Thursday, July 28, 2011


The debt ceiling debate is a joke, it is a debate between awful and gross. The current GOP plan seems to give a trillion dollar credit card in return for minuscule cuts this year with tons of totally awesome promises to cut more than that in the "out years." Sweet. I totally trust politicians on both sides to honor that.  

Anyway, this post is about education.  Not public primary or secondary, which is an abomination created by the two header monster of government control and public sector unions that deserves a post of its own, but college education. Specifically, why we are, the taxpayers, are subsidizing millions of kids for billions of dollars to go to school, study bullshit and not graduate. The debate over the budget will constantly descend into Mrs. Lovejoy screaming about how this is robbing children of the chance to go to college, which is, as we are told by people who work for colleges, the only way to get ahead in the world.  Bullshit.  I paid $500 to a plumber yesterday for 2.5 hours of work, there are other ways to make money.

What is the purpose of a college education?  To prepare students for life? To enrich their personal experience? To train students for a career? To chase loose women and drink cold beers?

Honestly, if I am not paying for it, I could not think of a way I would care less if someone went to school and abused whatever substances while studying underwater basket weaving and never graduated ever.  However, since my tax dollars are spent on it, I tend to care a lot. 

I am not heartless or a Social Darwinist, I think that high achieving students should have the opportunity to get an education and succeed and maximize their potential.  Great-grandson of goatherds and grandson of a plumber, I am the American Dream and would never begrudge others the same.  I just think there need to be stipulations attached to the funding.

 I had a long conversation with one of my best friends about this. This is an exceptionally smart guy who happens to be a socialist (seems like oil and water to me too folks).  He said, and I am paraphrasing, that "Education should be a right. I would want to live in a State where education is a priority and people can study whatever they want at minimal personal expense." I agreed completely that in a perfect world that would be awesome just like free unicorns and double rainbows for all, but we live in a world with limits and debt ceilings.  I see the funding of education as an investment. If my cash is on the line I want to see a return for society as a whole. Why should I work hard to pay taxes to fund the education of someone who wants to get 3 degrees because they love studying and do not want to work? That system in not sustainable at all. There is no incentive to actually work and do things when you can just continue to live the dream in a fluffy academic world for life (Right Obama?).

If a smart kid wants to study hard math, science, medicine or engineering I am totally on board.  I would add business degrees that are heavy in econ finance and math, expressly forbid marketing or marketing, and I am sure there are others that I am leaving out but you get the idea.  You are smart, capable and want to study something like this, awesome. There is a linear route to getting a good job and paying taxes that will repay what your degree cost. Go to the best school you can get into and godspeed. There is a clear return on investment. When we hear these sob stories that "I have 250K of student loan debt and I am a teacher/barista/social worker" it is hard to drum up a lot of sympathy. You know what you want to do, you know the range of salaries from what you want to do, why would you choose a school/career combination that will lead to debilitating debt with a job that will not allow you to repay it? I am not saying that these are not worthy majors or careers, but go to in state public schools. These are realities, it is just math.

I am not being an asshole, I plan on sending my kids to school and I will have a similar talk with them.  I will tell them to take something that will get them a job and aside from that take whatever you want.  I took the bare minimum courses to get my Finance degree (plus they gave me an International Business degree for not soiling myself in any important classes over 4 years, only requirement I could observe) and had a blast taking classes that interested me outside of my major. I had time to minor in Spanish and Classics along with taking every Tennis and Racquetball class offered by WashU (Renaissance man, I know). I also had a great time.

Bottom line when people say we need everyone to go to college they are lying. We send too many kids to college who are not prepared to be students. 43% of people who go to college do not graduate withing 6 years (Hey Andrew you made it!). This is a joke. We need to send more kids to trade schools and apprenticeship programs because college is not for everyone, and the kids that are going need to be studying more useful things. 

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