Many of you will assume this is a political post. It isn’t. This is just a link to a terrific article by my good friend Kat Timpf, whom I’ve never met, who writes about the perils of student debt. Unlike many such articles, Kat’s story isn’t about what happens when you borrow too much money to attend an overpriced university. Her story is about what happened to her as a result of NOT taking on a student loan. It’s a great lesson about why college is not in fact, the best path for the most people. It’s also a fine excuse for me to announce a new round of work ethic scholarships, now available at mikeroweWORKS.org/scholarship.
This year, I’ve got over $500,000 for qualified applicants, i.e., those willing to learn a skill that’s actually in demand. Apply today. First come first served. (There’s nothing to pay back!)
PS. Upon further review, I’d like to retract my second sentence. This is in fact, a political post, because everything today is made that way by people looking for your vote. But the real issue here is not about getting elected; the real issue is about the value of a thing, versus the cost of a thing.
For decades, we’ve been told that college is an “investment” in the future. A very valuable one. Maybe it still is. But just because an investment is valuable, doesn’t mean it’s “priceless.” Once you conclude that a thing is “priceless,” there’s no limit to what you’ll spend, (or borrow,) to get it. Likewise, there’s no limit to how much the banks (or the government) will loan you, and thus, no limit to how much the universities will charge you. This is why the cost of tuition has risen faster than the cost of food, healthcare, real estate, and energy.
In my opinion, college is still valuable. My own liberal arts education has served me well. But it certainly wasn’t “priceless,” and it certainly wasn’t my “right” to buy one. College was just an experience. And, like any other experience for sale, its cost was a reflection of its perceived value. (Emphasis on “perceived.” My education – two years in a community college, and two years at a university, cost about $11,000 in 1984. Today, the same courses in the same schools come closer to $90,000.)
Why the insane leap in cost? Is the quality of the education that much better today? Of course not. The only thing that’s changed is our perception of a diplomas inherent value. Thanks to some nifty PR, we got it into our heads that a college degree is the best path for the most people. We’ve also concluded that 7.3 million open jobs – most of which don’t require a four-year degree – are not worth pursuing. Now, we’ve entered into an even crazier realm. Today, we’re being told that the cost of college is high, not simply because it’s inherently valuable, but because it’s actually “priceless.” Interestingly, we hear this from the same politicians who tell us that college should be free, precisely because we can’t put a price on it. Ergo, if a thing is so valuable it should be free, shouldn’t those who have already borrowed money to pay for it be forgiven for doing so?
I feel genuinely terrible for people with student loans, especially those who are unable to find work in their chosen field. But I can’t support the notion of debt forgiveness. I know too many people like Kat Timpf – people who have chosen to live within their means. People who have sacrificed attending their “dream school” in favor of fiscal common sense. These people should not be required to bail out those who willingly borrowed more money than they can comfortably repay. Also, what possible incentive do the universities have to lower tuition, if “we the people” simply make them whole? Student loan forgiveness doesn’t just absolve the borrower of the debt, it sends a clear message to the universities. A message that says “Yes! We the people agree, your product IS priceless! By all means, keep charging whatever you need to charge. We’ve got your back!”
That’s not a message I want to send. College is too expensive, obviously. But we won’t make it cheaper by making it free. They only way to drive prices down, is to stop peddling it like an “investment,” and start telling the truth about the terrifying consequences of assuming a student loan so early in life. For what’s it worth, that’s why I started a foundation and a scholarship fund twelve years ago – to put my money where my mouth is. To prove that college is not the only path to a happy, prosperous life. To show people there’s another way – a way that doesn’t require you to start your life with a millstone around your neck. If you apply for a scholarship at mikeroweWORKS.com/scholarship, you’ll meet some of those people, and perhaps, read their stories.
To me, they are heroic.
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