Easy access credit has pushed up college tuition far faster than inflation generally and even health care costs. University presidents are happy to pad bureaucracies, and indulge faculty who would rather undertake research than teach, if students can borrow money to pay for it all.
Teenagers need to be told a college education is mostly about preparing to earn a living. You don’t need to read Socrates or solve differential equations to be a good citizen. Until the mid-20th Century, the vast majority of Americans led responsible and satisfying lives without a sheep skin.
In a technologically advanced economy, where even sophisticated white collar workers are replaced by machines and software—look at what computers did to travel agents—college is about acquiring skills that have value in the marketplace. That means picking a course of study that makes tuition and all that time in the library a good investment.
Before that can happen, parents, educators and politicians have to stop indulging adolescent inclinations, and start talking sense to youngsters—when they start looking for colleges at ages 15 or 16, and not when they leave at 22.
Until that happens, we will continue to have too many frustrated and overly indebted young adults.
Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, national columnist and five-time winner of the MarketWatch best forecaster award. He tweets @pmorici1