I wish MSM would report the whole story about student loans

Obama was out and about yesterday talking about the problem of student loan debt and the need for colleges/universities to keep costs down.  There were numerous reports on all this; this piece from NPR, “Negotiating The College Funding Labyrinth,” is pretty typical.

I don’t disagree with a lot of what’s here.  College does cost too much, students are borrowing too much, and there is a lack of transparency regarding the cost of higher education, particularly at private institutions where it is common for students to negotiate what they pay based on how much they can afford.  This is all a problem.

However, there are two things that are always always always left out of these stories.  First, the reason why college costs so much– or at least the reasons why public institutions cost so much– is because the government (mostly at the state-level) has stopped funding higher education.  Imagine the difference it would make if the feds kicked in a few billion dollars into public higher ed in this country:  for a tenth of what we’re spending on the military, I think we could have a system in the US where attending college was virtually free.

Second, student loan debt is too high in part because too many students borrow more money than they need because the loans are easily available and young people don’t necessarily think long and hard about the implications of paying back loans.  And I say this based on experience:  in my MFA program, I took out student loans, much of which I used to pay legitimate expenses of course, but much of which I used to do things like buy speakers for my stereo.  Of course, I still have those speakers, so maybe it was a worthwhile investment.



7 thoughts on “I wish MSM would report the whole story about student loans

  1. I think you’re right, SiteDad on each point. When I was an undergrad, I too took out loans to pay for tuition, rent, etc.. However, nearly 65% of those loans were forgiven within 4 years when I began teaching. Thus, I ended up having to pay back very little compared to what I had originally borrowed. Oh, those loans were government-sponsored ones called, I think, National Defense Loans.


  2. There’s a bit of a disconnect between “a few billion dollars” and “a tenth of what we’re spending on the military”. The federal defense department budget is proposed to be $525.4 billion for 2013.

    There are about 20 million college students in the US. Suppose tuition plus room and board for each is $20k; that would be $400 billion.

    On the other hand, I have a vague memory of seeing a headline that we could fully fund higher education for $60B. I can’t seem to pull up any reference to it, though.


    number of students:
    average tuition:


    • Well, you’re probably right, Andrew– or maybe another way of putting it is the math on this is fuzzy. But it seems pretty clear to me though that tuition increases are largely because of the states getting out and also because of things like higher health care.

      I don’t want to suggest that the feds or anyone else just throw money at the problem to fix it, but there’s a heck of a lot more that the feds and the states could be doing, and that story isn’t reported. Despite the claims of MSM and politicians (including Obama), college isn’t getting more expensive because of fat-cat professors. It’s because this is a direct result of state tax cuts.


  3. Here are the foriegn aid numbers!
    Military assistance: $15.0 billion
    Economic assistance: $37.7 billion

    Why not keep US Miliary funding intact but limit and slowly reduce foreign aid? It makes so much sense to spend money on US, not others (many who do not even like us) that of course, it would not happen. I know of only one candidate who has suggested this (Ron Paul.)

    Invest in america, not Israel and Egypt (who get the majority of the money.) Times are tough and if we are tightening our belts – so should others!


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