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High Table



I'm not a fan of former US Education Secretary William Bennett. Aside from disagreeing with his politics (which isn't a cardinal sin), I've found him to be hypocritcal when it comes to the morals he's espoused and the morals he's lived by, and his infamous remarks about abortion and Social Security were bizarre at best. Having said all that, I do think he's spot-on when it comes to the issue of higher education and, more specifically, student loan debt.

From a recent news article:
“We have about 21 million people in higher education, and about half the people who start four year colleges don’t finish,” Bennett tells The Daily Ticker. “Those who do finish, who graduated in 2011 - half were either unemployed or radically underemployed and in debt.”
The problem, Bennett says, is people going to second-tier schools, majoring in less-marketable liberal arts fields, and taking on debt to do so.
I couldn't agree more, which is something I never expected to say after quoting Bill Bennett. But, there you go. To say that we have a problem with post-higher education lives and livelihood would be an understatement. People go to school for (at least) four years, earn their degrees, and then a large number of them are saddled with debt for obtaining said education, and often times have trouble finding a "good job."

The issue would seem to be that we have a society that, on the surface, values a college education, yet there do not seem to be enough jobs for those with degrees. And, depending upon the employer, sometimes the type of degree matters, other times simply having a degree is all that really counts. I've worked in environments where both scenarios have played-out.

Looking at Bennett's remarks -- that those who take on debt for "less-marketable" degree-fields are in trouble -- it's hard to argue with such an assessment. A lot of folks in that position seem to shake their fists into the air and decry the world, but there's also some personal responsibility to take into account.

Regardless of societal pressures or expectations, it is a person's decision whether or not they incur debt to go to school. And, when you agree to take out a loan, it's supposed to mean something. You don't take out a car loan, then later on say, "Ya know, I just can't afford this." Well, you can, but then the car gets repossessed. It's rather difficult to repo a brain.

It hurts a bit to quote Mr. Bennett again, but he makes some good points. I'll leave you with this last observation:
Students need to make smart decisions about their capacity for academic work, the job prospects for their major, and how they will pay for their education.

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