Many years ago, former general and outgoing president Eisenhower warned us of the dangers inherent in America’s Military-Industrial complex. Is it past time to watch out for the University-Government-Banking complex? I’ve taught at the university level. My students were kids. Not bad kids. Just kids.
What if – and this is a statement I would have cringed at 40 years ago – we required two years of national service before college enrollment? Working in healthcare, environmental work, the military, or in an updated incarnation of VISTA. If not this, what if we at least followed the example of the NFL and didn’t allow students to enter a university program until four years after their high school class has graduated? [The NBA has a minimum age as well as a one-year requirement.]
Before committing themselves to a massive debt that qualifies them to work as a barista, let the kids learn about the world. Our society needs skilled tradespeople and caregivers, retail managers and other professions where – for all practical purposes – a college degree really isn’t needed. The American university system has become an extremely expensive means of socializing our youth in the years between leaving home and becoming productive members of society. Except for a tiny minority of students, it’s really not an educational system. Maybe they’ll even find a good career that doesn’t entail accumulating all that debt that paralyzes their future and constipates the national economy.
Since this student debt also subsidizes athletic programs and the retail and real estate communities in college towns, we may also need to find ways to help these businesses readjust to reality.