In a recent episode of “Adam Ruins Everything”, the truTV show that debunks common misconceptions, host Adam Conover brought his witty—if a little jaded—perspective to the hallowed halls of higher education.
Higher ed reform is a drum we’ve been beating for a while now (hi, sign our petition here). Let’s take a look at what Adam got right and wrong about the state of higher education in America.
“In the 21st century, if you want to earn a good living, you pretty much have to go to college.”
College is a great option—for some people. As Adam discusses, college degrees are required for careers like software development or programming.
But college isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan for every high school graduate. For students who want to work in the trades, an apprenticeship program or technical education is a much better use of their time and won’t leave them with massive student loan debt.
“U.S. News and World Report’s rankings may be popular, but they have rewarded schools that lie, cheat, and manipulate the system.”
Sadly, this is true. Many prospective students look to rankings to help guide their decision when they’re trying to decide where to go to college. But as Adam points out, universities often take desperate (and shady) measures to try to boost their rankings. Schools have been caught fudging data or dissing other colleges to try to get a better ranking.
Adam is also right that instead of trying to fix things like dismal graduation rates, schools try to game the system by using expensive and pointless amenities to try to boost their rankings.
In a past blog post, we talked about how colleges shell out absurd amounts of money on stadiums, lazy rivers, water parks, gourmet dining halls, and even unlimited free tanning. Seriously, those are all real things schools have blown tuition (or tax) dollars on.
“The truth is, student debt is crippling the lives of millions of people and there is no end in sight!”
Adam’s right—student debt is out of control. Federal student loan debt in America now totals $1.3 trillion. And more and more young Americans are getting swept up in the failing system every single day.
· When the class of 2015 graduated, around two out of three students had loan debt, and they owed an average of around $30,000.
· Over half of young adults say their student loans have forced them to put off a major life decision like getting married or buying a car.
· Around one in three Americans with student loans are behind on their payments.
What Adam didn’t get quite right, though, is the solution to the debt crisis. Rather than getting the government more involved in paying for school, the government needs to get out of the student loan business. So far, the government’s attempts to make school more affordable have only made the cost of college skyrocket.
“Student loan debt has become the worst kind of debt.”
All debt is bad, but student loan debt does have its unique burdens.
Student loans are always marketed in a way that makes them seem affordable. People sign on at a young age and are burdened for decades by the payments. Sure, loan payments are small, but often too small to actually make a dent in the balance of the loan.
If your repayment is tied to your income, as Adam points out, your debt can grow even if you’re making regular payments because the amount isn’t even enough to cover the interest.
And don’t forget, even if you declare bankruptcy your federal student loans will probably still be around. And since it’s tied to the federal government, you and anyone who cosigned for you can get your wages garnished if you default on your loans.
“It is effed up that we built an economy that requires a college degree to participate and then forces people to take on massive debt to get that degree.”
It may not be the most eloquent way to say it, but Adam has a good point here. It is messed up that from an early age students are told college is the only path to success. It’s messed up that young people are encouraged to mortgage their future to fund water slides and football games.
What Adam misses, though, is that taking on a mountain of debt to get a degree isn’t mandatory. Parents can start saving early for their child’s education. Students can get lots of classes out of the way at significantly cheaper community colleges. And young adults can even bypass the higher education system entirely and opt for a career in the trades.
If you want to learn more about the depressing state of higher education, you can check out our previous blogs on the topic: “Water Parks and Gourmet Dining—Why It’s Time for Some Much-Needed Transparency in Higher Ed,” “A Future on Hold: How Student Loans Let Schools Take Advantage of Students,” and “Failing Higher Ed System Continues to Harm Millennials as Student Loan Debt Soars.”