I still feel so lucky that I seemed to have grown up at just the right time where a college education was both available and affordable to young folk from middle class families like myself. That feeling of luck is matched by a profound sadness at how young people must now face a choice of crushing debt or foregoing a college education. It pains me that even a lot of forum readers, at least readers who live in the United States, are wrestling with this problem with little or no outside financial assistance. This needs to change. Even people of my generation need an educated work force. Without that, our whole society faces the danger of collapse. Ignorance is no small reason why Trump was able to get elected in the first place.
Facing Our Student Debt Burden: Can We Slay the Trillion-Dollar Leviathan?
(Nonprofit Quarterly) “You can pay me now—or you can pay me later.”
Between 2000 and 2012, a 2015 Pew report indicates, average state spending for higher education fell nine percent (adjusted for inflation), while enrollment grew 45 percent. Did the nation experience a remarkable gain in higher education efficiency?
Well, not exactly. Part of the funding decline was made up for by increased federal spending, which included rising research spending (for example, National Institutes for Health grants), but also higher spending on veterans’ education benefits and Pell grants. Even so, an increase of a little over $1,000 per student in federal spending did not compensate for a $2,500 decline in spending per student by state governments.
What made up the difference? We all know the answer—new federally guaranteed student loans. In the early 1990s, originations (in 2014 inflation-adjusted dollars) totaled around $20 billion. By 2000, these had doubled to a little over $40 billion. By 2010, annual student loan originations exceeded $100 billion. Combined, Pew reports that local, state, and federal spending in the 2013–14 academic year totaled $157.5 billion. For $157.5 billion in taxpayer dollars, we got over $260 billion in education services delivered.