According to a 2022 “Average Cost of College & Tuition” report from Education Data Initiative, the average annual cost for a student attending a four-year college is $35,331 (including books, supplies, and living expenses). Even a typical student attending an in-state four-year public university is paying more than $25,000 per year. While community colleges are less expensive, they still cost students an average $7,460 total or $1,865 per semester.
Over the last 20 years, average college costs have more than doubled. On top of whatever they spent on undergrad, students can expect to spend an average of more than $200,000 for law school or medical school, more than $100,000 for a doctorate, or well over $60,000 for a master’s degree.
Student Debt Is an Unsustainable Problem
The student loan problem is not a left-right issue. The left might have wrong answers on how to deal with it. Their answer is debt “forgiveness” and “free” college for everyone, which, if it means anything, means sticking taxpayers with an unbelievably exorbitant bill of some $2 trillion. Those are taxpayers who are already getting fleeced to subsidize state colleges and universities to indoctrinate the next generation with the notion that men can have babies. But at least those on the left don’t deny that an aggregate national student loan debt estimated at up to $1,930,446,972,357 (as of Feb. 15, 2022) is a problem—a problem that is, by the way, accruing interest at approximately $3,000 per second.
According to financial expert Dave Ramsey, in 2019 American families borrowed more than $106 billion for college. After 12 years, the average collegiate borrower has only paid off about a third of his student loan. The average borrower takes more than 20 years to pay off his student loan. In other words, taking out a student loan for college is the rough equivalent of taking out a loan for a house. In fact, the median price of a house in 2021 was $374,900—$50,000 more than the year before, yet still $25,000 less than the estimated ultimate cost of a bachelor’s degree, once you factor in student loan interest and four years of lost income.
What to Do About It
There are four courses of action that could be—and should be—done now, if we were truly serious about education.
First, as preparation: Break the current system of K–12 public education that provides little in terms of real education and merely puts students on a conveyor belt to our clown-college universities. Enact absolute school choice, with no preschool requirements, and insist that parents are the primary educators of their children (which is simply a neglected truth).
And if you’re a parent, unless you have a stellar private school, homeschool your kids. You’ll do a better job—you care more about their well-being than anyone else—and you’ll have more freedom. The current revolution of parents against radical school boards is a sign that parents are catching on that the trust they placed in our public schools and the people who run them was wildly misplaced, and that the teachers’ unions are actually a threat to their children’s best interests.
Second, at the state level, state legislators should slash public funding of state colleges and universities. State funding should be based on how well these schools serve the public interest by requiring courses in the great books of Western civilization, American history, and civics; the acquisition of employable skills; and the rate at which graduates get well-paying private-sector jobs. The state has oversight of these colleges and universities and should use it to make sure that taxpayer dollars are well spent. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has the right idea in wanting to strictly limit tenure for professors in Texas state colleges and universities and prohibit the teaching of critical race theory as noxious indoctrination that taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund.
Third, at the federal level, massive taxpayer subsidies and federal funding for research grants need to be overseen more diligently by Congress. Every year we’re entertained or horrified at stories of the federal government’s wasteful spending on ludicrous “research” at the nation’s colleges and universities. It’s not just wasteful, it’s corrupting, as it puts even allegedly disinterested disciplines—like science—at the mercy of very much interested bureaucrats like Dr. Anthony Fauci, or climate-change bureaucrats, or the rest of the comfortably ensconced and largely unaccountable Washington bureaucracy. This distorts and politicizes science. Congressmen need to make oversight of this spending a priority.
Fourth, at private schools, alumni need to exert their authority. Money talks, as does involvement on alumni boards. Groups like the American Council of Trustees and Alumni are fighting to restore academic standards and accountability to America’s colleges and universities. Support them. Join them.
Still, despite all these efforts, even allegedly conservative politicians have—at least in the past—made real education reform a low priority. The successful election of Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, who ran on a platform of education reform and empowering parents, may be a sign that things are changing. We can hope. But it still seems that few politicians even understand the problem. Democrats and Republicans too often agree that education is simply an unparalleled good—the more the better, regardless of its content or its cost. Their failure to act is the reason why we now need a revolution in public education, and a counter-revolution in higher education.
There’s much more to life than school. And college is anything but a life requirement. For most students, college is not just morally and intellectually degrading, it’s a bad investment. You can go on to trade school, apprentice yourself to a craftsman, become an entrepreneur, or commit yourself to any of a hundred other things such as working as an actor, a delivery driver, a florist, a personal trainer, a salesman, a chef, or a real estate agent. With a trade, and without college debt, you can get on with your life. Young, skilled workers can be truly free, financially and intellectually, in a way that indebted and indoctrinated former college students aren’t.
This is an excerpt adapted from “Don’t Go to College: A Case for Revolution” by Timothy Gordon and Dr. Michael Robillard.