Student Loan Debt and the Future

I greatly enjoyed my time studying at Drake University, but it seems to me this article, co-authored by Drake’s president, David Maxwell, hopelessly begins from an indefensible premise. Decisions on which college to attend are “dominated heavily by financial considerations”?!? If only. I’m pretty sure that the reason that student loan debt has now topped 1 trillion dollars is because we are focusing too little on education costs, not too much.

As Charles Murray has argued, colleges as we know them today arose so students could interact directly with professors and with other students and because the libraries on campuses were essential to study. With the technology we have today, there’s plenty of other ways to interact and research that don’t require a physical campus or college experience like we have today. With some exceptions (such as where complex laboratories are needed or certain other more hands on subject matter that is best taught in person) there’s really not much need for most students to go to college. I certainly could have studied actuarial science, math, and philosophy remotely through web-classes and I suspect the same is true for most majors.

Bottom line: Students should focus many things…. what they really love to do, what they can earn a living at after they graduate, and, once they figure that out, where they can go to pursue their optimal course of study at a price they are willing to pay. To the extent that the last item is a real priority, the education marketplace will produce new, more affordable options that leverage the technology that is now available.  As the market for virtual college grows and the market for brick and mortar colleges contract, universities will be confronted with a choice…. they will either accept this new reality and adapt, or they will reject it and lose budget-conscious students to competitors.

This all assumes, of course, that we don’t do something moronic to further distort the higher-education market and reward those who don’t care about price at all with a “student loan jubilee” or some other ridiculous concept.


  1. Randy in Richmond says:

    I predict our President will propose some type of student loan relief prior to the election. He doesn’t care that it won’t get through Congress as he will get credit for the proposal. It will also make the Republicans look mean and uncaring as they will surely oppose the move. He may even bypass Congress with a unilateral offer of some measure.

  2. Jim Jones says:

    One of the local colleges has a class that is taught simultaneously locally and remotely via two-way video. Once a week the instructor drives to the remote site for live office hours.

    Students at the remote site don’t do as well. The course has been taught this way for over a decade and every semester that’s how it is.

    So I’m skeptical that you could have studied through web classes and done as well. Actually that’s not true. You wouldn’t have done as well. I’m certain of that.