Keep the government out of higher education

By: 

Richard W. Kucksdorf, Leader Columnist

Without college, we will not succeed. Does college guarantee success, or is success up to you? The Declaration of Independence clearly states, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” no guarantee.

We have all seen the headlines exposing the scam by wealthy people to get their children into big-name colleges, Operation Varsity Blues. It appears these helicopter parents faked their children’s athletic ability and hired coaches to assist and correct admission exams and bribery. This parental effort was not about the child’s education, but rather it was all about attending a prestigious college and networking with other elite young adults.

Do you think individuals should accept more responsibility for their college education? Is college a Constitutional right? Should all college be free? What about the professors at today’s colleges? You know the saying: Those that can, do; and those that can’t, teach. We protect professors with a job for life known as tenure. It is estimated a college ties up between $10 million and $12 million to support a single tenured professor for a 35-year career.

College is becoming more expensive each year. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, admission departments were small with only a few people. Today they are very large. Why is that? The colleges want your child to get every federal dollar they can because that money goes to the college.

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed legislation ending federal subsidies to private banks that had been giving student loans, which means the federal government is now the lender of choice for most students. Colleges know the government will guarantee money so the college can increase tuition each year.

In the late 1940s, the average cost to Yale was $450 per year, and that equates to $8,071 in 2018. Tuition for 2018 to Yale was $53,430. What has caused this increase? Could it be guaranteed federal government money, which I believe has caused a 6 percent average yearly increase for college tuition since the mid-1970s? Students graduate with massive debt.

Do you believe that there should be less federal government involvement in education? If the government is removed, how will a student get funding for education after high school? I grew up with the belief that, if I earn it and pay for it, I will appreciate it more. Was that true for you?

Ownership of a house or a car is not a given; if you qualify for a loan, you will pay for it. Let’s apply the same principle using the 5Cs & P to student loans: Character, Capacity, Capital, Collateral, Conditions and Purpose.

• Character: Does the student loan applicant have good character — good class behavior, good attendance and helpful to other students, community, family and friends?

• Capacity and conditions: What is the capacity to repay the loan? What is the profession, and what is the employment expectation after graduation? Where does the graduate plan to live after graduation? Does that profession and job exist where the student plans to live? The graduate’s employment prospects determine interest rates. If there is low employment opportunity after graduation, the interest rates increase. If there is ample employment opportunity, the rates decrease.

• Capital and collateral: What is the student’s net worth? (Certainly Mom and Dad will co-sign but the student is the true receiver of the loan.) Student capital is SAT and ACT scores, GPA, extracurricular activity in school and the community. After a year in college, the activities and GPA of the college transcript would be presented as collateral. This will also affect the interest rate.

• Purpose: What is the purpose of the loan? Is the purpose sound and principled? (This is a reality check.) Many graduates have useless degrees. I know many who went to school to be a psychologist, which sounds glamorous but offered little employment opportunity. They had to go back to school to get an education for something that offered employment. Students who faced reality prior to entering college might have avoided wasted time and borrowing so much money.

Why consider the 5Cs & P? The student is forced to look at things through a reality lens. Remember that students are simply told college is the answer and guarantees success, no matter the career chosen. Forcing students to view their college choice through the 5Cs & P will cause students and parents to review their career choice. This is a performance based loan; the borrower (student) is compelled to do well in school because doing well and choosing an employable career affects the interest rates on the loan.

My problem with government involvement as it is today is that it is just guaranteed money for the college. Students should not have to pay interest or make payments while in school. (The current student loan debt is $1.5 trillion.) How will they pay back the debt? Removing the government from the process will stop the flow of guaranteed money to a college. Students will shop for the best deal.

A college degree guarantees nothing. Successful schooling beyond high school demonstrates to an employer initiative and drive. Additional education demonstrates to an employer that you are trainable, and the assumption is that you can read and comprehend.

Richard W. Kucksdorf is a retired U.S. Army colonel residing in Bonduel. Kucksdorf has other writings on his website, “Observations From Flyover Country,” at rwkucksdorf.com.