I find the debate about the hinted-at college debt forgiveness to be maddening because most of the people who participate have absolutely no knowledge of the subject.
The usual old fat canards about PhDs in the Humanities that make people go into debt are getting rolled out, and it’s exhausting.
PhDs in the Humanities don’t cost you anything. I was paid ≈ $250,000 overall in stipend and medical insurance plus a tuition waiver by my University to do a PhD with them. And I’m not a special case. That’s 100% of people I know, including my husband with a PhD in Math and Stats from a very fancy school. It’s how it works.
I’m sure there are unusual human beings who managed somehow to get into debt in this setup but they are an exception.
[Here’s the point where somebody invariably pipes up with a comment about the medical school as if I didn’t lead with the words “PhDs” and “Humanities.”]
I’m not even expressing an opinion on debt forgiveness. What I don’t understand is why people who don’t even know such basic things feel the need to have one.
Another annoying argument is about the “overpaid professors in the Humanities.” Again, I’m sure there are a few. But the majority are anything but. My starting salary when I got here was $42,000. And we had a salary freeze for years after that. Plus, we had no medical insurance for over a year. That’s hardly great riches. If college is overpriced, it’s not the professors who are eating the money.
I could tell you what the real problem with college debt is. It’s that very VERY many people are tricked into going to college who have zero chance of graduating. They get admitted, take out loans, fail, and end up saddled with the debt and with nothing to show for it. They can never make the money to pay it back. That’s the real problem. That’s the scam.
New ways are constantly manufactured to create more of these victims. Removing SATs as an admission criterion is one of them. Another one is making it a professional suicide for a professor to mention that many students are never going to be successful in [insert whatever subject] because they don’t have the aptitude for it. It’s like telling somebody who’s 5’4 that for a low low price of [insert tuition cost] you will get him to play for the NBA. And all of the nice, well-meaning professors who are terrified of the words “intelligence” and “aptitude,” let alone “talent,” are abetting the scammers.
This is what I want to talk about. Let’s discuss how to avoid doing this to more and more young people. And yes, let’s definitely reimburse the victims of the scam. But only after we’ve done something to stop creating more victims. Let’s not throw money into a joke that we keep digging. Let’s fill it up first.