The Revolt against Higher Ed Picks up Steam

Malcolm Harris has published a piece, “Bad Education,” in N+1 magazine, which is “must reading” for anyone obsessing like I do about the higher education bubble. He draws eerie parallels between the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac-fueled expansion of the housing bubble and the Sallie Mae-fueled expansion of the student loan bubble that should leave you feeling very, very nervous.

Some excerpts:

If tuition has increased astronomically and the portion of money spent on instruction and student services has fallen, if the … market value of a degree has dipped and most students can no longer afford to enjoy college as a period of intellectual adventure, then at least one more thing is clear: higher education, for-profit or not, has increasingly become a scam. …

Today, student debt is a exceptionally punishing kind to have. Not only is it inescapable through bankruptcy, but student loans have no expiration date and collectors can garnish wages, social security payments, and even unemployment benefits. When a borrower defaults and the guaranty agency collects from the federal government, the agency gets a cut of whatever it’s able to recover from then on (even though they have already been compensated for the losses), giving agencies a financial incentive to dog former students to the grave. …

In addition to the billions colleges have spent on advertising, sports programs, campus aesthetics, and marketable luxuries, they’ve benefited from a public discourse that depicts higher education as an unmitigated social good. Since the Baby Boomers gave birth, the college degree has seemed a panacea for social ills, a metaphor for a special kind of deserved success. We still tell fairy tales about escapes from the ghetto to the classroom or the short path from graduation to lifelong satisfaction, not to mention America’s collective college success story: The G.I. Bill. But these narratives are not inspiring true-life models, they’re advertising copy, and they come complete with loan forms.

University administrators build their empires and faculty members enjoy their tenure at the expense of America’s new indentured class: the students.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


Leave a Reply