Overhaul higher education

By Editorial Board

During the past generation, achieving the American Dream has been contingent on going to college. Each year, more students graduated from four-year universities and went on to find well-paying jobs. Yet the number of colleges, for the most part, stayed the same. Because of this, these institutions charge what they please, and prices skyrocketed. That was fine during good economic times when the investment in a degree paid off in a career. But prices continue to climb despite an economic catastrophe, and high school students keep packing up for college in larger numbers. With unemployment stuck at 9 percent, it’s increasingly difficult for students to find jobs within the six-month grace period to start paying loans off.

There are numerous boogeymen to blame for the current crisis, but that’s irrelevant now. The real problem moving forward is an entire generation saddled with an average of approximately $25,000 in student loan debt, according to the Project on Student Debt.

When an entire segment of the population has no income to spend, the economy will never recover. This could very well be America’s “lost generation.” President Barack Obama recently pushed executive orders lowering the time and rate at which students must pay back loans. These initiatives do help, but they’re only Band-Aids. The current political climate is not conducive to solving any huge problems right now, and the student debt crisis is massive.

The real fix is simple, yet it will never be realized as long as Tea Party zealots control the Republican Party and the national debate. America must look across the Atlantic to our European cousins for higher-education reform. Instead of funding foreign wars, wasting money on subsidies for oil companies and farmers and cutting taxes on the rich, America needs to invest in education. Pell Grants should be increased dramatically so that even middle -class students can afford college. State universities need to be subsidized further, making them more attractive, so that private universities will lower costs to attract students.

Yes, this means using tax dollars to redistribute wealth so that everyone can attend college. We already do that with primary education because despite this practice being “socialism,” it makes economic sense that everyone get a good education. In today’s world, that means college, too. It will take sacrifice in other areas of the federal budget, which is currently unpopular. But the American economy will never recover if every subsequent generation has no money to pump into it.