Editorial: Who’s to blame for college debt?

North Wind Staff

During last week’s Democratic presidential debate, one of candidate Bernie Sanders’ talking points was the high cost of college education and his proposal to make it free.

The politics of “free” aside, many of us in the office wondered how the cost of education has gotten so bloated in the first place.re-NWLogoSocialMedia

NMU has the advantage of being one of the most inexpensive universities in the state of Michigan, though the cost of tuition is still high enough that without a scholarship, a student would have to take out an uncomfortable amount of non-dischargeable debt.

In spite of record setting rates of graduation, the future for many students once they leave the halls of education is shaky at best. It’s also contrary to what our parents, teachers and college administrators have told us.

One reason for the jump in tuition in the last few decades is students are expecting more than they did 50 years ago. It’s no longer acceptable to “embrace the suck.” Students want new facilities and lots of recreational options.

Sometimes called “Taj Majal syndrome,” this has led to a veritable 21st century arms race between colleges—not to see who can offer the best bang-for-your buck or the highest quality education, but who has the coolest dorms or the best pool.

High Point University in North Carolina installed hot tubs and a private steakhouse. Texas Tech built a waterpark to entice students to enroll, and the University of Missouri installed a heated “lazy river” pool. By proxy, their debt becomes your debt.

And at a price tag of $32,000 per year, are the extra perks worth it? Do High Point graduates have any more expectation of employment than grads from a cheaper school?

Statistics show students are now taking an average of six years to graduate instead of the traditional four. And according to Scholarships.com, they’re spending almost 20 fewer hours per week studying than their predecessors 50 years ago.

They’re also financing huge amounts of money on classes like “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus,” offered at Skidmore College, where tuition comes in at a whopping $48,970 a year.

According to many business analysts like Mark Cuban, the college “bubble” is about to burst much like it did for housing in 2008, and it’s going to be ugly if colleges don’t start curbing tuition prices.

Students, too, need to be wiser about what the college is selling them when they sign on the dotted line. It’s not a 100 percent fix, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.