Thursday, September 17, 2009

Federal Involvement in Student Loans

by Daniel L. Bennett

Our friend George Leef of the Pope Center for Higher Ed Policy had an excellent letter published in the WSJ yesterday on federal involvement in student lending. For your reading pleasure:
Your editorial illuminates the folly of believing that taxpayers will ultimately save money with the Obama administration's plan for a federal monopoly on college lending. Just like the president's proposal to "reform" health care by making it subject to even more political control, this proposal takes us in exactly the wrong direction.

Federal housing policy, premised on the false idea that home ownership is good for nearly everyone, led to a vast number of mortgage defaults. Similarly, a federal college lending policy devoted to President Obama's chimerical notion that the U.S. must have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world—the goal he announced last February—will lead to the educational equivalent of the housing bubble. That is to say, a large number of young Americans will wind up with college debt, perhaps college degrees, but no employment that comes close to paying enough to cover the costs. Stories like that are already common.

The truth is that we lure a large number of students into college who are academically weak and disengaged. Quite a few of them drop out, but quite a few manage to graduate—and then end up in rather mundane jobs that almost any high-school student could learn. Bureau of Labor Statistics data confirm that significant percentages of workers with college degrees are doing jobs that only call for on-the-job training.

College is a wise human capital investment for some, but we already have many young people in college who learn little and merely obtain a credential of scant value. That waste of resources will only increase under a federal student-loan monopoly. Instead, the government should withdraw from the business of financing education.

George C. Leef
Director of Research
Pope Center for Higher Education Policy
Raleigh, N.C.


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