Everybody’s High on Education

As student loans officially increase to around 511% (nearing $1 trillion), as one of the largest for-profit educational chains (and an alma mater of yours truly) faces federal fraud charges, as students and unemployed all over the country vehemently protest large greedy corporations, and as loan corporations bloat an already non-sustainable bubble of debt with their record greed, the taut material holding this battered industry together catches by each thread and shreds slowly under the weight.

These are actually actionable viable threats to a system arterially hardened by its own butter-soaked gluttony. After bearing witness to our recent economic hubris relating to real estate, home mortgages, and big bank credit swaps, and thanks to books like Alan Collinge’s Student Loan Scam and documentaries like “Default: The Student Loan Documentary“, the population at large is becoming more and more aware of the corruption and predatory practices rife in the higher-educational system.

College rates are still on the rise, but not for long as related findings reveal that graduation rates are stagnant, the job market abysmal and placement through the school is laughable. Add in the amount that students and parents have to nearly immediately start paying back, which may last a lifetime, and it begs some serious questions of consumer rights.

When will college go on sale? And though I’m not talking about a (unnecessarily) controversial voucher system, it doesn’t take an analyst to realize that eventually the jig will be up, or at the very least this non-sustainable bubble will burst as the list of those who cannot afford higher education grows to encompass not only underprivileged lower-class, but the once-spoiled now-neglected middle class. The ones whose votes are actually not discounted or tampered with, and more importantly, whose main democratic voice is heard by the spending power of their wallets in our commercial machine. If you silence their credit limits, we most certainly will see even more industries topple and threaten to destroy the rich, shit trickling downhill as it has with so many economies already.

The sale(s) to which I refer would and should be consumer driven demand for basic necessities and, eventually as the middle class grows, extra related frivolities. A series of coupons and discount cards adding bulk value to the college credit system, and a downgrading of the overinflated price per credits, books, materials, etc. It may seem like some cheesy CVS/Safeway, bullshit, and may raise eyebrows to the legitimacy of the school’s accreditation at first, but in the face of dire financial ruin, who would fault them?

The government would have to dish out less, something that big money interested conservatives would be more than happy to hear (though I argue that much more money should be spent preparing an engineering and technologically savvy work force for this new century we’ve stumbled into). The students would have to dish out less, and though they’d still be in the same position as before, a little lateral flexibility would stimulate college spending both socially and academically. Granted a fair amount would squander the difference in savings on flash-in-the-pan adventures fit for fraternity fraternizing, but many may be able to save and put away to be better prepared for the harsh life after the college experience that had been keeping them in their adolescence. The percentage of this, I’d venture to guess, is no different than the squanderers and savers in the general populace.

Learn more about the college and student loan industry, and you begin to be really sick at the schemes intended to put students in ridiculous amounts of unforgivable (even under bankruptcy) debt, and keep as many as possible near or at default. But now with a discounted system, students at least have some gap between the deathly workhouses of indebted indentured servitude. And a consumer-rights-driven movement of demand would engender a mentality of paranoia for corrupt corporate conniving, so perhaps there’s less harm of fraud.

Only the school is losing some money, as the initial discounters. But they’ve shown they prefer quantity of low-income students to anything else, and as any student of economic history may point out, while Henry Ford was not the nicest person, his stroke of brilliance was to pay his auto workers more all over the country, effectively building a new middle class with an infusion of cash so that not merely the stingy upper .1% would be prospective customers.
The only ones who would ‘lose’ would be the massively wealthy and powerful loan companies, who have tripled their profits despite the economic crash and downturn. The risky loans, the odds and interest growing larger by default, and captive market require these greed machines to drive prices up into an untenable bubble. Which is why you can be sure it doesn’t happen.
But as with many industries, technology, information, and interconnectedness obliterate the vacuum, granting the consumer more choice, better deals, flexibility, and direct service and products from their vendor. And though the constant interstitial intervention of the government will remain, newer online markets of education and lower university operating costs may eventually see the end of the financial middlemen.

Protesting is great. But historically, boycotts work better than protest alone. Either way, something’s gotta give.

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2 responses to “Everybody’s High on Education

  1. The very latest Smodcast features Scott Mosier discussing his survival college job and he and Kevin describe a system of paying for college credit with their cocksucking abilities. Ignoring the disturbing news that this is already a real thing, and even beyond their usually hilarious podcastery, could it also be the most apt metaphor for how the system essentially treats its consumers?

  2. After speaking with many others, a quick addendum should be applied to this post, though I doubt I will stop talking about consumer rights and customer advocacy any time soon.

    Since we are entering what many are calling a ‘Gig Economy’ (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/01/12/the-gig-economy.html), it may not just be customer demand that changes capitalism, since many customers find themselves to be a captive market, but the very freelancing nature of desperate depression laden work forces will undermine the nefarious monopolies scourging our once-great democracy.

    That’s why I will always count on Harry Tuttle, heating engineer.

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