“Pay it forward” is a response to out-of-control college tuition costs, and I applaud it. I want to urge lawmakers to be more aggressive, however, since the program ignores escalating and unevenly distributed costs of higher education.
Setting a 20-year flat tax is guaranteed to place a bigger burden on those that earn less after college, while making college more affordable to those that earn higher incomes. It does all this without demanding university accountability for current student default (about 18 percent) or unemployment rates (varying widely by major), or acknowledging the fragility and inequality of the U.S. economy.
Without a healthy jobs market behind it, it may damage universities that don’t already have billion-dollar endowments. Sens. Justin Alfond and Roger Katz admit it risks underfunding the system, and I’m sure they know costs have been outpacing inflation for decades. Do they really think loan providers are just going to let the state close the door on their federally backed trillion-dollar debt business?
At my last college, “controlling costs” meant more adjunct professors, “virtual” classrooms and firing low-paid support staff. The savings didn’t go to students, of course, but I recall administrators seeking fat raises and the purchase of a money-losing arena from the city. The university system is a tangled web of costs that are impossible for a layperson to unravel. That is a big problem.
Last time I checked, we do not have an economy eager to hire college students. Following graduation, students are very much on their own, and universities don’t do enough to help students begin the long process of networking and applying to jobs that frequently demand unrealistically high levels of experience for new entrants while often making light of their hard-earned and expensive degrees. I suppose schools better start shrinking.