Samuel Garner is less than happy about the amount of debt he accumulated in service to his education. You can read the Ordinary Times discussion on the piece, and the consensus is not favorable to Mr Garner. I wanted to focus a bit on the last couple of paragraphs:
But that doesn’t get to the heart of the systemic problem: Education is outrageously expensive and too risky; schools indoctrinate students and their families with lofty ideals and benefit from their ignorance without accountability; and students and their families can borrow at unprecedented rates, allowing schools to continue hiking tuition. Though its advent was surely well-intentioned, our loan system is confusing and exploitative. In a country we often think of as a meritocracy, it’s appalling that we have an education system that frequently does more to punish students for getting educated than it does to reward them.
Ultimately, like many other enlightened countries that recognize education as a critical public good—foundational to the economy and a just society—we need to move toward free public education, including graduate school. Where will this money come from? Given the billions we spend on federal student loan programs and the disgusting amounts of money many college presidents and administrators make, I’m sure there’s plenty of money that could put us in the right direction. To start, we need more substantial efforts to refinance and forgive student debt. There are millions of people like me who would like to get on with their lives.
As is often the case with these sorts of piece, they conflate numerous things and try to shoehorn them all into the same issue. And as is often the case with pieces like this, they choose some of the worst case instances imaginable.
For example, he wants to move towards “free public education” but his experience is with… a private school. So right there, he had a very good, less expensive alternative that he did not avail himself of. He mentions the University of Wisconsin as a possibility, only to dismiss it as “still leaving him in debt.” At no point does he seem to express regret that he didn’t do what he could to lower the costs. He admits error, but that’s not the same thing. Just as he says that no degree is worth $240k, without giving any indication that if his choices were a degree for that much, Wisconsin-Madison for less, or no degree for zero dollars would be preferable.
For the right students, and the right schools, and the right majors, I am actually sympathetic to the notion that “college should be free.” But these are specific questions with specific answers. And if there is one thing that Garner was clear on, it’s that he is uninterested in specifics.
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