Why Johnny Can't Pay His Student Loans
A few years of college became a proxy for employers that young applicants had what a decent high school diploma should guarantee but no longer did--the ability to do more than read and add sums, but also reason and string together four grammatically correct sentences into a coherent idea.
With half of the population headed to college, universities churned out too many graduates with little more than a general education--the ability to think critically, write a composition, and read poetry. Most college majors don't prepare graduates for much.
In recent decades, states cut aid to higher education when tax revenues dipped during recessions but did not adequately restore those when times got better. Consequently, community colleges, where some of the best, cost-efficient technical training is offered, and some universities cut more-expensive programs in engineering, nursing and the like. Too many students are herded into liberal studies of some kind.
What students do in college really matters. A worker with a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering earns about $120,000, while a degree in counseling psychology fetches just $29,000. Even business degrees differ dramatically in value--finance, accounting, and supply chain majors are worth a lot more than general business and human resources management graduates.
Sadly, many incoming students often don't want to take the tough majors--engineering programs are stuffed with foreign students--but that problem goes back to the high schools.
Growing up in the New York State public schools -- back before the discovery of the computer chip -- I studied Iroquois culture, early 20th Century child labor problems and Governor Al Smith's reforms, but we also wrote essays about Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers.
Now, students read Maya Angelou, get a steady portion of liberal theology about the exploitive history of white European culture, and are encouraged to find themselves, instead of learning something useful.
No surprise that many students come to universities only to enjoy intellectually pleasing but practically useless programs, and end up lost in poorly paying jobs and adrift in a sea of debt.