College Rip-Off

It’s August. Many young people head off to college.

This year, fortunately, fewer will go.

I say “fortunately” because college is now an overpriced scam.

Overpriced, because normal incentives to be frugal and make smart judgements about who should go to college were thrown out when the federal government took over granting student loans.


Because our government basically vomits money at everyone who applies.

If private lenders gave out the loans, they’d look at whether they were likely to be paid back. They’d ask questions like: “What will you study? You really think majoring in dance will lead to a job that will pay you enough to allow you to pay us back?”

Government rarely asks these questions. Bureaucrats throw money at students. Many don’t benefit. Many shouldn’t even be going to college. Today, nearly half of the students given loans don’t graduate even after six years.

Many feel like failures.

College is good for people who want to be college professors or who major in fields like engineering and computer science that might lead to good jobs. But that’s not most people. Government loans encourage everyone to go to college, even if they’re not very interested in academics.

Government’s handouts also invite colleges to keep raising tuition. Over the past 50 years, college cost rose at four times the rate of inflation. Four times!

Years ago, I reported how colleges were suddenly wasting money on luxuries like fancy gyms and even day spas. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that it’s gotten worse: The University of Oklahoma bought a monastery in Italy for study abroad students! The University of Kentucky built a theater where students play video games.

“Why not raise tuition?” asks the typical college president. “Uncle Sam pays the bill!”

When I went to Princeton, tuition was $2,000. Now its $60,000.

Colleges have little incentive to cut costs or innovate. Princeton still “teaches” by having professors lecture. Super boring. I slept through many.

Although today, I guess I should thank Princeton because its tedious lectures inspired me to try to find better ways to present information. That made me successful on TV.

Today, student loan borrowers owe tens of thousands of dollars. Last year, the president announced he would cancel up to $20,000 of that debt per person.

Indebted students loved that! A group named the Student Debt Crisis Center called that “a major win for many.”

But it would be a major loss for many more! Canceling debt is unfair to the people who work hard and pay off their debts.

Fortunately, Biden’s plan was struck down by the Supreme Court, which said only Congress has the right to cancel student debt. Congress didn’t.

Now Biden’s trying again. The administration announced they will forgive debt for anyone who’s been making payments for more than 20 years. That’s better, but still bad. Maybe courts will stop this handout, too.

College students take on loans and spend decades in debt because they believe they must get a degree to be hired. But that’s no longer true. IBM, Accenture, Dell, Bank of America, Google and other big companies, recognizing the uselessness of many undergraduate degrees, recently dropped college-degree requirements. So have state governments in Maryland, Utah, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Alaska, North Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia.

Good jobs in the trades, like welding and plumbing, don’t require a college degree. Trade school programs often take less than two years and cost much less than college.

To have a good life or get a good job, you don’t need fancy dining halls, video game auditoriums or a college degree.

College has become a government-subsidized rip-off. It’s good that fewer people go.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

7 thoughts on “College Rip-Off

  1. Sadly agree…. I have three degrees + and they all provided a lousy education. But, they opened
    the door for me to find two excellent careers….. Army officer and 7th grade public school teacher.

  2. If we want to stop this bleeding of money, we need to stop student loans period. Then the stream of income would stop flowing to the schools and they would be forced to lower tution to stay open.

  3. I recognize I’m old, but when I went to University I recall tuition being around $1200 or $1400 a year. In addition to class time there were extensive hours required for independent study, research and lab time. If you earned a decent grade you certainly deserved it.

    During my career I hired over 250 people. As time passed the level of their knowledge, communication skills, and especially the problem solving abilities of applicants and new hires waned. I’ve met young people with Masters degrees that I seriously doubt could have passed a 200 level course 40 or 50 years ago.

    Many, perhaps most of our colleges and universities seem to have lost their way replacing an educational model with a profit model simply pushing students through the pipeline. It’s a disservice to the students that belong at higher education institutions.

    It’s also a disservice to the graduates who find themselves unable to perform in the private and public sectors. How can many of those individuals possibly pay back the loans they received? Certainly their educational instructors/professors/advisors saw a problem long before they received a degree. Shouldn’t those students have some recourse from the institutions that failed to correct their career path? It’s shameful.

  4. Although I do agree with some of your points. Maybe we should have some Maximum quotas on certain degrees that are not the best at procuring a sustainable living wage. I cannot disagree more with your general overtone. Yes colleges overpriced but the solution is not to have less people go to college the solution is to have more. We need to advocate to have a more educated Society not less… every school in this country should be a cathedral. They should have all of the best technology they should have all of the funding that they ever could need and it should be free to everyone to attend. Society does not grow and make itself better until it educates itself. Smarter more educated people will make Society better faster. This is not to say that everyone needs a 4-year college degree. We need plumbers and electricians and coders and other emerging technology jobs that may not need it a full four year degree. But they still will need good high quality education for a reasonable price. If the government still funded on the federal and local levels with the same percentages as when you went to school then tuition would not be $60,000. It would be much more in line with whatever you paid intuition adjusted for inflation. We don’t need less Government funding we need more. If we were just to return to the same level of percentage of funding from the mid-1980s to today tuition prices would be cut in half or more. I am a higher education professional so I do have a dog in this fight. What we need to be spending our money on is job training Technical Training vocational training stuff that you get at a two-year Institution. In other words Community College. We need to do that without losing funding to our prestigious 4-year universities. We are slowly losing our leadership status in Innovation and advancements in knowledge. 40 years ago any worthwhile discovery more than likely happen at a US four-year Institution. Now not so much. Why? Lack of government funding. Other countries have stepped up and have taken our place. Countries from the EU and the Middle East and also East Asia. These countries fully fund and poor tremendous amount of monetary resources into there for your universities and have been doing so for quite a while. They are now reaping the rewards of that investment. And we are losing those rewards due to our lack thereof.

    In summary you are advocating for the dumbing down of America. You are advocating for people to be less smart and less educated than previous generations. How will we ever strive to become better as a society if that is one of our mantras that we are subscribing to. Make America stupid again?? I think not

  5. It seems to me that, some who didn’t go to college right away, or went to trade school seem to have the upper hand. These are skills that can come in handy and make a great living at it. Our mother always encouraged her sons to get their education, but it was always in useful things like nursing, dentistry and yes even (law). When it was time for me to go to school, I waited, joined the Navy and later used my GI Bill and living in NY state, their grant system helped veterans (single parents) to get a their degree. Taking out loans are pretty insane, but since many in the past didn’t pay, now their buckling down.

  6. John, You are so right about this and many other things.Thank you for continuing the fight,

  7. Your August 16 article on college rip-offs was right on the mark.
    I attended one of the four State supported colleges in Indiana from 1960 to 1966.
    Besides being a slow-learner, I took the minimum amount of credits to qualify for a deferment and stay out of Vietnam.

    Back then, the tuition was $12-$18 per credit hour per semester, depending upon the course, and the minimum load was 12 hours per semester.

    With six male students to each coed, there was not much social activity.
    And the coeds were often in Engineering and much more intelligent than most of us.

    The on-campus housing was $800 per semester including meals except Sunday night.
    My father had just opened his own business and with two younger brothers, my parents paid only for my first year of college.
    We had a free University Recreational Center with an indoor pool and all the equipment one can imagine.

    Thanks to my job at Mack Trucks at 33rd and Wentworth, I graduated from Purdue in February 1966, and went to work as a pilot for Trans World Airlines in March of 1966.

Comments are closed.