Society and Culture, Education

The Onion on student debt: It’s funny because it’s true

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

A week before Christmas I wrote a blog post about how federal efforts to fix the student debt problem may actually make it harder to solve the underlying problem of soaring tuition prices. I wrote:

One of the more frustrating aspects of the Occupy movement was how the anger about student debt did not seem to implicate colleges and universities’ role in all of this. The debt itself, and the banks that service it, became the villains, not the institutions that students paid all that money. To be sure, the for-profits have been put through the ringer on this front, but traditional higher education has not borne the brunt of indebted graduates’ frustrations.

Because the new IBR delivers real benefits to high-debt borrowers, these potential activists may be even less interested in pushing for policies that improve the quality and value of higher education. Political activism typically springs from grievances. When the immediate concerns of the aggrieved are addressed in a way that does not solve the underlying problem, you wind up in the worst of all worlds: An appeased constituency and a public problem that’s left to fester. . .

One of today’s The Onion headlines nails it: “Man Has Alarming Level Of Pride In Institution That Left Him $50,000 In Debt, Inadequately Prepared For Job Market.” The article concludes with its best bit:

In addition to encouraging family members and his friends’ younger siblings to attend the university, Felder expressed his hope to one day send his future children to the school, each of whom will undoubtedly qualify for comprehensive financial aid packages due to their father’s low level of annual income and virtually nonexistent savings.

At press time, Felder had just received a phone call from the University of Miami asking for a donation to the school.

It wouldn’t be as funny if it weren’t so spot-on.

2 thoughts on “The Onion on student debt: It’s funny because it’s true

  1. Mr. Felder is simply emulating the behavior that our government models. If you’re using other people’s money or borrowing it, you don’t need to worry about the economic value of your expenditures.

  2. The Department of Education is supposed to be monitoring debt levels, tuition increases, default rates, etc., and should have been sounding the warning bells many years ago about unsustainable tuition growth, indebtedness, bad acting by schools and lenders, and a host of other factors that would have compelled Congress to reign in the loan limits, kick out the worst acting schools, oversee the lenders, and in general crack the whip on all the schools to provide high quality educations at low cost. This clearly did not happen.

    If bankruptcy protections had been in place, I suspect the Department of Education would have taken it’s responsibilities on this front far, far more seriously. Similarly, when bankruptcy protections are restored, the Dept will be fiscally motivated to begin to do it’s job.

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