There was a 1/4 decent Bloomberg story yesterday on “Indentured Students” — better than some in providing a bit of history, as well as some context. On the other hand, it places most of the blame on the rise of for-profit colleges and federal policy loosening access to loans — quoting the execrable William Bennett as an authority. For-profits do deserve some blame (as do private lenders), but it’s also important to point to the ways tax cuts and state policy pushed public universities to rely more and more on income from tuition and fees — that is, on debt. Given that many of the degrees being obtained are positional goods at best, I’d label this all a Ponzi scheme rigged to benefit the banks — but people have already been doing that for a while. The article also suggests that we’d be better off sending more people to community colleges for 2-year or vocational degrees. I think community colleges are great, but 1) job preparation isn’t or shouldn’t be the only reason for college, and 2) the Northern European systems referred to in the article operate within a different “variety” of capitalism (at least partially) — simply changing educational preparation wouldn’t do the trick.
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