Friday, May 3, 2019

While Democratic Presidential candidates push for trillion dollar universal free college, here are five ways it can be done on the cheap

In the race to 2020, Presidential candidates on the Democratic side are falling all over themselves in a rush to see who can promise the most free stuff to a voter base who no longer questions the fact that their politicians never actually fulfill these promises.  And one of the primary focuses they are pushing is that of free education for all, and dissolution of student loan debts.

However it is beyond a proven fact that whenever the government gets involved in a particular industry, both costs and prices tend to skyrocket to the point where consumers can no longer afford them.  And this has been particularly true starting in 1965 when the introduction of Medicare came into the healthcare system, and later for education when in 2010 President Obama nationalized the student loan industry.

Healthcare costs:


As you can see by this chart, prior to the advent of the Great Society and the government's move into backstopping healthcare, costs were relatively stable as market competition and the lack of inflation led to affordable prices.  However as with any industry when you add in additional liquidity primarily due to monetary expansion (increased US debt), it causes prices to rise as the natural order of markets becomes manipulated.

Similarly, here is what has happened to the cost of education both for K-12, and at the University level when the government chose to subsidize the industry first in 1979, then again in 2010.

K-12 per student costs - 1979 (when Dept. of Education was formed) - 2018


Costs of education at University level 2010 - 2018 after government nationalized student loans


The kicker in all of this of course is that despite the fact that costs have increased between 20 and 200% in some cases, the value of education has not as seen by nationwide literacy charts.

So anyone with two brain cells can easily deduce that more money thrown at the problem won't both improve service, or cut costs... which leads us to ask the question then of what will accomplish both?

Even going back to the Dark Ages, rulers have understood the potential benefits to their nations and empires if even the most common individual had some semblance of an education.  However today's rigid and closed education system has lost its original mission of expanding minds and training tomorrow's workers to instead be more of an assembly line where diplomas are given out to whomever was willing to pay the exorbitant costs no matter if they actually learn anything of substance.

So with this in mind I wanted to throw out my two cents on the topic and provide new ideas on how the U.S. could deal with the viable issues of student loan debt along with providing an inexpensive way to open up higher education to all.  And below are five ideas on the subject.

1.  A nationwide online University system

Since the government is subsidizing the University industry with hundreds of billions of dollars both through student loans and outright grants, it is time to instead take this money and build an open and online curriculum system that covers virtually all Degree level courses at minimal cost.  And what is perhaps the most significant thing about this system is that study by individuals can be done at their own leisure, and not under the time constraints demanded of them by colleges.  So for those who are slower learners, or who either have a family or work long hours, they can take as much time as they need to absorb the information necessary to be able to pass a test which would give them the credits applicable towards their Degree.

Additionally, those who already have a working knowledge of a given class subject can choose to accelerate through the coursework, and then take the test whenever they choose.

Which of course brings us to the question of testing.  Since the government would be in control over the online system, they would hire Proctors and have them placed in every major population center and region.  And each Proctor would have access to a series of tests (perhaps 10 completely different ones for each course), and evaluate the student in a live environment to determine if they have passed the course.  And should the student fail in their testing, they would not be penalized with a 'grade' but simply informed they need to go back and study further before retaking the test.

In the end this would solve three major problems... first, a way to provide inexpensive education at the University level to every American.  Secondly, it would spawn price competition within the legacy college system where they would need to adapt their prices to compete with the government.  And third it would end up providing a massive benefit to the nation as a whole by having a larger portion of its citizens being educated and skilled.

2.  End Federal subsidizing of Universities

It is high time to end the subsidizing of Universities, both at the student loan level and at the grant level.  Many Universities, especially those in the Ivy League, already have endowments in the amount of billions of dollars and can very easily pay for their own research and then profit from the results of that work.

3.  End Professor tenures.

Most professors achieve tenure NOT based upon their ability to teach, but on their abilities to publish and acquire grants from the government.  In fact in many instances, tenured professors no longer even teach courses in the Department they are assigned to but instead pawn off their responsibilities to grad students or other instructors.

4.  Incentivize needed career fields

It is the right of any student to study in the career field of their choice, but rarely does a Degree held in 'Gender Studies' serve society beyond that of perhaps an HR Department.  And with the government desperately in need of STEM workers and researchers in order to keep up with the rest of the world, incentivizing these career fields for students would go a long way in solving the problem of shortages.

5.  Bring back a form of the 'Peace Corps' to help Americans pay off their student loans

Every psychologist and criminologist knows that condoning bad behavior only leads to more of it.  So the idea of dissolving or allowing the default of one's student loans means the taxpayer absolves them of their bad choices and responsibilities without a consequence.  So in order to provide a beneficial solution to all in regards to the crisis that is student loan debt, I am proposing a return to a concept that worked during the 1960s and 70s, but instead of going out and serving the world through a few years of charitable work, students willing would fill positions in the government, military, or other parts of society where they would replace retiring workers in public service on a temporary basis, and have 20-50% of their paychecks garnished towards the paying off of their loans.

For those willing to do this, yes it could mean 5-10 years of their lives relegated to a limited choice of lifestyles, however since most of the money is owed to the government anyway, it would provide a benefit to both while in the end also providing experience to the worker they might not have gotten it in the normal economy.

While it is not in my nature to go to the government for solutions that the free market could in the past have easily provided, unfortunately we are in a place where the government is already involved in nearly every aspect of society.  So for now it is best to try to adopt solutions to industries like education using the tools and systems we already have in place while at the same time trying to minimize costs as much as possible since we already know that throwing MORE money at a problem has rarely solved anything.

0 comments:

Post a Comment