The Spectacle Blog

College: An Investment, If You Can Finish

By on 6.11.13 | 10:35AM

Mother Jones has a great set of graphs on the student loan bubble…and then predictably draws exactly the wrong conclusion. After several scary looking charts that show the cost of college vastly outpacing inflation, student loan debt quadrupling in a decade, and delinquency rates rising, MoJo writer Maggie Severns concludes:

The silver lining to this story is that more Americans are pursuing higher education, even if they are taking out loans to do so. Some economists are troubled by the fact that fewer people under 30 are buying homes and other goods as more are paying for college, but higher education is, on the whole, a solid place to put your money. In 2010, the median earnings for young adults with bachelors degrees were 50 percent higher than those of their counterparts with high school diplomas.

On the left, conventional wisdom is that students are "investing" in themselves, and that the benefits of a college degree still far outweigh the costs. On the right, opinion has gelled that too many people are going to college, earning useless degrees, and ending up either unemployed or as baristas. Reagan's second secretary of education, William Bennett, has a new book simply titled Is College Worth It? (which I reviewed for RealClearPolitics).

The right and left are talking past each other when it comes to the student loan crisis. Yes, Americans with bachelor's degrees make a good deal more money than those with only high school diplomas. So college is an investment — if one can finish. But as Bennett and his co-author, David Wilezol, point out, more than 40 percent of students attempting college fail to graduate within six years.

Let's just say it: That's insane. Right and left should be able to agree on at least that much.

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