The Corner

Subprime Education

Over at Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, Zac Bissonnette, a sophomore at UMass Amherst, explains “Why College Is A Waste Of Money“:

Government figures show that of students who entered four-year colleges in 1997, just 54% had earned a degree six years later. A professor wrote  about this issue in The Atlantic earlier this year, arguing that it’s immoral to tell all students they can go to college, then crush their dreams by failing half of them. But the problem has deeper effects than hurt feelings: the 54% graduation rate means that around 46% of all money used to finance college tuition results in no degree.

Which means that financially speaking, the spectacularly high dropout rate boils down to a spectacularly bad investment. Though there’s no specific data, one can imagine the countless millions that are wasted financing educations that never come to fruition… There are plenty of four-year colleges willing to take the money of anyone who can pony up — whether that money comes from parents, the government, or that student’s paychecks until he’s old enough to buy a discounted movie ticket. These colleges have seats to fill and bills to pay, and sure, they’d all love to be Harvard, but they’ll take what they can get. And student lenders? They have absolutely no incentive to encourage responsible borrowing because they will get paid back — you can file for bankruptcy 400 times, and your student loans will still be there, with interest and penalties accruing daily.

The people financing these college investments — parents and taxpayers — have a right to demand that 46% of their money* isn’t sunk into the education of a student who drops out after a few semesters.

In droning the mantra that every kid should have the right to a college education, we’re doing the opposite of what we ought to be doing — which is telescoping education into a much shorter period. It’s taken for granted that our bodies mature much earlier than our great-grandparents so we all need access to condoms and abortion by Fifth Grade, but apparently our minds need longer than ever, and in some cases until early middle age. So we enter adolescence much sooner and leave it a decade or more later.

Right now, to put my demography hat on, the western world has a possibly terminal shortage of children. One reason it does is because the fellows on whom society traditionally depends for child-rearing — young adults — are staying in school until their mid-twenties and embarking on grown-up life ever later, if at all. Thirty per cent of German women are childless; among university graduates, it’s 40 per cent. The pursuit of a 100 per cent college-educated populace is a recipe for societal suicide.

And, in America, so-called “expanding opportunities for college” is an obvious crock to absolve high schools of  their failure to educate. It would be nice to think there are persons of influence rethinking this racket. Instead, the political class is committed to getting that 46 per cent drop-out rate up to 55 or 60.

(*See addendum above.)

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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