In the 2012 campaign, President Obama promised to work tirelessly to cut the growth of college costs in half during the next ten years. Perhaps he hoped his audience would only hear, “I promise to blah-blah cut college costs blah-blah in half.” Nope. He was only pledging to cut the “growth”. Between 2003 and 2013 college tuition grew at almost 80%. So this presidential promise (out six years beyond his impeach-by date, mind you) was to work a Washington miracle and cut the growth in tuition to 40%. That’s like JFK vowing to get us half-way to the moon (sometime soon). Oh, and by the way, the cost of textbooks has increased at almost the same rate—nearly double the rate of growth for health care costs. Got to go write me one of them there textbooks.
As a parent of a college student, the President’s promise hit me like a puck to the pocket. But I searched and Googled to no avail. I couldn’t find anyone that had commented on this pathetic response to a very real problem facing the beleaguered and beloved middle class. Then I looked at the proposal with the liberal mind-set. If the Education Department budget grew 10% in fiscal 2006 but only 9% in fiscal 2007, George Bush had actually CUT the education budget, insuring the nation would produce generations of dolts for years to come. So by promising to cut the rate of growth in half, President Obama was being more than ambitious; he was being, as usual, audacious.
College debt is devastating for today’s graduating classes. But excusing the debt is not the answer. A lunch you don’t pay for is rarely free. A house that you don’t pay for is rarely maintained. An education you don’t pay for is hardly worth it. And student debt is not the only problem.
Most parents I know don’t want to see their kids in deep debt-debt at 23. So they look for other ways to cut college costs. One attractive avenue is the athletic scholarship. For a young woman who likes soccer or softball or volleyball, it’s a great opportunity. But just like with academics, the competition for the athletic scholarship is getting fierce. Enter professional coaches, year-round training and performance enhancing drugs. We may not be raising dolts, but we will soon have a generation of women without any cartilage in their knees.
Now, here come the anecdotes, so be careful. I know parents of high school water polo players who have spent more time in emergency rooms than by the pool as their sons are treated for concussions, severe trauma, and underwater abuse to their private parts—all part of a compelling desire to win and get noticed by college scouts. I know hockey moms who have been rehabbing multiple knees on multiple sons. No one talks about “Roid Rage” any more but I have to think something chemical is causing normal sporting competition to become cut-throat. And it isn’t only athletics. I know parents who pushed their son so relentlessly to become a virtuoso and win a college band scholarship, he ended up leaving school and hating both the French horn and his parents.
So where is all this money going? I will say that the amenities on my son’s campus are quite nice. The University of Quantitative Easing is, at least, putting my hard earned poem payments into new dormitories with clothes dryers that send out a text message when the cool-down cycle is done. The furniture in Room 585 is new and clean. After I left college it was discovered that what I had been sleeping on was actually a pre-Columbian artifact.
I am not sure how to solve this problem. But I do know that cutting the rate of growth in half is silly. If the Republicans want to meet their constituents where they live and learn, this is an issue they should be looking at.