Elizabeth Warren’s Bold Play on Student Loan Debt

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237 Responses

  1. Avatar Philip H says:

    I would add one thing to your analysis – this is why Warren is better off as a Democratic leader in the Senate then running for president. She needs to get this drafted legislatively and then get it introduced in House for debate now, as well as in the Senate, where if memory serves she could get it referred to her own committee. By concentrating on her Presidential run she is abdicating her Senate leadership, and since Chuck Schumer is as inspiring as a paper bag, she really needs to make a different choice.Report

  2. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Ideally, when writing a political piece, you want to provide some kind of original thought or analysis. It also helps to show that you’ve considered the trade-offs and counter-arguments, and to present evidence in favor of your position. Otherwise you end up with something that reads like an op-ed in a high school newspaper.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Why? Our opponents never afford us the same luxury. They simply mock every liberal plan without consideration while talking about their real, true free market plan is the way to go. Usually, they end up using the space to mock a bunch of our policy proposals at once. So articles rallying against California’s attempt at HSR are used to go after single payer as well.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:

        It’s Okay When You are Republican (or “Libertarian”)Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to LeeEsq says:


        Two wrongs don’t make a right. C’mon man, you’re better than that.Report

        • Avatar Jesse in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Being “better” than the Right has done nothing for us on the Left for decades and instead, let the Right run all over us while we were stuck in a crouch saying, “please stop hitting us – fine, we’ll support welfare reform, massive tax cuts, cuts to social welfare programs, moronic wars, please just stop calling us America hating freedom destroying liberal pinko baby killing hippies or worse” all while centrists like you happily supported them.

          It’s been amazing the reaction of what a slightly resurgent left in the past couple of years basically acting at 10% of Newt Gingrich’s terribleness has led to supposed centrists acting like Stalin has returned and free speech is dead, which just tells me, the Left is supposed to never actually punch back.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:

            How about nobody punches? The mental gymnastics people will engage in to justify bad behavior never ceases to amaze me.Report

            • Avatar The question in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              “How about nobody punches” works until somebody throws the first punch.

              actually get yourself some legislative leaders and thought leaders who don’t react to anything the left proposes by screeching “socialism” like it’s the be all and end all of argument.

              I mean sure it’s cool to say there are bad actors on both sides but if you look at the actions of both sides I can tell you one of them’s you know quite clearly leaps and bounds worse and maybe you should stop tut-tuting people who are tired of being punched in the face.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Yeah, there’s Sturgeon’s Law for you. But that’s beside the point. It’s not about courtesy to your ideological opponents. It’s about demonstrating that you actually understand the issues and have something intelligent to add to the debate.

        As an opponent of Warren’s proposal, I don’t feel personally wronged by this piece. I feel flattered. It’s evidence of everything I want to believe about supporters of Warren’s policies.Report

        • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          This, so much this. To make political headway, you have to make an argument, and that argument has to be better than your opponent’s argument to the people you need to convince. Everything else is just a bunch of hooey. If an argument works against X than it will be tried against Y. If it works then, woopie, otherwise you move on. There is no one side is better/has agency/ whatever BS you tell yourself at night.

          End of story.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I thought we already bad this conversation last week? Regardless, when someone advocates a massive transfer of wealth and then yadda yaddas through fixing the cause of the problem, I find it really hard to take them seriously.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Last week’s post was more on the subject of college costs and debt repayment generally. This one is on Warren’s plan more specifically. I might be doing one later in the week about why this is mostly a bad idea and is a bad idea in such a way that it sort of gives itself a way as a policy by the privileged for the privileged.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    A couple of things to consider: “If we do this, will we have to do it again in 10 years?” and “If we have to do this again in 10 years, will we be able to do it again?”

    If the answer to the first is “yes”, I’d wonder if we’d have to do it again 10 years later again. And then again. And then again.

    Which means that the second question needs to be similarly iterated and, if there’s a point at which the answer becomes “no”, it means that we’ve got the wrong solution.

    Just make it dischargeable in bankruptcy. Put the colleges themselves on the hook.Report

    • Avatar Philip h in reply to Jaybird says:

      Following last week’s conversation on this (you are right @Mike Dwyer) I have given some thought the discharge in bankruptcy option. And I don’t like it. Economically its a cop out, especially since bankruptcy still has financial impacts to the bankruptor years afterward. As a matter of policy it continues the tired assumption that education above highschool should be a private investment and not a public good, which then means that only the private actors have a vested interest in resolving the situation. Since those actors haven’t, we have a market failure, and last time i checked, only federal action can really address market failures this big.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Philip h says:

        Please understand, I don’t see “discharge in bankruptcy” (henceforth DIB) as an alternative to “Perfect Plan”.

        I see DIB as an alternative to “what we have now”.

        Importantly, I also see DIB as achievable in theory and I’m not sure that I see “Perfect Plan” as achievable in theory.

        the tired assumption that education above highschool should be a private investment and not a public good

        I agree that education is a public good.

        I do not agree that The College Experience is a public good.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

          I agree that education is a public good.

          I do not agree that The College Experience is a public good.

          This! This is the primary problem. If education is a public good and needs to publicly funded, we will wind up with EXACTLY the same problems we have with K-12 education.Report

          • Avatar Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Given that much of university education in the US comes from publicly funded state university systems . . . we are sort of already there.

            As to the “problems” with public K-12 Education – they stem from the same “if it didn’t come from the private sector and have a profit motive and is thus an investment its crap” mentality. That’s partly why there are so many charter schools around the country, despite loads of data saying that “school choice” doesn’t actually improve outcomes educationally.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I don’t know that I agree with this Oscar…

            Public education has lots of problems, but the core goal is sound. I absolutely believe the public should pay for public schools through 12th grade. I also like the idea of public universities (proud graduate here).

            But I also agree with you and Jaybird that The College Experience is not something we owe anyone. We can make it affordable, we can offer grants to deserving kids, etc…but I would never agree to a plan that attempted to make it free.Report

          • Avatar Jesse in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            ” EXACTLY the same problems we have with K-12 education.”

            Largely poor areas, both rural and inner city consistently don’t get the funding they need due to screwy tax regimes based on locality? ‘Cause in reality, most public schools in the US are pretty good, especially considering our other socioeconomic issues.Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jesse says:

              In almost all states these days, a very large chunk of the typical school district’s budget comes out of state-level funds. When you look at the details of where money comes in and the allocation formulas, there is almost always a very sizeable flow of funds from the suburbs to the rural areas. Whether there is also a flow to the urban cores depends a lot on the locality, how badly the core crashed in the 1960-70s, and whether or not they recovered.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            My Alma Mater is the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so I’m not dissing on public universities.

            The criticism, as it always is with such things, is that public resources are finite. I agree with Jesse, as he suggested downthread, that if our public schools were more utilitarian, where the NCAA had no influence, where things were closer to the old school European style, this would be much less of an issue. I really like Bookdragons idea that there be a limit to how much administrative costs a public school can carry, that would make me feel a lot better about publicly funding higher education.

            But to just say we are going to publicly fund higher education without talking about how we are going to control that cost, is just talking about handing an industry that has already clearly, wildly proven it can not be responsible with costs and spending, a blank check.

            So, before we talk about forgiving debt, or public funding, tell me how we make sure this problem is kept under control. Tell me how we don’t fall into the various traps that K-12 schools suffer (or variations of those traps).Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

          Neither arepublic goods, because you can charge for a student’s education, and thus it excludable. The actual argument is that education has positive externalities — the person who receives the education benefits themselves and may also benefit others. There is an argument for targeted financial aid to low-income students, which has declined over the last 20 years.

          But education in this country is also a positional good, which creates negative externalities in that it is a means to purchase status and foment bidding wars that encourage cost spirals.

          I don’t support any subsidies for private education, and would redirect those we have to public education with the provisio that they increase aid to low-income households.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

      One thing I would suggest is that we reform the way the money is dispersed and they limit the ways it can be used. I had a coworker that went to a prestigious business school for 4 years and lived on campus because it was 2 hours away. He used to complain a lot about how much money he owed and how he had been hoodwinked by his high school guidance counselor. One day I started asking him some questions about his experience and discovered that he had one part-time job for a semester and worked a couple of summers cutting grass during the entire four years. He financed the whole thing on student loans and credit cards.

      The current system should only allow money to be used for tuition, books, supplies and fees. Basically, I would put the loaned money on a debit card that could only be used in the bursar’s office or the bookstore (and the bookstore would have a separate register for this so the students couldn’t add snacks and a $60 State U hoodie).

      I believe a lot of the ‘student debt’ that people like Warren bemoan is actually from people borrowing far more than they needed so they could live on campus and/or not work very much. I know people that took student loans to pay off credit cards that were maxed out on bar tabs, shopping sprees and road trips. If you can’t afford to live on campus without borrowing money, then you don’t need to live on campus. Period.

      We need to stop pretending that student loan debt is strictly from well-intentioned kids just trying to pay their tuition. It’s not. Most of it is from them WANTING a certain college experience and making bad financial decisions to obtain it.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        This strikes me as off the mark. We’ve all heard the stories about the experimental puppetry majors who went 200k in debt at luxurious private schools in scenic New England or whatever. They’re out there and will always be out there.
        They have nothing to do with the stratospheric rises in costs over the last 40 years or the federal policies combined with curtailing of state investments that enabled them.

        So Liz Warren’s idea is wrong but mostly just because it fails to address the policy decisions that have put all risks on the head of the student and none on the lender or the school. Bankruptcy protection, caps on interest, state mandated reimbursement plans based on actual earnings, and the ability to fully deduct student loan payments from taxes at all income levels would do a lot more to ease the situation.

        Our entire system of credit is already based on the policy decision that perpetual economic crippling of people as just deserts is the wrong way to run a consumer driven economy. There’s no reason to treat student debt as somehow outside of that calculus.Report

        • Avatar bookdragon in reply to InMD says:

          I think Warren’s plan targeted to give Millenials and whatever we’re calling the next cohort, who are facing crippling debt, a hand up is an idea that can be tweaked to benefit society overall. The OP notes that a next generation with little disposable income for most of their lifetimes is a drag on the economy and as Kristin pointed out that same generation losing hope is a potential danger wrt politics and society.

          I don’t know about cancelling it all or for nearly everyone, but there has to be something sensible in between.

          However, it can’t be the only thing since the main issue is costs rising much faster than wages or inflation. For a start, since administrative costs seem to play a big role there, maybe we could rein those in by limiting federal aid to colleges that have a ratio of administrative spending to direct educational spending (instructor salaries, facilities, equipment) below some fixed threshold?Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD says:

          I agree the schools and the lenders bear a big part of the blame, but so do the borrowers. Debt forgiveness is not the way to teach them responsibility. That example I gave of my coworker that borrowed lots of money to go away to school? He is married with children and a mortgage and still doesn’t understand what he did wrong.Report

          • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            Whether or not someone learned something is IMO the wrong, or at least a really incomplete way to look at the policy behind this. It fails to take into account diminishing returns and allows one party and one party alone to be punished forever for a bad decision in very early adulthood. To me that’s both unfair and bad for the economy, especially when there are all kinds of institutional and social forces steering the person towards that bad decision.

            Take something like mass incarceration as a comparison. Correct me if I’m wrong but from your past comments I think we both agree that giving some kid 20 years under a 3 strikes law for shoplifting is excessive and probably counter productive. I’m hoping we can agree on that even if we also agree that some consequences are warranted and must be administered.

            So how long is it reasonable to punish someone for a stupid loan? And on a larger scale, how long does it make sense to punish a large cohort, even when the cost of doing do dampens economic activity writ large? I can see how answers would vary but I don’t think ‘forever’ is a reasonable one, which is what we have now. This especially so when if the debt in question was from credit cards the punishment is roughly 7 years.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD says:

              If someone wants to come up with a plan to punish the lenders, I’m all ears. I think the schools get punished by turning off the spigot of federal dollars. As for the borrowers, I don’t know what the right answer is. My wife and I had about $15K in student loans total which we just paid off this year (we finished college in 2003). It sucked, but it just never occurred to me to ask for someone to forgive those loans.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Forgiveness (or alternatively discharge in bankruptcy) is how you punish/change the incentives of the lenders. The primary incentive for not financing a stupid loan is the probability you wont recoup it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD says:

                Yeah, but how do you parse out stupid loans from non-stupid loans? For every kid that borrowed $100,000 to go to Columbia, there is another five that borrowed $5000 when they only needed $2000 and had some fun with the other $3000.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                You need to set up systems that account for it on the front and back end. Lenders do this all the time on the front end in the application process and there’s no reason the feds can’t set requirements for loans backed by DOE.

                Bankruptcy is a back end system and it is not a consequence-free outcome for the borrower. Very few people are going to consider it preferable to paying back loans that they legitimately can finance. The iffy cases will be for the courts to decide.

                Right now we have neither of these very basic backstops.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to InMD says:

                Isn’t the lender, in this case, the government itself?Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Will Truman says:

                They are federally backed but ultimately usually end up administered by private entities. My first round of loans for law school (during Bush II) were federally backed but direct with banks. Second and third rounds were under Obama and direct with DOE. All were consolidated by DOE but then sold to some other private entity.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to InMD says:

                So federally backed but serviced by private banks. So if we default, it’s the government holding the bag.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Will Truman says:

                Yes, but of their own volition through bad policy-making and magical thinking.

                Not that there aren’t legit competing interests here. The gov’t doesn’t want the best and brightest to be denied an education solely because of money. Fair enough I say and I agree with the sentiment.

                But what they’ve done is turned on the spigot and eliminated the basic backstop and little else. The question is who owns the fallout from that. I don’t think ‘the students’ is the right answer when it’s followed by an implicit ‘and nobody else.’Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to InMD says:

                The Obama administration tried to promote some cost discipline by taking the data it had on college performance and publishing it as a rate-of-return analysis, including graduation rates. This data was used to give a strong shove to the for-profits, but it was withdrawn over objections from a lot of interested parties who felt the accounting unfair. At least one of the complaints was that colleges that focus on with more challenging educational missions should be graded differently than traditional colleges. Again, this was just a disclosure list, but I’m not sure the government is capable of imposing very much discipline on colleges at least in any direct fashion.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Yeah there is really no way to implement a plan like this without hitting community colleges and a lot of HBCUs really hard.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Trumwill says:

                I think community colleges were treated separately and it was around this time that Obama proposed free community college, to be paid for by eliminating the taxbreak for college savings accounts. But I think one of the groups that was hurt most were art schools.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to PD Shaw says:

                I get there are a number of interests in play but I don’t see why calibration is so impossible. This is the kind of thing government is supposed to resolve.

                Even if they’re incapable of using a scalpel they could at least reinstitute student loans into the bankruptcy code. Right now there’s no safety valve besides winning the lottery.

                I’m one of the survivors of that lost generation of law students from 2007-2010. I scrapped my ass off and caught some very lucky breaks to get where I can finance my debt and have a comfortable lifestyle but I know plenty of people who did everything right and still ended up screwed.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to InMD says:

                I probably need to refresh my memory better on what Obama was doing, but using federal data to analyze how colleges compare on affordability, student completion rates and earnings of graduates didn’t require legislative approval. He basically suffered friendly fire from the left and eventually capitulated.

                Here is a retrospective on this effort:

                “Obama’s interest in college costs wasn’t just political. Insiders often said the policy direction came directly from the White House — that Obama was personally insistent that his administration go all in on tackling college prices. In meetings with college presidents, Obama pushed hard for enhanced productivity in higher education — specifically how colleges could graduate more students while also becoming more affordable.

                The backlash came swiftly.”


                I wouldn’t disagree about allowing student loans to be dischargeable in 7 years or so, but of the default rate is greater than what would normally be covered by the interest rate, I think the schools need to pay some of that.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Since I have a child about to go to college, I have considered the costs and options quite recently and frankly this only works for people who can live off campus because their parents live nearby or the housing market nearby is much less expensive. If that’s the case for you, then you’re fortunate. But it isn’t for most people. Add in wanting to pursue a major in engineering and the small liberal arts colleges scattered more widely around the country are not options.

        Now, if you can’t live at home and go to college, in a number of areas of the country the cost of living on or off campus is very similar in terms of housing and food, but if you live off campus you need car to get to/from your home and campus. Once you factor in the additional costs of buying and maintaining the car, buying gas, paying additional fees for parking, and the cost of insurance (esp for people under 21), living on campus comes out cheaper. The decision then ha nothing to do with the ‘college experience’ and everything to do with $10k vs $15k per year in costs beyond tuition and books.Report

      • Avatar Jesse in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        “. Basically, I would put the loaned money on a debit card that could only be used in the bursar’s office or the bookstore ”

        So, you want students to be forced to spend their loan money on overpriced new editions of books as opposed to getting the same books on Amazon or other sites for 75% less?

        The truth is, for every story about students being terrible and using student loans to party, party, party (because as we know, college should be a monastic experience where you’re only there to study and work afterward to afford rent unless you’re middle class or better, which in case, yes, you can get all the College Experience you want), I can give you a dozen stories about friends I know who took student loans out despite working to make sure they had such extravagant things like mac ‘n’ cheese, a working cheap laptop, and yes, the horror of an occasional night out.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:

          ‘So, you want students to be forced to spend their loan money on overpriced new editions of books as opposed to getting the same books on Amazon or other sites for 75% less?”

          Yes, because that seems like an insurmountable problem. I don’t give a fig if that same register is just a monitored Amazon terminal, but they don’t need thousands of dollars in ‘living expenses’.

          Did you mac & cheese friends go to their local school or sleep-away college?Report

          • Avatar Jesse in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            “Did you mac & cheese friends go to their local school or sleep-away college?”

            What’s the farthest away 18 years olds are allowed to move from their homes before being told their indebtness is all their fault? Can their maybe be a little pop up that says, “if you’re accepted at this university and have loans as a result, 40-something white dudes will scold you for doing so?”Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:

              “What’s the farthest away 18 years olds are allowed to move from their homes before being told their indebtness is all their fault?”

              That’s an easy one. If you have to borrow money to go there, when there was a non-borrowing (or less borrowing) option nearby, it’s your fault. Let me hit you with a interesting fact: In the US, at public four-year colleges, the median distance students live from home is 18 miles. Why does a kid need to live on campus when they are 18 miles from home?Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Funny how the point you want to make here is in opposition to what the article you linked is saying. A lot of kids live in educational deserts. Most of them are in the red state areas you usually care about, but if they go to ‘sleep-away college’ you will gladly deride them for having to take on debt for living expenses.

                Ditto any of the many people I know who did not live at home because it was not an option even if the college was in commuting distance.Report

              • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Mike, the nearest CC to my hometown is ~90 miles. Ditto the nearest four-year uni. The nearest school offering engineering classes was a ~4 hour drive.

                Why do you hate kids that grow up in rural areas?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Road Scholar says:

                Gee, if only we could figure out a system where kids that live beyond a certain distance from a college could apply for extra assistance… But I guess that’s probably way too complicated, so we should just make stay-away college free for everyone.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        If we want to think long term, there is a fix for this that already exists, and that is 529 programs. I have one for Bug, that gets a monthly contribution. We could do more to make such programs work for lower income families (tax incentives for people, or for corporate matching, or government matching kinda like the GI Bill).Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          We had one of those as well – the problem is they seem to have a hard time keeping up with rising tuition prices.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            Making 529s more available doesn’t preclude the need to reduce tuition inflation.

            I think back to how I paid for school. I signed up for the GI Bill in boot camp, which was a $1200 initial investment on my part, and got me something like $14K 2 years later. That was a good deal, but I got in the motorcycle wreck and was medical retired, which made me eligible for Vocational Rehab. Voc Rehab was 48 months of books, tuition, and fees at whatever school I could get accepted to, provided I could keep my grades up. It also consumed my GI Bill (that was one of the trade-offs).

            We could do something similar for people with 529s (and many states do this with the state level plans), in that you purchase what amounts to credit hours at a state school, and you are shielded against tuition inflation. So if I buy 120 credit hours, then my kid could go to any state school in WA and not have to worry about the cost of tuition, or they could go to another school, and the 529 gets converted to cash.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              We wanted to do the lock-in-tuition program for my oldest daughter but they closed the program in 2004.


            • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              I think that’s an idea worth exploring. We have more than double what my 4 years tuition + R&B cost in the 529 saved for my daughter, but it would only pay for 3 years of that even at a state school. Now, maybe if the market hadn’t crashed in ’08 we would have done better, but it’s hard to predict those things 18 years out.

              We’re lucky though. We could afford to put hundreds of dollar aside into 529s every month. I worry that there are so many younger people still struggling to pay off their own student loans that far fewer people will be able to take advantage of 529s in the next generation.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

                That’s what I mean about more incentives, especially for lower income brackets.

                Maybe you get a tax credit for every dollar you put into a 529 for your kid if you make below $X. Or employers could have 529 contributions be tax free (like healthcare costs are), or there could be a government match program for hourly workers whose employers don’t want to bother with 529s as a benefit.

                And even if the amount saved won’t pay for 4 years at a University, I bet it’ll still pay for 2 years at a local CC, get those lower level courses done. We really do need to stress that the traditional 4 year path to a degree is not the only, nor even necessarily the best, path to success (since employers at best only care where you graduate from, now where you start).Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                All good ideas.

                For what it’s worth, the local high school encourages kids to take CC classes for anything not covered by their AP offerings and the Family Consumer Science courses (what was home ec back in my day) discusses how to evaluate various options for affording college or training in a trade to minimize debt. They even have the kids pick the career they’re interested in, research starting salaries, cost of the degree and cost living where they want to be, then work out a budget.Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          529’s are a good fix for many, but they still operate from the notion that students and parents need to INVEST in education on a one for one, private basis, instead of receiving education as an outcome of taxation and good governance. Here again, state university systems are already receiving taxpayer dollars in support, so we are better off looking at why those dollars are not supporting the full educational need as opposed to continuing to try and force this unusual hybrid of for profit entities as intermediaries to a public service.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Philip H says:

            So what if we make college free and also provide robust job training for non-college students, but also make it harder to get into those colleges?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H says:

            IMHO, cost containment is the top priority, and the only way that happens is all public universities go full public, and funding becomes a completely political concern; or we go cold turkey with federal student aid and switch tracks to something like a 529; or we allow dischargability in some manner.

            All of these ideas have pros & cons. Personally I like the idea of 529s because it gives families a stake in the process, it can leverage the power of compound interest, or allow state schools (if they are not complete idiots with regards to the funds, something that seems to be an issue for some states) to lock down funding and enrollments for the state system, and since the funds are specific to a family and what they put in, they are more insulated from political shenanigans.

            At the same time, it can work towards cost containment, since colleges can’t just look at what levels of student aid are available and raise prices to capture it all.Report

            • Avatar Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              My problem with the cost containment argument is we haven’t got a good track record with it elsewhere, so why would we expect it in universities? Take healthcare – one of the rationales for developing both HMO’s and PPO’s on the private insurance side was cost containment – but it hasn’t exactly worked that way. The lack of negotiating ability (and thus cost containment) has been the singular knock to the Republican authored medicare prescription drug reform in the Bush II administration. And on and on.

              As a university professor’s kid who watch a major state university system try to wrestle $62 million of out of its operating budget to deal with state revenue shortfalls about a decade ago, I can assure there is not as much waste fraud or abuse as you think.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Philip H says:

                Most of us wouldn’t say “waste fraud” but mission creep.

                If we’re bad at containing costs, what is the expected outcome of year 2 after the jubilee? Reduced costs because $1T in debt has been forgiven? Or a new cycle where the assumption is a second jubilee?

                And what about the kids who graduate 4 years after the jubilee with $75k in debt? Is our position, f*’em? Or are they rational actors assuming they can pile on debt and assume it will be forgiven in 10-, 20- years? What’s their real incentive to pay it back? Its almost like there’s no tomorrow after the 2020 election.

                That’s really the underlying problem with Warren focusing on forgiving the debt (first or exclusively); it signals that the costs are something we are willing to subsidize… forever… which might make it slightly worse than healthcare in the long run. Or, another way to put it: behold the birth of a new and terrible system we built but can’t amend.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I will cosign all of this…

                One of the things I was thinking about in reading Machmaine’s comment is that the conversation I see here in this comment thread is (roughly) the liberals all suggesting debt forgiveness, free college, vaguely trying to control costs, etc and the non-liberals saying, “That doesn’t seem like a very good plan.”

                This isn’t a D vs. R debate, at least in this comment thread. This is one of those issues where I think fiscal conservatism is still alive and well. I suspect there are a ton of registered Democrats who paid for college the old fashioned way, graduated with little or no debt, and see Warren’s plan as ludicrous.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I mean… is the ‘conservative’ plan to just let costs skyrocket with no safety valve while more and more people who (rationally) pursue the benefits of higher education end up economically hampered by massive debt?

                You don’t have to love Warren’s plan to know that’s not fiscal conservatism. That’s sticking your head in the ground. You’d think we hadn’t seen some other consumer debt bubble pushed by federal policy burst in recent history.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD says:

                I can’t speak for other states, but I will say that our governor here in KY ordered financial audits of all of the state universities and replaced the president and board of trustees at the University of Louisville when they uncovered some shady financial stuff*.

                When you say ‘conservative plan’ don’t you really mean Republican? I see lots of not-liberals in this thread suggesting ways to control costs.

                * I will also note that I have possibly never hated a politician more than our governor, but even a broken clock is right twice a dayReport

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Maybe? Sometimes I don’t know who is who anymore.

                I guess I struggle to see liberals (and/or Democrats) as in the wrong on this when as best as I can tell conservatives, to the extent they are represented by the Republican party anyway, don’t even take the issue seriously. They’re too busy running up the deficit with tax cuts for gazillionaires to take the interests of regular people seriously. In our now existing political reality I’ll take Warren’s very incomplete bailout idea any day. At least it’s a starting point.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD says:

                We can’t control the larger conversation at the national level but at least in this little corner I think we could agree on a couple of items:

                1) Very few of us that lean to the right at actually Republicans

                2) The absence of a Republican plan does not mean the Democratic plan is the right one by default.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                1- fair enough.

                2- Agreed that it isn’t the default right policy but for an issue like this I think good faith attempts to move the ball forward matter. As for this little corner the cost control proposals are good. The ‘this whole thing is caused by spoiled irresponsible kids’ stuff on the other hand is risible. Like you, assuming nothing catastrophic happens to me in the next few years (knock on wood) I’ve successfully navigated my loan situation. So yes, it’s possible to make it through ok. But it’s definitely not the system I want for my kid.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

                I’m not sure if anyone knows what GOP vs. Conservative vs. Populist vs. Libertarian economics might be any more.

                To your point, here’s an article today from Yuval Levin who ticks at least some of those boxes agreeing that “some sort of policy” is needed to address the three HHH’s (Housing, Higher Ed, and Healthcare).

                It basically agrees with your point (from the Right) that these are issues worth addressing… suggests that it is both a supply and demand problem, but stops there. So, some “institutional” movement, at least.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

                It’s certainly good to see that. One of my peeves with the popular GOP flavor of conservatism is the hyper focus on taxes. Yes it matters, but I don’t think it’s the driver of middle class economic insecurity. It’s cost of living with those 3-Hs. Lowering income taxes or various sales taxes by a few percentage points does nothing to address it.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

                Ironically I’m not a fiscal conservative… I do, however, see this as subsidizing a broken system… so if Warren wants to pivot and address the underlying causes of spiraling costs first – basically by signalling the opposite, that the subsidies are not only *not* forthcoming, but will be reduced… and then address lingering issues… I’d look at that pivot.

                The other thing, however, is if we’re going to do a one-time(?) confiscatory $2T wealth grab – I question the wisdom of spending it on debt reduction for all the reasons above, but also because it is better spent on wealth increasing projects.

                I’m not 100% convinced that a wealth tax is great policy either… but see, I’m not a fiscal conservative… let’s spend where spending helps and distribute wealth at the point of creation. Its a long process and Warren’s approach moves us further not closer to better economic habits for the 21st century.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I think there’s always a ‘better spent elsewhere’ argument on anything and I’m sure we could all come up with stuff.

                If my vote in Congress was on the line the only way I’d support this plan in particular would be as part of a full system reset. I agree that a one time bailout (which is really what this is) would be doubling down on a broken system.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

                Sure, its always fun to argue whether this bridge is a good bridge, but that bridge is a bad wasteful bridge… and am I the only one who thinks it is funny that the only example of Govt. Investment we can agree on is in 18th/19th century type projects? But that’s a slap fight for another day.

                But yes, I’m open to ideas around a “system reset” (good term)… but as lots of folks have pointed out, system resets have costs and losers too. Maybe *that’s* what the $2T should be spent on… resetting the system and reinvesting in all the losers of the system reset.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I think it would hinge on what we define the “system” as since, as is rightly pointed out int he part of our discussion on college sports, the universities aren’t controlled by the federal government. So any system reset is probably going to entail state legislative action, and i don’t see a unified legislative approach in the states on this.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Philip H says:

                I actually see this as less daunting than many other situations. The loan system we have now takes state governments off the hook because with essentially no stings attached federal backing lenders will sign off on anything. Change that equation and suddenly cost control becomes a much higher priority.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Philip H says:

                I agree that any level setting approach to this is going to have to be multi-faceted… some of the changes will be Federal, others State, some Local… and many Cultural assumptions. Debt reduction, if/when it occurs should happen at the end, not the beginning.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

                The only quibble I have is that a lot of people with existing student loan debt are losers in the system and them being losers has all kinds of ripple effects that will create even more losers.

                We could get into another bigger debate about whether a consumption driven economy is the right approach to things generally but it’s what we have. At some point too many people are going to be unable to make the kind of middle class purchases the economy relies on. There’s going to have to be a political solution no matter what and it’s going to have to involve some acceptance that a lot of these loans are never going to be fully paid off.

                I think the sooner we get used to that the better chance we have of solving it intelligently and with minimal moral hazard.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Philip H says:

                I agree with Marchmaine that it isn’t so much about waste and fraud (for varying degrees of waste and fraud) as it is about mission creep raising costs in the pursuit of more and more amenities that are unrelated to the core mission of education (and research, for those that do that).

                Let’s take a common campus amenity, a swimming pool. If the school has a swim team, a pool makes sense, and since the swim team can’t be in the pool every waking hour, it makes sense to let the rest of the student body use the pool when the swim team isn’t. It’s a bit of a creep away from the core mission, since competitive athletics aren’t exactly on mission, but competitive athletics have such a part of the University that even if we were to scale back the football and basketball programs, they would still be there.

                But what about the climbing wall? Does the school have a competitive climbing team (is that even a thing?)? If not, then the wall is a capital cost not related to the mission of the school. Now maybe the wall was paid for with a special endowment setup by a wealthy alumni, and it’s construction and operating costs are covered by the endowment for the next 50 years. Fine, then it should not impact tuition costs, because it doesn’t come out of the budgets tuition costs feed into. But if it’s paid for out of that general budget, and it impacts tuition even a little bit, then I have to wonder why it’s there.

                A lot of what it boils down to is that more and more, the administration wants to keep the kids on campus. They don’t want to give them a reason to seek things off campus. They provide more and more amenities and provide more and more services, and extract more and more rents.

                So sure, your campus has a climbing wall, open to all students, part of the tuition cost! That’s great if you are a climber, very attractive. But what if you aren’t? Then are you subsidizing someone else’s hobby? Sure, the cost is probably a couple of bucks tacked onto your tuition, but how much of your tuition is paying for someone else’s hobby? How many metaphorical ‘climbing walls’ are you paying for, versus how many do you utilize?

                And, of course, there are other ways that campuses inflate their costs. My school had a building attached to the Business School that existed solely for the convenience of corporate executives coming to campus. It was an 8 story hotel and conference center for those executives. No faculty had offices there, and no regular classes were held there. Most days, the building sat largely empty. Sure, it was used, a handful of times a semester, for seminars and conferences, and some of the rooms were occupied on a given day, but it was rarely used to capacity.

                And my school was a public school.

                This is how your community college stays affordable. They keep it low key.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                This is all true but I think it misses the basic point which is the financing. Schools have 0 incentive not to build that stuff when they know every time there’s a tuition increase the federal government will back the loans to pay for it no matter what. The student get hits with the bill after the banquet but they’re only bit players in setting the menu.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

                Exactly my point to Philip. The schools don’t need to be rife with waste or fraud. Every dollar spent can most certainly be justified in some way, and follows the various rules about how it is to be spent.

                But that doesn’t make any of it necessary to complete the mission of the school.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                One thing to remember, the mission of the school is both to educate and to research. And research costs money. As brother Cain has pointed out, the monies that the state used to provide for education at the student level has been eaten up by other costs. Thus to support the mission they have the students funding this. Right or wrong, it is the part that many if not all people outside the institutions forget about.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Aaron David says:

                Not every school does research, but I did include it as part of the mission in my first paragraph.

                Although the public/private question is interesting. Of everyone who could potentially default on their loans, how many went to a public Uni, versus a private? And in a similar vein, of those in danger of defaulting, how many took out loans for significantly more than the cost the school was charging?Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I think the cost of an undergrad education at “major public universities” has not increased much after adjusting for inflation btw/ 2000 & 2013 (*). What changed was state contribution rates plummeted, and tuition was hiked at slightly more than a $1 for $1 basis.

                So, I’m not sure cost issue are the main issue unless we want to make cost a major problem through subsidy. I think the most likely answer to the rise in expensive recreational facilities, at least in Big Ten schools, is that each of those school gets a $50 million check each year from its sports network. I think they just blow it on things they like.

                Probably holding the wrong end of the wicket here — people are having trouble paying for college because wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, while healthcare costs (and in some areas housing costs) are rising faster than inflation.

                (*) Chart buried in a recent slate-star-codex article that I’m simplifying.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Last thing I heard was the tuition costs are rising much faster than inflation, even when you factor in things like lost state revenues.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yeah, tuition is rising, but for public universities, the primary revenue source historically was the state(*)

                So, back in 2001, the annual cost of an education at a major public university averaged $11,643, with an average tuition of just under $5,000 and the rest covered by the State. In 2013, education costs had risen to $11,860, with an average tuition of over $8,000. So people are seeing tuition rising faster than inflation, but it’s not necessarily associated with underlying educational costs rising.

                Private universities appear to have tuition rates increasing almost twice the rate of inflation (quick google) and don’t have that excuse. They market themselves as a superior good and compete with others accordingly.

                *Source: the chart is labeled “Major Public University Operating Revenue Sources”:


              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                What this chart (*) suggests is that in 2001 the average annual cost for an undergrad education at a major pubic university was $11,643, with almost $7,000 paid by states, leaving tuition at just under $5,000.

                By 2012, education costs had only risen to $11,860, but the states were paying less than $4,000 and tuition had risen to more than $8,000.

                So that’s a substantial increase in the cost of tuition, almost none of which has to do with the cost to educate a student. And none of that really explains why private tuition costs increased similarly.


              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Thank you!Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Where we start our charts matters too… and maybe we have dueling charts!… but a large run-up in Education costs starts in the mid-80s. Anecdotally I was at Notre Dame and we saw 10% annual increases from 1986-1990… at the time ND was considered “cheap” compared to peers, but given where they’ve ended up ($70k/yr) those days are long past… acknowledging, of course, that ND is Private, not Public.

                So, in the late 80s Tuition Room/Board = $9,480 (public) in 2018 $’s

                In late 20-teens Tuition Room/Board = $21,380 (public) in 2018 $’s

                My reading of that data is that the State/Local budgets are *additive* so the late 80s public schools are working with $17k/student vs. 2018 public schools working with $29k/student (in constant dollars).

                During that time – in constant 2015 dollars (p.21) – State and Local Funding for Higher Education started at $8k/student, dipped to $6k/student (post recession), and is now just under $8k/student.

                That’s a significant run-up in fees not related to costs, other than to signify that the fees were there to support the run-up in costs… and it appears that those fees were passed to students, who subsequently passed them to loans, which ultimately are guaranteed by the Feds.

                This may vary state by state, of course, but I’m not seeing short fall from States as a cause. Total funding in $B keeps pace with increasing enrollments until the recession… then dips… and now corrects to pre-recession level – perhaps slightly behind the curve, but not enough to explain the fees disparity.

                There’s an honest discussion to be had over why it costs $12k/year more to educate an 18 yr old… but that’s really the discussion about where are we allocating that $12k/yr and why.Report

              • A couple of other things from my days as a budget analyst:

                1) The “basket of goods” that make up a university’s costs is very different from the basket used to calculate headline inflation. And it’s heavy on things that are growing faster than headline inflation.

                2) Baumol’s cost disease is a thing. Just my opinion, but particularly on the administration side (we ask tenured faculty to take on more responsibilities; we have adjunct instructors). If productivity of university administrators had grown at the same rate as, say, programmers, the university’s entire administrative staff would be a couple of people running scripts.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                We had hotel/conference centers at MSU and VT, but those were mostly staffed and run by the students majoring in hotel and recreation management. Since they were at prime locations on campus, they were full every weekend there was a game or other event on campus. Afaik, they paid for themselves, which is what something like that ideally should do – provide a training ground for relevant majors but in a way that showed them how to run the establishment to turn a profit.

                I feel like a certain number of the ‘climbing wall’ type extras could be run and maintained using similar work-study or experience based credit courses for students in physical education, kinesiology, sports medicine, etc.Report

  5. Avatar Jesse says:

    Upthread, there’s some talk bout how the College Experience is Bad, and that we shouldn’t be paying for it.

    Which is ya’ know, fine, whatever. If you think colleges and universities should be like Europe, where they really are just educational institutions and as a result, are pretty damn cheap and without a lot of extra frills (which is somewhat overstated, but again, whatever), that’s fine.

    Get rid of college athletics, kill the extracurricular activities, banish the Greek organizations and other activities that incentivize the “College Experience”, close the climbing gyms, etc.

    But, it seems that folks don’t really want to get rid of The College Experience. They just want it to exist, but only if you can pay for it, including at public schools. Which seems to be the worst of both worlds.

    Either make college the no-frills educational experience that it’s supposed to be in theory (even though it’d take a lot more than just limiting college loans to do that) or keep it what it currently is and pressure tuition prices downward in public schools in other ways, but create a new paradigm where basically, if you’re poor or working class, college education is 4 years of job training, but if you’re middle class or better, college is still like the movies, that’s a good way to create even more instability and radicalism.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:


      My wife went to a very expensive and exclusive private college. I went to community college and State U. I don’t resent her having the opportunities that I didn’t. We make pretty close to the same salary now. In most industries you quickly discover that a diploma is a diploma, not matter how much it costs. That creates equality, not instability.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jesse says:

      I’d also point out that getting rid of the College experience really goes against Anglophone ideas of what college is life. The Anglophone world treated college as just as a social institution since the Elizabethan era. This isn’t going to change soon. European universities might emphasize student social life yet but they had their fraternities, student clubs, and other social activities like dances to a lesser degree.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’d also point out that getting rid of the College experience really goes against Anglophone ideas of what college is life. The Anglophone world treated college as just as a social institution since the Elizabethan era. This isn’t going to change soon.

        It’s already changing. In fact, I think we’re way past the tipping point on that issue. Eg., if the argument for Warren’s “make four year public colleges free” plan is to provide “the college experience” it will get destroyed by just about every faction of the electorate, including progressives. Even Warren doesn’t go there.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse says:

      if you’re poor or working class, college education is 4 years of job training, but if you’re middle class or better, college is still like the movies, that’s a good way to create even more instability and radicalism.

      Further cementing the fact that most people with BAs have no clue what the STEM programs are like.Report

      • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


        I’ll say ditto wrt the idea that you can go to any local university for a degree and it’s all the same. For STEM, esp engineering, this is not the case. Nor is the idea that ‘sleep-away college’ is an option to be sneered at as a bad/unnecessary decision.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

          That too, but I was working on the idea that somehow the “College Experience” is some manner of Positional Good, and those who don’t get it suffer in some way. Madison is known as a party school, and I tell you, I experienced very little of that kind of typical college experience, because Engineering demands so much of your time, that you have little free time for other crap. My peers who indulged in ‘The College Experience’ either gave it up pretty quick, never made it past Sophomore year, or switched majors to a non-STEM program.Report

          • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Yep. The Big Ten school I went to for undergrad had a rep for partying, but it was mostly the majors in business and telecom (who had classes only on Tues and Thurs so they could party Fri-Mon). I didn’t know anyone in engineering who did more than a night out to celebrate the end of finals, because you were only admitted to the college of engineering as a junior and had to have the grades from the weed out classes to qualify. Though non-STEM majors in the Honors program also didn’t party much.

            My oldest is going into data science and part of her decision in selecting a college came from reading reviews in which people complained that her first choice had no social life, because most students weren’t into Greek life or parties, and there few places to drink unless you went way off campus. Her reaction: Bonus! I won’t have to deal with lots of drunk idiots.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

              We lived near the Engineering Campus for the same reason, it was quiet on that end of campus (except on game days, Camp Randall Stadium was right next to the Engineering campus). My wife didn’t always appreciate the extra distance she had to travel to get to her classes, but we both appreciated not having to complain constantly about parties at all hours.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

          But yes, if you just want a run-of-the mill BA/BS, chances are good that most schools will serve well enough. But most STEM degrees, and for anyone who intends to go to grad school or get a professional degree, your undergrad alma mater can matter, a lot.Report

          • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            True. And there are other considerations too. I went to an out of state college b/c that was where I got a scholarship. I did have to work to pay for living expenses, but it was still less expensive than going to the closest university with an engineering program, especially since I would have needed to find the funds to buy a car and pay insurance, gas, etc. Living on campus away from home, I only had to buy tickets on Greyhound to come home over winter break.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

              Heck, I lived off campus, but only by about 4 blocks. Our little Saturn SL2 lasted forever because we only drove it on the weekends for grocery shopping at Woodman’s, and the occasional road trip to see family/do something. We could walk or bike everywhere else.Report

              • Avatar bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I lived off campus my last two years b/c I had enough friends to go in on a house rental that worked out cheaper than the dorm. It was about 3 blocks from campus. I biked or took the bus for anything that wasn’t a trip home.

                Senior year, I got my mom’s old Chevy Nova when she got a new(er) car. I used that for an internship that I couldn’t have gotten to w/o a car. But I guess my point is that when you consider cost at home isn’t always cheaper. If home is 20 miles from campus, you need a reliable car and that isn’t an insignificant expense. Paying gas, maintenance, and the cost of insurance adds up too, so the idea that staying on campus is only for the ‘college experience’ doesn’t take a lot of factors into account.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

                Hell, the cost and hassle of parking on campus could be prohibitive on it’s own. IIRC at Madison, a parking pass way the hell out on the very edge of campus was $700 a semester, at that was in the late 90’s.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                My experience is the only way university parking on campus is affordable for students is to be a faculty brat and ride in with your parents. As a faculty brat, I got really good at gaming the system thusly. Unfortunately in resulted in a number of professors from a number of departments attending my graduate defense.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse says:

      But, it seems that folks don’t really want to get rid of The College Experience. They just want it to exist, but only if you can pay for it, including at public schools. Which seems to be the worst of both worlds.

      Should Disneyland be free?

      Why should only Make-A-Wish kids get to go there at no cost?

      A discussion.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse says:

      Upthread, there’s some talk bout how the College Experience is Bad, and that we shouldn’t be paying for it.

      I see the talk about how the College Experience is not a public good, but that’s different from saying that it’s *BAD*.

      There are plenty of things that are good that we shouldn’t offload onto everybody to pay for (and if you disagree, that means that you think they’re bad).Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jesse says:

      If you say that people with college degrees have higher earning potential and that’s why everyone should go to college, then you agree that college education is 4 years of job training.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jesse says:

      Jesse (and anyone else who wants to answer),

      Let’s say hypothetically that we converted a bunch of universities into a system of spartan universities that were free to attend, but people of means – and people willing to take out loans – could still attend regular schools and get the full college experience.

      Would that be acceptable or unacceptable to you?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        Could we call them “community” colleges or something?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Will Truman says:

        I suspect this is the direction you are going Will, but we have those now: they’re called community colleges.Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          The only caveat is that in Many states they are not (yet) 4 year bachelors degree granting institutions. Which means that while that can and do fill an economically valuable niche, they are not going to give the same level of education as a 4 year school. So either there has to be public investment to bring said schools up to that level, or a recognition in our funding stream and policy discussions that they are not actually the solution.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Philip H says:

            5 out of 6 high school seniors have access to a 2 or 4 year college. If it’s two years and they work (and save) during that period, doesn’t that make the last two years at an away school more attainable?Report

            • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Maybe yes, maybe no. I didn’t have that option growing up in Louisiana – we didn’t get community colleges until after I completed my Masters at LSU. Granted, the LSU system had (and still has) what amount to buffed up community colleges in its satellite campuses (LSU_Shreveport, LSU-Eunice, LSU-Alexandria, etc). but access to the campuses was not a given, and most either required driving some distance each day or living away from home. That’c since been remedied in the more urban parishes, but much of the state still lacks a two year AA degree level option, and the state legislature refuses to raise revenues to allow for it to build out.

              Where I now live in Mississippi there are multi-county community colleges, but they are very trade heavy (as I think they should be), which again means that if you want to pursue a subject for most BA/BS degreed you still have to commute or live away from home.

              Now that’s two states out of 50, and two semi-rural southern states at that with long histories of poorly funding public education at all levels. Yet I suspect if you look around, you still find the dynamics in play.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Philip H says:

                5 out of 6 high school seniors live close enough to a 2-4 year college to stay at home. I get that there are areas where it is harder but things can be done to mitigate that. Kids can go to school part-time and save money. Kids can go to school full-time and save money. I’ll give you a good example. IU Southeast, near me, is $7,000 year for room & board. A kid could work a part-time job for $10/hour and during their two years of community college save up enough to live on campus for two years. If they get Pell grants, it’s even easier.

                Point is, you can still do college debt-free but it takes hard work and sacrifice. I’m not sure why this conversation keeps sounding like we are bad people for suggesting that.Report

              • Avatar Jesse in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                The biggest problem with your argument is the assumption that many kids, especially lower and working class kids can do what you’re saying.

                For all of my other issues with you, Mike, you seem like a great parent.

                Many parents aren’t that and if their kid isn’t going to college and more importantly, isn’t going far away from college where they don’t live at home, they’re either start telling that kid that if they want to live at home, some of the proceeds form that part-time job goes into the household, either because the parents need it or because they can do it or even worse, parents and extended family pressure the kid to just start working instead of actually ever saving to go to school in the first place.

                My other argument is basically this – hard work & sacrifice is fine, if it’s needed, but it’s not something that we need to have exist just because some people like it.

                It used to take “hard work and sacrifice” to have any retirement. Now, even if you’re a total loser who barely keeps a job, you still get Social Security because society has determined that to be a good.

                There’s no reason the richest, most powerful nation in the history of the planet can’t afford a system where community college + 2nd & 3rd tier level universities are basically free at the point of cost, other than a belief that people need to “sacrifice” to earn the right to even go to college.

                If everybody who had to sacrifice to accomplish something stopped the next generation from accomplishing things easier, we’d still be stuck in the past.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:

                Man, you are picking the wrong person to tell that sad story to. I was a father at 19. The only help I got with college was my dad telling me to get good grades and a pat on the back. No one helped me with applications, took me on college visits, etc. It was all on me. Both my parents were college drop-outs. I was only the second person in my family to get a BA (my sister was the first). I paid child support, rent, worked full-time and covered my tuition. It took 10 years and it SUCKED a lot of the time. i wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone.

                But I did it. And I’m not bragging about that. I’m just stating a fact.

                You want to keep seeing barriers that only the government can knock down. I tend to think Randy Pausch had it all figured out:


              • Avatar Jesse in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Yes, I understand I’m never going to convince you, since in your worldview, since it was hard for you and you succeeded, there’s no reason to attempt to make things easier, since you pulled it off.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:

                There’s lots of ways to make things easier that aren’t quite so…liberal. You can offer incentives to employers for creating flexible schedules for employees in college. I had flexible employers and it allowed me to adjust my schedule for classes and my archaeology internship.

                You can also make Pell grants more available and keep them ties to good grades. I relied on Pell grants for much of college and keeping that money flowing was definitely an incentive to study hard.

                We could increase tax credits for students. My wife and I put a lot of money aside for college for our daughters but getting a bigger tax return also kept that train rolling.

                There are also lots of other things that would help. Transportation credits for shuttles, tax deductions for mileage and repairs on vehicles, controlling the cost of textbooks, etc.

                All of these things can be done without Warren’s handout or making college free. Tax incentives require someone to do something in order to reap the benefits. Warren’s plan only requires that they get themselves into severe debt through bad decisions and then she will swoop in with her magic wand to make it go away.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Only sort of. They do describe the type of atmosphere I am envisioning, but community colleges are only two-year institutions, aren’t free, and often don’t offer housing (spartan or otherwise).I’m thinking of something that would close that gap but would otherwise not really compete with the Division I type schools.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

            Along with Saul’s comment below, using sports terminology when talking about colleges does hint at one of the issue here. College sports ( well football mostly and basketball) are a major part of the college experience for some and greatly distort what college is/can be/should be.

            I was a D3 athlete in college and that was a good experience and also didn’t turn school into just the thing i did when we weren’t playing hockey. Just getting rid of football and basketball would solve a lot of positional good talk ( both the good points and the rabid overuse of the phrase).Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

              College sports is more of an indicator than a major cost driver. I may actually write about this at a later date (as part of the situation in Tulsa right now). If you’re serious about having a low-cost option, it’s in the class of things you are going to cut funding for (there may be a team – even community colleges have them – but it would be more comparable to your D3 experience) but as an individual line item it doesn’t actually get you very far.Report

          • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Will Truman says:

            It sounds like you are describing the California State system. Mostly commuter schools, some dorms, 4-year degree with some graduate programs…

            Not free though, nor should they be unless we want 13-16 grades (with a lot of dropouts)Report

            • Cal State is relatively inexpensive for blue state higher ed system, but it nonetheless pretty far from free. Sacramento State is about $9k per year for tuition, fees, and supplies. Which is still considerable (and that doesn’t include other expenses).

              (By way of comparison, the University of Oregon is $13k and Portland State $10k, University of Illinois $16k and Illinois-Springfield $13k)Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Will Truman says:

                Oh, I am not saying it shouldn’t be cheaper, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t the most expensive. To keep it in perspective, UO is the flagship for the state and PSU is a commuter school. Sac, while in the capital, has UCD just minutes outside of town, and the true flagship Cal is only two hours away (plus traffic.) California is not doing too poorly in this regard.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Will Truman says:

        Here in California, we used to call such a place “The University of California”.Report

      • Avatar Jesse in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’d be perfectly OK with all public universities in America basically looking like your average college or university in Switzerland, France, the UK, etc. Which is why I think ‘spartan’ is the wrong descriptor, but as a stand in for “something like an average European university,” OK.

        But, like I said below, if we’re getting rid of the rock climbing walls, the fancier dorms, etc. that also means no more massive stadiums for football or basketball teams, no more Greek system, no more various public-private partnerships which basically act as subsidies to corporations, etc.

        Now, the actual issue with this, also like I said below, is European universities don’t really have competition. There is no Oberlin or NYU or various other expensive liberal arts colleges doing things to attract “customers” away from public universities, especially tier 1 ones that make the public universities respond.

        Ironically, the supposedly incredibly crazy left-wing liberal arts schools are the ones most acting like competitive actors in an economy.

        Because the truth is, your average second or third tier state university doesn’t look like the campus at Pepperdine. Because nobody is going to go to Northwestern instead of the third tier Wisconsin state university.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse says:

          basically looking like your average college or university in Switzerland, France, the UK, etc.

          They’re called “Community Colleges” here.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:


          “…that also means no more massive stadiums for football or basketball teams, no more Greek system…”

          Why do I suspect that is more of a punitive policy suggestion than one based in actual need?Report

          • Avatar Jesse in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            I think we waste far more money in tertiary university funding on all the things, both direct and around sports and the Greek culture than are supposedly wasted on making dorms or student unions nicer, so yes, if we’re going to punitively say, “one bedroom dorms are a waste. Everybody has a roommate,” then yes, I see no reason to waste money on multi-million dollar contracts for sports.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jesse says:

          So either all state schools go this route or it’s unacceptable?

          Obviously there is less control over private schools but would you try to do anything there?Report

          • Avatar Jesse in reply to Will Truman says:

            I don’t think it’s unacceptable, but telling a massive group of students that at a public school, “hey, if you go to this public school, it’s basically some crappy apartments, a cafeteria, and some classrooms (being slightly hyperbolic, but you get my point), but if you go to this public university, it’s still Shangri-La, that’s not going to go well in the long run.

            Obviously, not every public school has everything, even today, but again, part of the reason for the expansion in stuff at public schools is other public schools are doing those things, in competition with private schools.

            As far as private schools go, if we’re not going to go the Oxford/Cambridge route (ie. nationalize them), then a strong tax on endowments, etc. is all that can be done.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jesse says:

              I think it would go over about as well as now, what with the existence of community colleges and third-tier state universities in Wisconsin. We already accept quite a bit of variance. The free track might not be quite as good as those options, but it would be free.

              I bring this up because the way that I would probably go about “free college” would probably be a take-it-or-leave-it for universities. Here is what we are giving you to educate these students. If you are willing to do so, great. If you are not, then you don’t get any money at all from this fund.

              My suspicion is that the University of Texas at Austin would not take that money but (especially as they start struggling to maintain enrollment numbers) that Tarleton State would start figuring out how to make it work.

              My hope is that even if UTexas doesn’t do it, it’ll still apply enough cost pressure that we might see slowing cost growth there, too, as part of a cascading effect.

              There would be a lot of details to work out, but that’s basically the model.Report

              • Avatar Jesse in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’m perfectly OK with there being “better” schools. My problem is that at the moment, there are better schools, but the general feeling from some who want change things is they want a world where the message is, “oh, you’re poor or working class and want a better life? OK, you can go to college, but you damn well better not enjoy too much of it.”

                Which is why I call it Europeanization instead of spartan. I bet your average kid who goes to college to a regional German university probably has something close to The College Experience of bad parties, questionable life decisions, and lots of BSing with friends that somebody at a regional American university does, they just don’t have to get tens of thousands in loans to even go to the regional American university.

                Upthread, you pointed to Sacramento State (at 9k) as a good deal for students. I have doubts Sacramento State is overrun by the overspending on useless stuff that other colleges are supposedly doing? So, why are we making kids go into debt? Largely because of a blip in American politics where incredibly cheap ‘European’ colleges were able to be eliminated due to political power held by a certain group of folks.

                So, would your idea be better than our current system? Sure.

                I’d prefer a system where we’d forgive debt, put actual cost controls on public schools on the things that are actually causing cost inflation as opposed to what we “think” on both sides is causing it (in reality, neither nicer dorms or football teams is why top tier public state universities cost a lot of money), then make those public universities free.

                Also, get rid of FAFSA and other things that gatekeep and means test access to public universities on things like means testing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse says:

                OK, you can go to college, but you damn well better not enjoy too much of it.

                We have a host of people who are screaming that the degrees that they got are not worth what they paid for them.

                Is the proper response to their complaint “yes, yes it was”?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jesse says:

                “oh, you’re poor or working class and want a better life? OK, you can go to college, but you damn well better not enjoy too much of it.”

                For my part I see a lot of resistance to an inevitable inegalitarianism. Not a future one of a changed system but the one we pretty much have now that isn’t going away by throwing more money at the system. (Warren has said free college, but hasn’t said much cost control that I’ve seen… which I fear she has left out for a reason.)

                I bet your average kid who goes to college to a regional German university probably has something close to The College Experience

                I actually agree with this and almost commented along these lines. Community colleges would have most of the things if we just threw in some dorms.

                Upthread, you pointed to Sacramento State (at 9k) as a good deal for students.

                FTR, that wasn’t my point. My point was that even though it was less than a lot of other blue state universities (and some red ones) that it was still a pretty significant amount of money (‘considerable”).

                I’d prefer a system where we’d forgive debt, put actual cost controls on public schools on the things that are actually causing cost inflation

                What do you have in mind here? My inclination is not to micromanage it, focusing instead on the total amount. My view is that it’s not so much that tuition is going up because they’re spending money on A, B, and C… but rather they are extracting what they can and money made is money spent (to the endowment if nothing else). And then schools with access to less money struggle to compete with those with access to more to attract the students and personnel they want (among other things). Since I believe the spending problem to be literally just about everything, I’m not sure how well you can target specific things. (I’m also not sure how you prevent money going into the system that the system is clearly capable of extracting… it’s hard to get people and organizations to accept less than they know they can get… but I still think that’s the better approach.)Report

              • Avatar Jesse in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think Warren left out cost control for the same reason Bernie doesn’t mention how he’ll pay for Medicare for All and the same reason why the ACA was killed in the polls until people used it – people don’t want to hear about the downsides of a policy, even if they’re actually OK w/ the downsides in reality.

                Like, I don’t think if you fed truth serum to Warren, she’d be like, “I have no issues with how colleges spend their money. We just need it all to be free.”

                “What do you have in mind here? My inclination is not to micromanage it, focusing instead on the total amount.”

                I think there is administrative bloat (again, probably in different areas the some people here see administrative bloat), and various other things.

                However, I’m not going to focus on our differences at the moment.

                Because, here’s the thing – if 2024 Republican Candidate X said, “The cost of college is too high and as a result, instead of Pell Grants and student loans for public schools, we’re going to give public schools a flat amount of money (accounting for local COL, etc.) and set a ceiling on tuition to accept this flat amount of money,” would I have quibbles with the plan and would I likely think the set amount is too low?


                Same thing w/ Mike upthread talking about his issues w/ various Republican Governors cutting education funding. I’d probably disagree a lot w/ Mike on what he would spend and cut, but at least we both agree what the current GOP doing is bad.

                But, in either case, it’d be far better than virtually every single current right-leaning plan for education, which is sort of the problem as I’ve said before.

                There are plenty of center-right people in America. But, there is no center-right party. As I’ve said before, I’d never vote for any of the European center-right parties, but if I lived in those countries, I’d never feel threatened by them winning an election.

                With the modern GOP, it’s always the worst case proposition.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:


                According to millennials, we already have a glut of college graduates now. Where is the incentive to create more of them?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                It depends on what you see college as being for.

                If the point of college is to help train a person to teach themselves, to expose them to art, history, and culture that they’d never experience otherwise, and turn them from a smaller person into a bigger one, then we need every single person to go to college.

                If the point of college is obsolete career training, altered consciousness training, with some sexual experimentation mixed in… well, yeah, we probably have a glut. We certainly don’t need to subsidize it. Let people pay for it themselves.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

                I like the first example, but how many people obtain a four-year degree and never actually do any of that?Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:


              “…telling a massive group of students that at a public school, “hey, if you go to this public school, it’s basically some crappy apartments, a cafeteria, and some classrooms (being slightly hyperbolic, but you get my point), but if you go to this public university, it’s still Shangri-La, that’s not going to go well in the long run.”

              It took me 10 years to finish college because I didn’t have the money to do it faster. All of my friends went away to school while I stayed in town. I had a great college experience, but if I could have done it faster or gotten to go away to school but the price was less frills, I would have signed up. I think you put waaaay too much importance on the intangible aspects of college and not enough on the end product.

              I will also add that I went to a very, very good prep school and it was about as no-frills as it gets, which is why I could afford my tuition myself bagging groceries at the local supermarket. Frills are overrated.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Jesse says:

          @jesse Do the Greek’s cost schools money?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

            Do settlements count?Report

          • Avatar Jesse in reply to greginak says:

            It goes back to the cycle of creating colleges as something you spend four years having fun at.

            Which if we actually think this is a bad thing, then we should do our best to eliminate all the things that create The College Experience, instead of just the things that commenters in this thread see as non-usefulReport

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Jesse says:

              @jesse Meh. Lets not fall into a silly dichotomy between college as either Fun vs. Education. Ideally you can and should have both. Greeks irrelevant to the discussion.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jesse says:

              How many people believe it’s actively a bad thing vs believe that it is not a thing so good as to be subsidized on a wide scale? Most people I know fall into the latter camp. Those who fall into the former tend to be outside the discussion anyway because they send their kids to religious colleges. (But I haven’t read every comment in this thread.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

                There are a *TON* of education-related things that I think should be subsidized on a wide-scale.

                Most of them are (or ought to be) covered by high school, though.

                The fact that they aren’t is an indictment of high school, in my mind. Without making high-school better, I can’t even imagine wanting to make college more like high school.

                One of the good things about college is that it’s *NOT* like high school.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

                This. My grandparents went to a trade school for high school, which was where they met. My grandfather became a bookbinder and my grandmother became a seamstress. If they could learn skills that would carry them into the middle class after graduation, why can’t high schoolers learn some basic skills as well? And to be fair, my daughters can do basic stuff in Excel and Power Point and balance checkbooks thanks to high school, but it would also be cool if there was more money for them to learn how to run the big machines at the factory or inspect airplane parts or [fill in the blank].Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

        I don’t know how this would work because the good flagships schools are also the ones with highly-paid sports coaches. I find it shocking that in many states, the highest paid state employees are sports coaches. But if you can manage to do this at Michigan, Alabama, Cal, etc, you deserve a prize! Those schools specifically. Bigflagships with good reputations, the public ivies.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Yeah I don’t think you’re going to get buy in from flagships, so I think you would need to work around them.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Sports coaches are paid so well because they’re part of the advertising budget. “Now that we got so-and-so coaching we’re DEFINITELY gonna win! Put me down for another eight season tickets and two RV parking spots for the tailgate!”Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jesse says:

      I think lots of people who hate this plan will be up-in-arms if we said we were going to eliminate college sports completely.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        If sports are causing the price of tuition to go up, sure, cut them. But is that actually happening?Report

        • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          In general, I don’t think so. They are usually paid (mostly*) by boosters. As are many other such things, like performing arts centers. Development officers are a big part of the whole schema.

          *faculty and admin positions are part of the campus pay scale, as coaches, conductors, etc are often tenured and have a class or two to teach. And as the programs are open to students admin positions are part of the university. But money for stadiums and centers, along with travel and paying for visiting acts, is generally separate. This is, of course, for public schools, and I have no idea how a private school would handle such a functionReport

        • Avatar Jesse in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          It’s not sports, but it’s everything connected to sports.

          Basically, it’s economic competition in action.

          In most European countries, there aren’t really private schools the way there are in the US (even Oxford is a public university even though it used to be private), so there is no ‘competition’ over getting students to apply for one school for another.

          The main reason why The College Experience is getting more and more expensive is in part, that’s what the market is telling people. If you’re an admissions officer at State U, you’re not creating a rock climbing wall because you think it’s cool.

          You’re creating a rock climbing wall because Expensive Private School X is creating a rock climbing wall and you’re losing customers to that college, so you have to catch up to that school, especially since the kid going to Expensive Private School X is far more likely to be able to pay more in tuition than the working class kid who doesn’t care about the extra things as such.

          In general though, my talking about “sports” is more a general idea that most of what is considered “extra” by the people talking about how colleges are too nice is basically things coded either as young or wasteful (ie. climbing walls, better dorms, etc.). OTOH, if we really want a ‘spartan experience’ (even though a better descriptor in my view would be European), we’d also get rid of the Greek system, well funded sports, and other various things that alumni, rich donors, more conservative students, etc. enjoy quite a bit.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jesse says:

            So I’m not sure how any of that actually relates to college athletics then. I will admit to my bias here because the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky sports programs are lifeblood to the people of the Commonwealth. They are cultural institutions that drive donations to the university, community pride, economic investment, etc. I see them as a huge net good.Report

            • Avatar greginak in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Big time college sports are positional goods. I’ll admit i think the PG term is way overused, but here it is appropriate. People love to have local/state U be a champion so that twists the incentives of schools. Coaches are paid more than anyone else,giant gyms are built for the teams and standards are bent for them. And far, far more kids go to a school for the PG of a good team then go to the Ivy’s or Stanford.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:

                I wonder if more posters here can identify with the kid who goes to the party school to party instead of the immigrant kids whose parents push them to HYPS. Or the other kids who grow up in cultures where getting into the top-tier schools is just what is done.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jesse says:

            The other avenue for college admissions is foreign students who want the cache of an American degree but don’t have the grades for the really competitive schools. The undergrad wing of the University of San Francisco (private, Jesuit) seems to have a lot undergrads from China who are very rich* and sometimes have questionable English skills.**

            *They drive nicer cars than even rich American college students.

            **I heard that a higher-level admin needed to resign over this from inside sources.Report

            • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              I thought of mentioning this in the other thread about whether Republicans have a higher education plan. Some Republicans brag about how Mitch Daniels has held the line on costs as President of Purdue. What he did was freeze tuition, cut in-state admissions, increase foreign admissions.

              If he keeps this up, Purdue will be a profit-center for the State of Indiana. What else is best in life?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to PD Shaw says:

                I have a friend who works for a small company that recruits wealthy foreigners to go to the school in the US. It’s staggering how much money exchanges hands and how much of a salary he is raking in. Channeling some of that money back into the university seems pretty smart.

                Geez I wish Mitch would have run for president 🙁Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse says:

            Thing is, it’s a signalling thing, not really a market thing. UI isn’t competing that much with Harvard, because Harvard isn’t growing. HYPS can absorb a fixed number of students per year, and that’s it. That is the case with pretty much every campus, especially most of the elite private schools, who don’t want to dilute their brand.

            Public schools are competing, after a fashion, with other public schools, and against lower cost private schools (your for-profits) but in that regard, they are really just trying to get Out-of-State students to come.

            The only way it’s really competitive is if there are less qualified students than there are places for them at Universities. The schools that can’t keep the dorms filled? Are they losing out because there aren’t enough students, or because they cost more than they are worth? I mean, climbing gyms are nice, but the fact the your school had a climbing gym isn’t something any of your future employers, or academic institutions, will care about.Report

            • It’s competitive when universities seek to raise the threshold for what qualifies as “qualified”, though*. So in that sense they are all always competing.

              * – My school considers it a point of pride that it now rejects 40% of applicants. This further means that the median SAT, class ranking, and so on is higher than it used to be.Report

            • Avatar Jesse in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              This is again oversimplistic, and is about far more than a climbing gym, but yes, they may not care if you have a climbing gym specifically, but if school A adds a climbing gym in 2005 while school B doesn’t and as a result, they get better students (because it turns out 18 year olds, even poorer 18 year olds care about more than just academic prestige), and school A is ranked higher 10 years in 2015 than school B because those better students are doing better in their after school metrics, that does matter.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jesse says:

                This is right. At least, it’s an accurate description of the perceptions driving the behavior. It’s not certain how true it is. It’s pretty intensely debated when it comes to athletics programs.Report

              • Avatar Jesse in reply to Will Truman says:

                My actual better example would be, “School A builds ‘fancy’ new dorms with larger rooms, etc. School B doesn’t.” and the same thing happens, but I didn’t want to move the goalposts on Oscar’s exampleReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse says:

                “…they get better students…”

                I don’t know if they are ‘better’ students, or just students who can afford to pay more. And rankings are such a colossal and meaningless mess it’s not even funny.

                But yes, they school is able to signal that it is better.

                However, given we have a student debt crisis, I don’t think those after school metrics are as good.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Eliminating sports would also be pretty dim because it’s one of the few parts of most colleges that actually makes money (in the sense that alumni buy expensive season tickets, RV parking passes, stadium snacks and drinks, theme gear for the whole family…)Report

        • Not most colleges, but some. For the rest it is, as you say, advertising budget for the university as a whole.


        • Avatar Jesse in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Being somewhat simplistic, but if you’re spending (made up numbers here) $10 million on sports, you get $2 million in profit, and even if that $2 million is all injected into the science department, why don’t we just spend the $10 million on the science department in the first place?

          Are there a few schools where it is an actual money maker? Sure. But, if we took all the money spent on athletics in this country, then looked at the combined profit that actually went back to the schools for the entire country, it’d basically look like a pointless endeavourReport

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse says:

            Using your made up numbers (and adding some of my own):

            Start out with $100 million.
            Spend $10 mil on sports.
            Current amount in pocket: $90 mil.
            Get $12 mil back.
            Current amount in pocket: $102 mil.
            Give science dept $2 mil.
            Current amount in pocket: $100 mil.

            vs your plan:

            Start out with $100 million.
            Spend $10 mil on science.
            Current amount in pocket: $90 mil.

            Seems to me that Plan A is sustainable forever.
            Plan B ends at the end of year 10.Report

            • Avatar The question in reply to Jaybird says:

              you’re leaving out with a 10 million dollars in science funding results and some valuable patents because universities do research and occasionally that s*** pays off.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to The question says:

                Gimme a number. How much money has the U of M (whichever one) brought in from its patents?Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

                The University of Michigan brings in about $15M per year in royalties from IP. The University of Nebraska, a much smaller school with a much smaller budget, brings in about $3.5M annually.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

                So I googled “revenue of u of m football”:

                According to the data, in the 2016-17 fiscal year, Michigan’s athletic department had a total revenue of $185,173,187 and total expenses of $175,425,392. That ranked U-M fourth in total revenue generated, behind Texas, Texas A&M and Ohio State.

                That’s less than $10m.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

                Usually the profits from marquee programs (football and basketball) are invested back into athletics to support the programs that don’t make any money like women’s field hockey or swimming.

                I get Jesse’s anger about this one. When I was in college I used to get cranked up about the sports programs getting shiny new things while we were making due with ancient equipment in the archaeology lab. What I eventually came to realize is that you just have to view the athletic program as a separate entity that happens to share the same name as the university.

                And that’s legally true pretty much anywhere. For example, the University of Louisville (academic side) is only allowed to use the Cardinal mascot or logo with permission from the athletic department.Report

              • What I eventually came to realize is that you just have to view the athletic program as a separate entity that happens to share the same name as the university.

                The University of Nebraska is peculiar in that this separation is official. The athletic department is a separate legal entity. By statute, the department cannot receive money from the state government or the academic side of the university.

                The University of Nebraska Foundation, which controls the endowment, is also a separate legal entity and makes decisions about how its money gets spent on campus (and piss off the Regents from time to time because of different priorities). Donations run around $200M per year, significantly more than the athletic department’s annual revenue.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Michael Cain says:

                That’s a similar arrangement to the University of Louisville. My understanding is very little to no money flows back and forth between the two entities. There is some oversight from the university and the board of trustees, but they are mostly maintained separately.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I’ll just butt in her and observe that I don’t think some people arguing this point realize how much TV rights/ networks are worth to the big programs. The big programs are generating huge amounts of revenue for a product that people enjoy without any connection to the schools they watch. It’s why people argue that the player should be paid.

                It’s the middle schools that have division i teams that are paying into the program for promotional, alumni relationship purposes.

                (Hope this doesn’t come across as jerky, because I’m surprised at how college football has changed since I was in school)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Agreed on the middle and smaller schools. My wife attended the smallest D1 school in the country. They are not really competitive in most sports, but it does bring in alumni dollars so it’s a net good for the university.

                We were talking the other day about how to create a sense of school pride in public high schools. I haven’t figured that one out yet but public universities rely on athletics for a big part of that. That pride leads to donations to academics. Same with Greek life. It’s all connected.Report

              • Avatar Philip H in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                My public highschool, mostly African American (even post-desegregation) has an active alumnae association. They have a small historical museum in their offices (A necessity since the original 1920’s era school building is long gone). And It’s not uncommon around town to see Panther Pride stickers alongside LSU or Southern or Grambling State stickers on cars. So its doable.Report

  6. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    There are a lot of assumptions going on here that I think are questionable.

    It is assumed that college will forever be wildly expensive;
    It is assumed that the wages that graduates earn will forever be insufficient to repay this amount in a reasonable time;

    So all the arguments circle around how best to allocate the misery, and to whom. From a political perspective, this is a discussion that can’t possibly end in a good place where everyone believes it is a just outcome.

    I can’t present a solution other than to note how strange it seems, when we regularly hear people chirp about how we are living in an age of abundance where Louis IV would envy the most poor among us.

    And yet… the idea that we as a society could universally provide an education, or healthcare, or high speed transportation, or for that matter clean drinking water, seems like an impossible dream beyond our imagination.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      “It is assumed that college will forever be wildly expensive”

      Aren’t those assumptions being made because Warren doesn’t seem to be talking about it?Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Is anyone talking about how to make college cheaper?

        I’ve never actually seen a persuasive argument as to why the costs have risen so much.

        Some theories are that the availability of easy loans are driving the market up, but that doesn’t account for why state run schools are raising tuition and spending. Its not like they have a board of shareholders who are demanding higher returns.

        Other theories are increased construction of luxury dorms and stadiums, but that can’t account for the across-the-board tuition hikes all across the country.

        I would love to see some accounting of where all the money is going.Report

        • …but that doesn’t account for why state run schools are raising tuition…

          As I say, repeatedly, this one is easy. State budgets are caught between real political limits on the rate their tax revenue can grow, no one but NH is allowed to borrow to pay operating expenses, and K-12 and Medicaid spending are growing faster than total revenues. Every recession is a crisis, and there are two realistic places to cut money: higher ed and roads. The cuts don’t get restored fully, and the slow-motion train wreck continues.

          As long as higher ed can increase tuition, they will.Report

        • As I say above to Jesse, I believe the money is going literally everywhere (except to non-superstar professors’ pockets). We’ve reached a situation where we know how much they can extract and so they do. And then, having extracted it, they find things to spend it on. The wealthier schools find it easiest of course, and then the other schools struggle to keep up with them.

          Public and private, we spend more money on higher ed than anyone else by the most relevant measures. That requires money going just about everywhere.

          And when there is nowhere for it to go, it’ll go to the endowment. My own school’s endowment has increased from $550 to $950 in the last ten years or so. Tuition has raised from about $7k to about $10k.

          So you have a lot of front-facing things, including dormitories and sports and climbing walls and what-have-you. They’re pretty easily justified as ways to attract the best students. And when that’s not the case, you can always pretend that it is. Then you have internal bureaucratic empires. And, of course, endowments that you can show off to other schools and athletic conferences.

          Like Michael says, if they can increase tuition they will. Sometimes to replace lost state funds, but often not even that. Texas and Illinois spent more more money on higher ed in 2012 than in 1987 not just including inflation but including the inflation metrics that they apply to universities specifically. And guess what? Tuition still went up. By a lot. Private schools discovered along the way that higher sticker prices meant that your university became more desirable instead of less.

          So public, private, more state funds, less state funds… they have the helpful ability to extract money from all kinds of different sources (alumni money, state money, private money, student money borrowed…) and so of course they do. And the more important college is considered, the more they can extract. Not just going to college, but going to the absolute best college. Where you will be with the best people. Who will supply you the connections you need.

          (Please note I am not coming at this from a political angle where I am trying to argue that we should end student loans or stop state support or whatever. I don’t support either of those things. To the extent I have an angle, it’s just that cost containment is an extremely important part of the equation because we cannot spend our way out of this. Any plan has to take that into account. I gave one example above of one that does, but there are others.)Report

          • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Will Truman says:

            One thing that gets missed in these conversations is the back end requirements that need to be met, also known as regulations, and the effects of time on university needs; upgrading infrastructure.

            When many people here were going to school, there was not as much of a regulatory burden on the campus. This has changed, and in my eyes for the better. OSHA doesn’t treat a university any different for safety needs, as much as many profs would like, and those increased needs – ADA requirements, EPA regs, etc – all have a cost. Also, grad students can no longer be treated as students if they met certain requirements, they are now employees. And that adds to the cost. Now as time has moved on, and the number of computers has increased exponentially, the infrastructure has to be upgraded. An IT department must be created to deal with this. And that is just the tip of the Iceberg.

            As they are universities, the hiring and work process are determined by the state, which means state rules.

            And there is also a siloing effect on how money is spent. Often each college at a university will have its own HR dept, with its own methods of doing things. And this adds to the expense, as there is so much overlap and duplicate work. The UC system has implemented a plan to deal with this, over the next decade or so, UCPath, but it is being fought tooth and nail at almost every level.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Will Truman says:

            I can’t argue with any of this, other than to say this seems to reinforce my sense that the demand for college education is not being driven by a rational need for the skills, so much as it is driven by the fact that the diploma certification is demanded by the labor market.

            And the credential demand seems driven by the softness of the labor market; If you can demand a diploma for a receptionist or barista, why not?

            Which then just comes back to my image of the pool of labor demand shrinking, and the laborers engaged in an ever-more frantic scramble for a place at the water’s edge.Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    I’m going to quibble a bit. I agree that the Warren plan is a transfer downward from the uber wealthy but I object the assertion that this transfer is going to benefit the working poor. I suppose it would benefit those who have started college, flunked out and ended up working poor but the majority of the beneficiaries will be middle class and upward students and I think it’s rather blatant base stealing to suggest otherwise. The working poor by and large aren’t going to university and aren’t ending up with large student debt. This is a program that would redound heavily to the benefit of middle class and upward students. I’m not sure if this is a bad thing, necessarily, but I feel like the truly poor are being used as a fig leaf here.

    I’d also like to join in the objection that this plan is, fundamentally, a palliative one. It transfers money from the uber-rich and gives it to the middle class and more indirectly it gives it to the middle class’s lenders and the universities that they ran up the debt to in the first place. Since Warrens plan has absolutely nothing in it that would change any of the dynamics or incentives it would, in the long run, make the problem worse since students would have even less compunction about borrowing money and lenders/universities even less compunction about raising prices and lending money since both groups would very rationally reason that if the student debt got worse then the government would step in with another bail out.

    I don’t know that I oppose the plan exactly. I feel, rather, that it is a pure carrot proposal and that it is incomplete. Missing from Warren’s proposal is any form of stick that will land on the responsible entities who are benefitting from the current situation. Some kind of policy that takes aim at universities administrative bloat (and the horrific distortions that bloated administration is throwing out) and the financial sucking hole that is the whole “campus experience” is badly needed to pair with this proposal before it would strike me as supportable. That said, this is a campaign proposal so it’s entirely possible that the “stick” element is something that would need to be fashioned during the legislative bargaining phase. If there was a second functional party that could play the role of a sober opposition party in this country instead of the festering deranged wound that is the GOP I’d feel a lot better about Warrens idea. Unfortunately in the absence of such a party the Dems will have to play both roles.

    I’d like to emphasize that opportunity cost is real- I am not, in principle, opposed to gouging the uber-rich. If Warrens funding tax is feasible then those funds could be directed to a lot of possible causes and I think a lot of them are more defensible and beneficial than merely providing a no strings attached cash infusion into academia.Report

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Something that hasn’t come up yet but there is a value in “Go big or go home.” Elizabeth Warren has a lot of big policy proposals and I like that about her.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      It may, to be a cynic, also be the case that her numbers are foundering relative to expectations and she needs to do something or else pack it in. And I observe this as a fan (albeit one who’d prefer she remain in the Senate).Report

  9. Warren’s plan is garbage from start to finish:

    1) Contra your assertion that this transfers wealth to the “working poor” it transfers it mainly to upper middle class. A Mayor Pete has pointed out, college graduates are one of the wealthiest demographics in the country.

    2) This is about the third or fourth thing Warren is paying for with her wealth tax, an idea that is so bad Sweden abandoned it a decade ago as an unworkable, economy-killing mess. Only four countries have one anymore because it’s such a disaster. It’s also almost certainly unconstitutional. Estimates of how much money it will bring in range from a couple of trillion (starry-eyed pet economists) to a few hundred billion (realistic center think tanks) to a few tens of billions (crusty conservative think tanks).

    3) Warren does nothing to control college costs, which have been spiraling badly. And a big driver of that has been federal money pouring into higher ed. Dave Burge put it best:

    College: an education is $20,000
    Student: I can’t afford that!
    Feds: Here’s $5000 to help you afford college.
    Student: Great!
    College: An education is now $25,000

    4) Warren ignores that countries that provide free college exert direct control of costs (which would be illegal in this country, since most are state-chartered) or send WAY fewer people to college.

    So Warren’s proposal would utilize an unworkable unconstitutional tax to throw yet more money at one of the most over-priced industries in the county with no cost controls, inflating one of the biggest bubbles in American history in order to water down the value of a college degree even further.

    (Note: it’s not even clear how much of a problem this is. Everyone talks about students with six-figure debt, but the typical student debt is more like $20-30,000 or the price of car. That doesn’t seem that horrible.)

    In other words, it’s a typical Warren proposal: cribbed directly from progressive wish lists, praised by those progressives because their own words are being repeated back to them, poorly thought out, inevitably going to create more problems than it solves and expensive.

    My days of not taking Warren as a wonk seriously are certainly coming to a middle.

    (If you want to solve the student debt problem, there’s a better way: make loans dischargeable in bankruptcy and remove the fed guarantee. Make colleges eat the unpaid balances to encourage them to be more efficient and to give out useful degrees. That doesn’t buy votes he way Warren’s proposal does, unfortunately and won’t get anyone undeserved praise. But it might have the advantage of actually working).Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      Student loans are by their nature, unsecured and students are by their nature financially insolvent.

      Making them dischargeable through bankruptcy actually introduces moral hazard- after all, deliberately letting the unsecured loan go into bankruptcy still leaves the borrower in full possession of the education, but the lender is stuck without recourse.

      So no one would ever make a student loan, and tuition would once again be a cash up front deal. And the number of people attending college would certainly fall dramatically.

      But then that just raises the question once again- Do we as a nation really need this many people to go to college in the first place?

      What if the pool of STEM graduates, humanities majors, business majors were to shrink to just a handful of wealthy kids, which is kind of how things were in the pre-WWII era? How would the business world cope or react?Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Like I said, no matter what you do, it will result in some manner of negative consequence.

        Let the students discharge the debt, lenders get cold feet.

        Let the lenders kick the bad debt back to the school(s), and schools will get cold feet.

        Either way, the effect falls upon the lower income student trying to get ahead, just like it is right now.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Who is hardest hit right now?

          I’d say people who get “some college” and drop out with $10,000 (or more) worth of debt.

          We good with that?

          Because I don’t see that changing under Warren’s new system.Report

      • Getting rid of the student loan system — which is merely way for the US gov to finance higher ed through a different kind of tax system — is a feature not a bug.


      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Other countries discharge student loans in bankruptcy. Canada after 7 years I believe, and Canada has the highest college attainment rates in the world (54%).Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to PD Shaw says:

          We used to do that too. I recall it was one of the reasons listed for “reform” of bankruptcy laws in the first place.

          And trust me, I’m ok with stiffing the banks. I’m just probing for an idea of where we want this all to go.
          Is it to make college more strictive, available to fewer people? Or make it easier and more available?

          How do people acquire job skills and education for the 21st century jobs? Heck, what will those jobs even look like?

          Right now all the conversation seems depressingly crabbed and limited to “who do we want to hurt the most”.

          There is a dearth of any vision of anything that might be better or hold any improvement.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            How do people acquire job skills and education for the 21st century jobs?

            OJT used to be a thing. Hell, I’m sure it still is. They just have colleges do light socially acceptable pre-weeding now.

            I think that something like Lambda School will be the model for the future. They get a piece of your income (over a certain amount and capped at a much higher amount) for two years. No money up front.

            The appeal is that if you go from $30,000 a year (full time minimum wage) to $50000 (the minimum amount where they start skimming), you’re still taking home a larger paycheck… and you’re only on the hook for two years.

            Right now all the conversation seems depressingly crabbed and limited to “who do we want to hurt the most”.

            People are already being hurt to a huge degree. Don’t see it as people wanting to add hurt to the system. See it as people seeing massive hurt inequality and wanting it to be redistributed.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Well, let’s be honest here, part of the problem is that we’ve collectively decided that High School should no longer involve any kind of technical or life skills training and she be fully dedicated to prepping kids for an academic path.

            We all bemoan the loss of High school art and music (as we should), but what about all the empty shop classes? How many schools even have basic Home Ec or Personal Finance classes? It’s all about academic prep, and even that is largely found wanting (given how many colleges still need to push kids through remedial classes). And even the schools that offer non-academic classes seem to force kids to choose between academics or VocTech.

            College is required because we’ve decided it must be so.Report

  10. Avatar Ozzzzy! says:

    Maybe this is a procedural item (so I’ve definitely come to the right place), but the department of education is funding/backstopping the vast majority of student debt.

    Is their power to change rules an executive or congressional thing? And could a president just instruct the doj to not go after delinquent loans, thus rendering them effectively orphaned?

    Curious if that is a possibility.Report

  11. Avatar pillsy says:


    Ironically I’m not a fiscal conservative… I do, however, see this as subsidizing a broken system… so if Warren wants to pivot and address the underlying causes of spiraling costs first – basically by signalling the opposite, that the subsidies are not only *not* forthcoming, but will be reduced… and then address lingering issues… I’d look at that pivot.

    I think shifting to directly subsidizing (public) college education from being a backstop for loans is already a pivot.

    Look, we’re already subsidizing the system, and the way we’re doing it is exacerbating the breakage. Changing the approach to subsidies is, at least potentially, a pivot.

    Because the explosion in costs and debt is not simply a result of subsidization. We’ve been extensively subsidizing higher ed for generations. It’s plausible, though, that the shift to loans and away from more direct subsidies hurt a lot. It turned those government-backed loans into something colleges were chasing after, both public and private, and eliminated both one of the major mechanisms keeping public schools costs under control (payors in the form of state governments were unwilling to tolerate endless increases).

    By shifting back to paying tuition, effectively, at public colleges, Warren’s plan starts moving us back in a healthier direction, because it gives us a payor that has much more of an incentive to keep costs low, since otherwise they’ll either have to increase the deficit or raise taxes. Now they don’t really have to do either (or at least can pretend they don’t), which amounts to a sort of moral hazard.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Slipping, if I may, into “Basic Economics 101”. I hope that the following premises are uncontroversial:

    Price is a function between supply and demand
    If the rate of increase of demand rises faster than the rate of increase of supply, then price will rise. (If price cannot rise, there will be shortages.)
    If the rate of increase of supply rises faster than the rate of increase of demand, then price will go gown. (If price cannot go down, there will be gluts.)

    Are any of those controversial? I’m pretty sure that they’re all foundational concepts for 101.

    The price of college has *SKYROCKETED*.
    This indicates that the demand has increased at a rate greater (perhaps even much greater) than the rate of supply has increased.

    Still uncontroversial?

    Paying off the debts won’t result in supply going up. Paying off the debts won’t result in demand going down.

    Even if Elizabeth Warren gets all the money and pays off all of the debts, we will still have a price problem.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

      In a purely rational market, that holds.

      I’m not sure I would call education a purely rational market, since there is just so much status signalling happening, and prices are a huge part of that status signalling.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Price increases demand? That holds for SLACs, I guess, but it doesn’t explain why schools such as UCCS (a commuter school!) had this happen:
        1995: $88/hr
        2005: $258/hrReport

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        This is true, but one could say the same for markets in perfume, fashion, and automobiles.

        It may be that the actual “product” being sold is merely a signal, but even so, as citizens of a democracy we need to decide if the outcome of this particular market are acceptable to us, or if we want to change the variables that drive it.

        The logic of Econ 101 is trivially true; the outcome will continue until one of the variables change.

        We as citizens control some of those variables. We just have to figure out which ones, and if we want to change them or if the status quo is acceptable.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Paying off the debts won’t result in the demand going down.

      But free tuition almost certainly will.

      How, you ask, can that be?

      Because “free tuition” is not free at all. Someone is paying for it, it’s just not the student. And that someone has a limited budget. And they also get essentially zero benefit from administrative and amenities bloat that is used to attract students who have a lot of borrowed money to spend.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

        It seems to me that if the tuition to Community Colleges becomes “free”, that demand for Community Colleges might go up, might go down, and the signal given by Community Colleges will change.

        Does Community College mean “High School Plus” now?
        Does it mean that the person who went to Community College busted his or her ass and is likely to be worth more to a hiring manager than someone who got a degree in Underwater Basket Weaving at a SLAC?

        If we make SLACs free, what does it mean that you went to a SLAC?Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

          I doubt it will change the situation with community college that much, both because it’s already relatively inexpensive and directed at students who, for one reason or another, can’t or don’t want to go to a four year program.

          As for that latter question, it depends.

          Why is the person who got the Underwater Basket Weaving degree being hired in the first place?

          And if we make SLACs free, the ones that are free are likely to get a lot harder to get into.Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to pillsy says:

            Why is the person who got the Underwater Basket Weaving degree being hired in the first place?

            This is a straight question, BTW. There are many reasons why such a person would be hired, some of which might be changed and others of which wouldn’t.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

              Why is the person who got the Underwater Basket Weaving degree being hired in the first place?

              There’s an old line that goes something like “University won’t make you a banker. The Club will make you a banker. University will make you clubbable, though.”

              Going to a SLAC will make you clubbable. Even if your degree is in UBW.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

                So is someone who worked harder and/or has more talent, and got into a free public SLAC, more or less clubbable than the UBW major who (say) got into an expensive private SLAC because he had rich parents who could swing the tuition?

                My guess is it depends on the club.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to pillsy says:

                Different banks have different clubs. And writing that made me write this:

                Great big clubs have littler clubs
                beside their bricks to man them.
                These littler clubs have smaller clubs
                And so ad infinatum

        • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

          Back when Obama proposed free Community College, I happened to be at a CC for middle school function and picked up the campus newspaper. It had dueling editorials making the pro- and con- arguments for free CC. The pro- argument was pretty simple — CCs serve important functions. The con- argument (by the editor-in-chief) was more nuanced — we have a shared experience of going to college while working, and that unique experience is making us better and more attractive to employers. I may not be capturing the second argument well, but that’s because I wasn’t the target audience; I didn’t attend CC.

          I’m not taking sides on the argument, but I did think it interesting that someone attending community college was arguing against it being free.

          Since then though, most high schools seem to be offering dual credit courses in conjunction with community colleges. The distinction btw/ high school and college is blurred, but presumably the people most benefiting from graduating high school with college credits (including AP courses) are probably the students that need it the least.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to PD Shaw says:

            ‘The con- argument (by the editor-in-chief) was more nuanced — we have a shared experience of going to college while working, and that unique experience is making us better and more attractive to employers.

            This is a really interesting take and aligns somewhat with my experience in the job market after CC.Report

          • Avatar bookdragon in reply to PD Shaw says:

            “CCs serve important functions. The con- argument (by the editor-in-chief) was more nuanced — we have a shared experience of going to college while working, and that unique experience is making us better and more attractive to employers.”

            But this advantage would hold for a lot of CC students either way. A good % of the students at the nearest CC here are people working to pay the rent and provide for themselves and sometimes a family as well. Three of the students in one of the classes a friend’s son attends are single parents who are trying to get a degree that will lead to better job opportunities. They all work, and generally can only take one class a semester or every other semester. If CC were free, they would still work, but they wouldn’t be dealing with as much financial strain and could maybe afford the extra childcare and/or credit cost to finish sooner.Report

  13. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Elizabeth Warren’s website has a calculator that can help you figure out how much of your debt can be erased if you vote for her instead of for Andrew Yang (who would only give you $1000/month to help pay down your college debt).Report