the malign interplay of two of the country’s bluest institutions: the federal government and the ivory tower of academia.