Some college facts:
- In the last 15 years, tuition at public 4-year universities has risen 50% — 1/3rd MORE than the rate of inflation over that period
- In the last 10 years, outstanding college loans has risen 100%
- Only 52% of college students graduate within 6 years
- 44% of college graduates are underemployed
- 33% of college students graduate and get a job in a degree-related industry
- Manhattan Institute analyst statement: “America’s higher-education system is broken and serves most students poorly: pushing more low-income students through it will help neither the system nor the students. Overall graduation rates are remarkably low and dip even lower at the less selective colleges that new students brought into the system would likely attend. Graduates, meanwhile, are often unable to find jobs suited to their degrees. Colleges must be held accountable for the career and financial results that they produce for their students. Reform is needed. But flooding the system with more federal subsidies will considerably worsen, not improve, the situation”
Of course, these are extremely uncomfortable facts given Bernie Sanders’ “Free College For All!” campaign agenda. This will only increase federal funds into the educational system. This will NOT improve things.
Government student-aid programs seek to increase the supply of college graduates regardless of whether the labor market requires more employees with college degrees. When the supply of graduates increases faster than employer demand, college graduates’ earnings premium falls.
Consider Denmark and Norway, countries with free college systems where the age-adjusted share of the population with a college degree is 48 percent and 46 percent, respectively—compared with 39 percent in the U.S. Nevertheless, American colleges offer graduates a better investment: Americans aged 25–34 with tertiary education earn 65 percent more than Americans with only a high school degree, compared with 12 percent (Denmark) and 7 percent (Norway).
Recent improvements in America’s high school graduation rate illustrate a similar pattern. Though more students now earn high school diplomas, standards have declined, leaving many students unprepared for college or a career. There, too, the solution is not simply to churn out more graduates but to improve the quality of U.S. high schools.
Advocates of federally funded “free” or “debt-free” college assert that society, as well as the affected individuals, would benefit from moving more students through higher education. Instead, experience in the U.S. and elsewhere suggests that the opposite would happen: more students would enroll in college; a high percentage (a higher percentage, quite possibly, than now, as more ill-prepared students enrolled) would continue to drop out; wage premiums for graduates would decline; colleges that desperately need to improve outcomes for students would face even fewer incentives to reform; and taxpayers would foot a skyrocketing bill.
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