Phi Beta Cons

April Fool’s Day Is Over

Surely Rick Hess was kidding in his latest column, “I Owe U: Student Loan Debt Isn’t a Big Deal–It’s a Good Deal.” Although in economic theory, borrowing money for future success is a good idea, student debt is out of control. Hess dismisses it by saying that the big debt is incurred only by students who enter “cushy private” schools, and that there are plenty of other places to get an education — thanks to the generous taxpayers who support public universities.

Where’s his evidence for the incidence of debt? The Pope Center’s NC College Finder reports that a graduate of N.C. State averages $14,930 in debt; a graduate of Appalachian State, $14,838 (both are public schools). Those do not strike me as insignificant.  True, debt for graduates of private schools is higher, more like the national average of $23,200. But his implication is that lesser-known schools such as Chowan and Queens and religiously affiliated schools such as Barton College and Belmont Abbey are chosen for trivial reasons; i.e., we would all be better off at public universities.

In addition, the $1.2 million difference between college graduates’ annual income and that of high-school graduates has been blown out of the water by his own colleague Mark Schneider; he shouldn’t use it, even as an upper figure. And graduates of professional schools may indeed earn a lot over their lifetimes — but their debt is much greater than the average $23,200 for undergraduates; he doesn’t bring that up. Reconsider, Rick, please!

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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