How Bad Are The Implications Of The Monstrous Education Bubble?
All bullshit aside, we’re in the midst of a very egregious education bubble in this country. You’ve heard all the statistics; US student loan debt has surpassed credit card and auto loan debt at $1.2 trillion (doubled over last decade), accounting for 6% of the country’s overall national debt. You hear about ‘more tuition increases’ so much that you’ve now grown numb to such headlines. I know, that you know, that we all know this is happening. But let’s discuss what these numbers imply about the actual value of higher education in 2015. Let’s talk about the resounding effects this bubble could have on present-day and future young Americans’ approach to adulthood. Moreover, let’s discuss why the fuck we’re still doing this to ourselves?
photograph source: http://www.ceo.com/ceo-guides/finance/venture-capital/
As a 23 year-old super senior undergrad student, I immediately feel the burden of each tuition adjustment. According to the College Board, between August ’03 and August ’13 we witnessed US higher education tuitions increase nearly 80%, an unprecedented rate within a ten-year span. Is it really worth it? One may argue that such a statistic should be juxtaposed with average American household earnings to thoroughly answer that question, but that would circumvent the point I’m making. What metrics do we use to measure the efficiency of our professors? How do we know that the value of the actual teaching increases at a pace concurrent to that which tuition continues to? I believe the lack of evidence necessary to render these increases rational indicates a severe dissonance amongst elite collegiate decision makers. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has been very outspoken about his disdain for the current state of higher education. In an interview with Bill Kristol, he compared the dynamics of college to those of a nightclub. Universities and nightclubs are the only products that maintain such intense selection standards regardless of market size. Harvard University positions itself as an immensely valuable institution for society and intellectual advancement. However, proposal of a structured growth plan to accommodate the country’s growing population would likely be met with resistance from faculty, current students, and alumni, asserting that such an increase in admission acceptance would deplete the prestige of the institution. What game is really being played here? Is ‘prestige’ worth a quarter-million dollars of debt? Furthermore, how will the amassment of ludicrous amounts of debt affect job selection patterns in the future?
Living in the Bay Area, ‘innovation’ reigns as the buzzword of choice. I can smell the entrepreneurship in the air. Silicon Valley was built on the pursuance of radical and unconventional ideas, which grew to become some of the most powerful companies in the world. ‘Radical’ and ‘unconventional’ are themes typically deemed antonymous with college. The Valley is notorious for breeding college dropout founders. You simply cannot teach ambition, and ‘fearlessness’ sure as hell wasn’t on the class schedule at Stanford last semester. The education bubble is beginning to deter innovation. A general testimony I am hearing more often from my peers: “I really want to pursue this wild idea, but I owe so much on my student loans I need to find something more secure to start with.” What ends up happening in these situations is they immerse themselves in a job which they have zero or little passion for, but is financially desirable. Years pass and the person finds themselves deeply entrenched in an industry they dislike, but feel they have no choice but to remain due to aging, a growing family, and bills. Trepidations of being unable to pay off student loan debt will deter fearless entrepreneurship and risk taking, leading to a stagnation of innovation. As student debts continue to soar, that looming fear will grow with it. We need to seriously ask ourselves: “How would I like to contribute to the world?” “Why am I attending college?” And “Do I really need school to foster my skills?” Simply substituting future planning with more schooling will have counterproductive effects in the long run, my friend.