Higher education in America is expensive. It’s not even a little bit expensive, it can be incredibly expensive.
I felt it was time to take a moment to step away from Higher Education as what we’ve all come to know. Instead I propose we think of Higher Education in the abstract as a thing. Nothing more, nothing less.
Let’s look at this thing with economic eyes. What do we have.
The thing is good. Because it is good, people want to buy this thing. There is increased demand for it.
With increased demand comes an opportunity for the seller to charge more for this thing. Over time it becomes more and more expensive.
Before the demand for this thing went way up, people could buy it with cash. They would work and save up for it or their parents would pay for it. People didn’t borrow to pay for this thing because you didn’t need to borrow for it. But borrowing also wasn’t much of an option. People couldn’t borrow because they didn’t need to and people didn’t need to because they couldn’t really borrow.
People kept liking this thing and the price kept going up. As prices for other goods increased, it also cost more to provide this thing. Some people couldn’t afford this thing. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill into law saying “Hey! We need people to have access to this thing. Let’s start offering low interest loans to people who want to buy it. It’s a good thing and they should have more money after buying it, so the Government guarantees that everyone will pay the Government back for this thing.”
With loans, more people could access the thing. More people bought it and places kept selling it. No one really cared about how much it cost because buying this thing effectively came with a guarantee you’d have a better life. If you owned this thing, you’d make more money, have more success and damnit people would like you!
The trouble was the Government money to buy this thing was guaranteed to the sellers. With guaranteed payment, the sellers could charge whatever they wanted. They charged more and more and more and more and people kept buying it.
After 50 years, the price of this thing is out of control. And unlike the days of yesteryear, owning this thing no longer guarantees you the life it did 30 or 40 years ago. In fact, so many people own this thing, it doesn’t differentiate you at all from anyone else. It seems everyone owns this thing.
Sure, having this thing is still great for some. Maybe it turns out fine for many. But what about everyone else?
Do you think you should still buy this thing?
This thing is so expensive it could potentially ruin your life.
Once you buy it, you can’t return it.
If you can’t pay back what you borrowed to buy this thing, there’s not much you can do about it. It will follow you around until you die or become permanently disabled.
It’s time we buy this thing differently.
The cost of this thing needs to be important.
The color of this thing barely matters any more.
Yes, this thing is probably still great in the long run, but that doesn’t mean you should trade your future for it.
Be smart when you buy this thing.
- Work more to save up to pay for it.
- Talk with people about why you want this thing. They may give you money to help you buy it.
- Buy half of the thing in your community, near home. Then you only have to pay for expensive parts when it matters.
- Learn about yourself before you buy this thing. The last thing you want to do is buy the wrong one, because they won’t let you return it.
This thing is shiny and I know you want to buy it. But remember, there are no refunds. Think before you buy. It’s only a thing.