Rush Limbaugh delights in blaming the rising price of higher education on "greedy academics." Look at the salaries that California's public universities pay administrators. The new Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo president is about to take home $50,000 more than the published maximum salary of $328,212. With federal and state student aid dollars feeding the beast, eggheads cash in.
The biggest losers are students who get sucked into colleges, because the federal loans look like free money, only to drop out of school. They get the debt but no degree. As McCluskey observed, "we give money regardless of their aptitude to do college work."
The other losers are graduates with six-figure debt and little income. The White House is working on a "Know Before You Owe" project to warn students about the cost of student loans.
As a beneficiary of a state university education and a repaid student loan, I don't want to end a program that helped me and can help others. But as with mortgages that fueled the housing bubble, there can be too much of a good thing.
The unintended consequences of the steep rise in government financial aid, McCluskey concluded, may well be "sky-high noncompletion rates and rampant tuition inflation."
In his 2005 Stanford University commencement address, Steve Jobs explained the economic factors that went into his decision to drop out of Reed College. "I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition."
He actually thought about the money; that sounds so quaint today. I am not suggesting that anyone drop out of the right school. I just want graduates to look back at their education and know in their hearts it was worth it.