We need a fundamental shift in the way college is paid for. Some (many?) would like to see a government funded system, others would like to see the removal of subsidized loans to bring prices back down (and leaving many unable to afford college in its wake).
Another solution is to let you go to school for free and then pay a percent of all your future earnings back to your college, or at least into a pool that pays for the next generation's college. Of course with that system, colleges would bias towards people who are pursuing profitable majors, so you'd probably see a lot more STEM degrees and a lot fewer of everything else, until it got oversaturated, but there is a very long lead time between "too many degrees" and "no one studies this anymore".
In other words, the fundamental problem is that we tell kids that college is the only path, creating insanely high demand for the product, when in reality there would be plenty of people much better served learning a trade or skill instead of four years doing something hate for a useless degree they'll never use.
We could call it income tax :)
Anyone who is properly motivated should be able to go to college, but when I hear cries for a free college education, I can imagine that that would stimulate a huge influx of people who do that simply as an excuse to take a 4-year vacation (of sorts). People who are properly motivated and who have what it takes should be able to go to college, but it needs to cost something... just not as much as it does now.
We used to have this Enlightenment ideal of a Liberal Arts Education. It served as job training, sure, but it also tried to make its recipients better citizens and more adept thinkers and more capable adults and, broadly speaking, more effective human beings in a bunch of socially and culturally important ways. I'm optimistic that free college tuition would be a net gain for the economy, but I also strongly suspect that it's worth doing even if it costs us some economic growth.
Besides, if someone wants to take a 4 year vacation, they're already well within their rights to just not get a job and do whatever they like with their early 20s right now, presuming they can cover their living expenses somehow. Free college tuition doesn't actually allow anyone who wouldn't otherwise be able to to slack off, but it does give them something socially positive to do with their slacking.
Essentially they do heavy tracking, if you can't cut it in the college track, you get put into blue collar training and apprentice programs. This is why they are such an industrial powerhouse still - they have a well prepared white collar and blue collar work force.
In Germany it's easy to be put on one of the two lower tracks which lead to apprenticeships , because you didn't do well in primary school. At that point is harder (but still possible) to go to college. It also leads to segregation because immigrants who don't speak German at home are unlikely to do well in primary school.
 Calling it blue collar is a bit of misnomer here because you can also do apprenticeships in white collar jobs, even software engineering.
You can also almost always switch tracks, the farther down you are one track the harder it gets to switch up. I went for the second lowest (Realschule) and then went to a tertiary school (Fachoberschule). With that I can study in a University for Applied Sciences (different from normal University).
The german education system has many options open, the general push in the lower two tracks is to get you into a job as early as possible (there are lots of job fairs I went to) but still permit you to pick any of the other 20 options.
Yet I ended up through a apprenticeship in Software Engineering and I could go back at any time and finish my 12 years then go to university. Part of me wants to go study and get a degree, but all universities I inquired at rejected me for not having 12 years despite working for 8 years now.
Conceptually, it's nice to imagine a purely meritocratic system wherein everyone may ascertain the level of potential they desire, but the US is living through the hangover of centuries of systemic racism.
The only way this tracked solution could be truly fair is if access to education was universally available and equitable; in our current reality, what it actually would mean is that those who can afford the best education in K-12 will be highly over-represented in the college track and those who cannot will be under-represented.
So in the end it turns out to be an anti-meritocratic solution.
Eh, 9-12 public school maybe. The dirty not-a-secret of K-8 is that it's effectively state-sponsored daycare as well as an educational system, so its role as a holding pen is a feature rather than a bug.
Until you've seen the difference a good elementary education can make for a kid growing up in The Bronx, I'd say hold off on the snap judgement.
I'm a child of teachers, and I know quite a lot of people who teach in inner cities or narrowly made it out of impoverished towns because of good education. There's a reason I said "as well as an educational system", and I definitely don't believe the daycare role of schools is a reason to cut budgets or cut schooling.
Educating kids is hard. Many people lack the time, knowledge, and resources to substantially educate their children themselves. Many students benefit from years of often-repetitive teaching to ensure information is available when they're developmentally and environmentally ready for it. I don't doubt any of this, and I absolutely think public schooling is a sensible solution to it.
My point was only that "you could say K-12 education acts as a state sponsored vacation" misunderstands the role of schools as daycares. Non-educational time at school isn't a vacation, it's a public service for two-income households that struggle to afford daycare. I'm not talking about teaching kids math. I'm talking about the existence of three-recesses-per-day kindergarten, or middle schoolers sitting in voluntary, teacher-run study hall after school.
The district I grew up in had a public debate about whether to move to half-day kindergarten, where the two sides were "it'll cut school costs" and "it'll cost parents more in daycare". No one even claimed it was an educational debate, because less than half the day was spent on education. None of this has anything to do with whether teaching literacy in the Bronx is important.
I'm simply asserting that "provides childcare for free" is an intentional benefit, not an accidental drawback, of public schooling.
To the extent that I'm upset by education-as-daycare, it's only because I think they ought to be separate public services so each one can be done more efficiently. But that's a serious pipe dream, so for now I'd rather just double the budget of what exists and trust that the people involved are well-meaning enough to use it sensibly.
Going back for high school felt almost painfully slow. I don't think kids need to be crammed with as much information as possible, but you could probably double the content without leaving most people behind.
It's probably utopian, but I still think a lot of problems could be solved by paying kids for marks. There are lots of arguments made about intrinsic motivation to learn being enough, but learning is also difficult and uncomfortable. Some extrinsic motivation to develop a functional learning style might be exactly what those currently underachieving are missing.
I don’t know if you understand how difficult it is to teach 12 year olds but that’s a miracle not daycare.
I don't mean at all to say "it's not education". I did get educated in a northeastern public schools, I had a lot of excellent teachers who worked incredibly hard and committed their free time and money to education.
My point is that K-8 public schools are both source of education and - intentionally, explicitly - daycare alternatives. Not "school is useless, it's a holding pen", but "schools intentionally provide non-educational support for parents including childcare".
My public school had full-day kindergarten that was about 70% recess. When budget cuts hit, there was a public discussion of whether to go to half-day kindergarten, and the two sides were "it'll save money" and "parents will have to pay for childcare". My district had after-school activities with no real educational value to help keep kids occupied until ~4PM, and then another hour of unstructured study hall after that. The formal purpose of the thing was to provide a place for kids who didn't go to daycare or go home alone.
I don't even think this is a bad thing! The parent comments suggested "free college is a vacation" and "well by that light, so is K-12 education". My point was that children don't take vacations, and the daycare role of primary schooling is a benefit, not a hazard.
In New Zealand, you can leave school when you're 16 and start an apprenticeship. I think that by 16, most people will know if they're definitely not going to be going to university, and I think that 11 years of schooling is enough to set people up with the basics for life. It's the point where (at least in New Zealand) you start specialising, picking specific subjects that are going to help you with, or be required for, university
I’m not the kind of engineer that has a STEM only mindset and I see a lot of value in good Liberal Arts education, but let’s be realistic -- whether it’s because of nature or nurture, there are plenty of college freshmen who are just not going to be intellectuals. Even if it was free (and it would never really be free), it's not a positive thing to encourage them to spend four years majoring in communications or the like.
It does seem like this baseline understanding does shift with progress though. For example our ancestors did not need a lot of education to push a plow, but more education will be needed with the continued elimination of physical labor.
In Spain there is a limited number of open position in different studies. You get an test and people is sorted by their grades. The people with higher grades get to the college they choose. It is not perfect as people in better neighborhoods get better education and can get more easily to college. But at least, it is closer to a meritocracy and costs less money.
> as an excuse to take a 4-year vacation
If you don't pass a minimum of credits the first year, you get kicked out. A lot of people doesn't pass this phase.
There is ways of solving the problems, but you need a government with willingness to do it.
If you are right, what data can we rely on to determine when it makes sense for a person to go to college and when it does not make sense for a person to go to college?
"In a report released Monday, the Census Bureau said 33.4 percent of Americans 25 or older said they had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. That’s a sharp rise from the 28 percent with a college degree a decade ago." 
66.6% of Americans don't have a bachelor's degree or higher. So what is the appropriate percentage of Americans to have a college degree? Which other countries in the world are too educated?
The current trend is to run universities and colleges "like a business." In this model, students (and their parents) are the paying customers. The mantra of good customer service is "the customer is always right." This is ultimately the source of much of the grade inflation. If you tell your customers that they are "wrong" by not giving them the grades they prefer or by making them work harder than they would like for those grades, they will react in ways that ultimately hit your bottom line. Undergraduate education should not be like a vacation. Any student who treats it that way should be flunked out after their first term.
Having taxpayer funded "free" (or dirt cheap) higher ed wouldn't fix these problems over night, but it would help remove some of the weird incentives that are currently undermining the core mission of actually educating people.
In practice this isn't a problem, at least not in France where my partner studied. Students that qualify for free public education are in the top of their class for the year. In order to keep qualifying for free education they must keep their grades up. So this idea of students graduating high school, waltzing into a university, then screwing off for four years is pure fiction.
How could this not be popular? Where will would be without the next generation of literature, teachers, artists? Society would start to suck.
Not to mention, money shouldn't be the barrier for entry to keep admissions in check if you want one. Viability should be. Universities already screen for good candidates. Change the screening to suit.
On top of that, you still have to be succeeding in uni to stay in uni
If a few freeloaders get a degree they don't need. Would society have lost anything but money?
One such would be computer science. Until computers came around the underlying algorithm and associated fields were pure math. If people hadn’t been able to study pure math then there wouldn’t have been an entire wing of mathematics available for CS.
This is what I've heard about a lot of places that provide good higher education. I would be concerned in the US that college readiness correlates a little bit too closely to familial wealth.
When a course in a university has more applicants than slots, the required grades are lowered (1 or 15 being best, 6 or 1 worst depending on your previous education) until the number of applicants fits into the number of slots.
Since all previous education is free, family wealth matters little (though it still plays a role)
It is not like it was a vacation. In most cases, you still have to pay a rent, food, etc ...
And you commit several years of your life to it, that's the most precious resource you can give.
I can't believe I am discussing this to be honest, that's an insane argument.
Poor people get scholarships, get dismissed from university cost even.
And aside from wealth, everyone can repeatedly enroll in classes for many years (although if you don't pass you have to payback what was given to you) and waste everyone's ressources for useless, unfinished degrees (hello first year of sociology or other bullshit).
It seems to be something in the echo chamber of HN / startup world that has become common over the past 5-6 years. They seem to not understand that having a college degree is pretty much a requirement for any decent-paying job these days or hopes to have one that will in the future. From an economic standpoint, people with degrees have higher wages.
The real issue is the cost of colleges and the loans that people take out to attend. Rather than addressing that (though some commenters have made the attempt) they'd rather say for kids to not go at all and thus limit their future opportunities for work as well as intellectual growth.
Compared to a 9-5 job, yeah, college was a five year vacation. There's no boss that will have nasty conversations with you, if your work isn't done, if you fall behind on assignments too much, you can just choose to not do them, and spend an extra hour or two cramming for the midterm + final. Nobody cares if you sleep through a class, or two, or seven.
... Obviously if you went to a difficult school, or don't have the social safety net of living with your parents, or you had to work full-time to pay for school, your experiences might be different.
If you went to college voluntarily and did not care about neither the monetary constraints nor the opportunity costs, then sure that's a vacation. I suspect pretty much anything can be framed as such under those circumstances. For most people, this is not actually a realistic option.
No opportunity costs because my earning potential after college was much higher then before. Not everyone can become a college dropout who founds a unicorn.
My situation is not unusual.
Your situation might not be extremely rarefied, but I don't think you grasp the immensely insurmountable advantage you have in this scenario.
Really though, people might choose to go to college to see what they are capable of and take on a challenge with the possibility of failure already planned. They might already know they can do an alternate career path as well.
The idea that everyone will have their life planned out before college is silly. I certainly have no idea how well I would do in every college degree program. I could be great, or I could suck.
Those things cannot be done over the Internet easily.
Educated people are crucial to successfull companies, thereby creating more jobs.
Educated people are crucial to a healthy democracy, where populist politicians have less chance of getting elected.
I would argue that it's probably more important for the entire society for someone to get a good education than for the person himself. Therefor education should be subsidized.
That sounds perfectly healthy on an individual level, and tolerable on a societal level. Perhaps even necessary if you consider the deterioration of discourse in this country.
Also, It's not like food and housing becomes free when tuition is removed.
I have no real opinion on that idea, or any idea how effective it would be, so I'll say nothing more.
Realistically, having college remain free helps people who later in life want to change careers, but need some education to do so. We pay a lot of lip service in the US to retraining the workforce, yet do little to facilitate the training.
I will happily pay for everything, a full ride, as a parent or a taxpayer, if the student does the work.
We don't have to pay tuition to Ivy League to get a better more educated workforce.
So if you can pay for it, you are welcome to take your AA classes at a state 4 year, if not, we'll get you a free transfer degree from a local community college and at that point, you can choose between trade, tech, or a major at a 4 year school.
If we detach, 'everyone gets free school' from the idea that we need a more educated workforce to maintain our standing in the world, we can work toward a solution that is a net positive in society and not just a panacea for people who feel they've been left behind.
If you just subsidize school and not living expenses, then it removes the incentive to treat college as a free vacation. Since if you have no desire to learn, you're not going to waste time taking classes (even if free) and scraping by on a part time job when you could just work full time and have a lot more free time since you're not "wasting" time in school.
* We stopped educational subsidies for students with poor grades (ideally, gradually to give the student a chance to feel the pressure and correct)
* We equally subsidized trade schools (ideally, even college dropouts or older people could access these subsidies at least once)
Then I went to the US to study....
Boy was I wrong!!! Having to pay for university had zero influence on the seriousness of the students I met. In fact I'd claim it was much worse than my experience from different European countries with free University.
What I realized is that if it is not government money it is going to be somebody elses money and that is frequently American parents. American students did not seem to be any more concerned about wasting their parents money than Norwegian students are concerned about wasting government money.
Again I think it is worse. Over the years, looking at this in more detail I think we are completely overestimating the effects of financial incentives. People are not really optimizing homo economicus. A lot of other factors matter equally much or more.
It is also about what society promotes and values. American society offers no respectable vocational training programs, and does not promote or value that path. Look at Switzerland and Germany which values this and provide great vocational schools. A lot more people go down that route and get skills to get well paid jobs without burying themselves in debt.
It is actually half decent in Norway as well since our system is closely modeled on the German system, however we have suffered from being too heavily influenced by the American view on education. Luckily there has been a push to change this and promote vocational training, causing more people to take that route.
However you can't get people in America to make sensible educational choices, when private schools are shamelessly misguiding student to reap more profits and society is pushing the idea that you can't make a good wage without going to college. Never mind the unhealthy American habit of thinking "anybody can be anything." American optimism can be great for launching google and facebook but it can be poisonous to people of average skill and talent who are deluded into thinking they can be anything they want as long as they work hard enough.
I think you got to work both on attitudes, what the school system offers, the values promoted. Financial incentives can be structured in many ways which doesn't need to punish people severely.
E.g. here in Norway you don't pay for school but you have living expenses, so you get a government loan and stipend to deal with that. As you pass classes they convert increasingly larger part of your student loans to grants. This gives a carrot to anybody to attempt to finish the study in reasonable time.
State/national University here used to be 100% free, but now every graduate has to pay, starting 5 years after graduation, until they turn 65, if they make over U$ 1000 - irrespective of whether their employment has anything to do with their career.
So, a 25 year old graduate gets to pay for the next 35 years. Unlike student debt, you never pay it back, and the cost is also adjusted upwards every year - ostensibly according to inflation, but might be higher.
Students that elected to pay their tuition in a private university don't have to pay.
In a way it's more fair because impoverished people have a chance to do a degree, and they even get a scholarship that includes money for living expenses and textbooks, but OTOH most of the graduates don't earn much above U$ 1000 and they have to pay 5 to 8% of their salary for all their working lives - I'm not sure if that's a good deal.
1) Those that don't directly benefit from university (say you become an electrician) don't have to pay
2) Those that earn millions don't pay it - they pay their £50k loan off (40% of that is living costs), but then those people tend to avoid income tax anyway
3) Those that emmigrate still pay it
All in all it seems fine, but it's used as a political football by those that want to tax builders to pay for the education of stockbrokers (Labour)
The extortionate interest keeps a middle tier of professionals paying well after they've cleared their original loan amount.
Not to mention - I have no doubt 30 years will be changed to 35, and then 40, when the day to write off the debt actually comes.
Currently income tax between £50k and £60k is 60% due to the wothdrqwal of child benefit, student loan increase this to 69%.
Personally I think we tax income - especially earned income, far too high. We have millionaire pensioners paying hardly any tax at all, yet people paying 70% who are unable to buy a house. Sickening, but it's not tuition fees to blame.
I went to school for such a degree. While I don't use it in my day to day now, I still consider it priceless. There's some inherent value added to a person who pursues to study a bit of humanities, history, philosophy and art in college apart from their major. Scholarly work really helps shape the way you look at life for the better.
Part of this is that you really understand why you need to trust academic work for general human advancement. We have too many people thinking it's okay to discredit scientists and scholars because they don't understand how research works.
And a similar number of people who elevate science to the level of religion, marching in its name and developing a brand of hero worship for scientists when they too know nothing at all about the scientific process. Both are forms of anti-intellectualism that are growing in our polarized political environment.
Are you telling me that for every climate change denier, for every anti-vaxxer, for every creationist, for every chemtrail/tap water/moon landing/flat earth conspiracy theorist there's a rabid scientist who elevates the current scientific consensus to the level of religion?
That's borderline whataboutism IMO.
Now go to Google Images and search for "March for Science". Nearly every sign I see is either political in nature, elevating science to a level of religion/infallibility, or casting science as a fashion/meme ("Scientific is the new chic", "Science isn't wrong", "In science we trust").
Using the same logic I could say that the 62+ millions of Americans who voted for Trump are climate change deniers but I don't think that would be fair either.
> I'm not sure this reaction is particularly extreme or uncalled for
But opposition can easily veer into defining, and then rigorously defending, a 'pro-scientific' dogma that actually ends up opposing new, legitimate research.
As a complete hypothetical, what if an esteemed climate scientist discovers evidence that global temperature increase estimates actually are too high by, say, a factor of 2? Will people take that evidence seriously, or write it off as 'climate change denial'?
It feels like an act of willful ignorance to interpret the few words or catchy phrase on a protest sign and ascribe them as that person's core beliefs.
For instance, the GP mentioned anti-vaxxers. There are many different kinds of "alternative" stances on vaccinations, and only one (very) extreme position is "vaccines cause autism". But if you mention anything about vaccines that isn't 100% of vaccines are amazing 100% of the time you are considered an "anti-vaxxer", lumped in with the vaccines-cause-autism crazies.
Consider: I haven't made a judgement on vaccines in this comment, yet I guarantee you have a feeling/judgement about what you think I believe. Like I said, no room for nuance.
I think we're seeing a completely different trend, spurred on by social media and the ability for people to broadcast their own messages/opinions about a topic, and that is, everyone has a loud, and often spurious, opinion about everything. This is something that's always been true, social media is just amplifying this aspect of human nature.
Anyway, I think you're right about social media amplifying human nature, but I don't think it's about opinions. I think most people don't really care too deeply about most things -- one major reason why voting turnouts are so low! Sure, they care about one or two things passionately, but they're mostly moderate on most things. More universally though, people care about attention. They love attention. It's wired into our DNA; babies do everything they can for attention, because attention is survival.
But it turns out that having moderate views isn't really all that interesting. It doesn't demand attention the way having (or representing to have) extreme views does. So are the extreme views genuine, or just a show for attention?
Of course that's a complete strawman on my part here, you didn't say any of this. But consider this for instance:
> For instance, the GP mentioned young earthers. There are many different kinds of "alternative" stances on the age of the earth, and only one (very) extreme position is "earth is 6000 years old". But if you mention anything about the age of the earth that isn't exactly *the universe is 13.8 billion years old and the earth was formed around 4.5 billion years ago" you are considered a "young earther", lumped in with the creationist crazies.
I could do the same thing about flat earth or, if I wanted to heat up the discussion even more, the holocaust.
You can and you should question everything all the time, but at some point we have to reach a consensus and move on. We can't spend all of our time proving again and again and again that the earth is round, that Earth is not 10000 years old and that vaccines do not cause autism. If new evidence surfaces it should be reconsidered of course but the case for the anti-vaxxers is pretty weak as far as I can tell.
They're missing the inherent tension in science between a received body of knowledge and the skepticism it takes to produce new knowledge.
Discussions on reddit (and all sorts of other social platforms) are being influenced and manipulated by people who are being paid to do so, and anyone who denies that at this point is delusional.
Source: I know people who run firms that provide this service.
Who or what determines what is controversial?
To me, vaccines are not controversial at all. You can pick and choose specific ones to argue about, but the concept of vaccines is literally proven, beyond a doubt.
As for GMOs, there's a lot more room but even still, the fundamentals are nothing controversial. This is also proven in pretty much anything you can buy in a grocery store today.
Upvote/downvotes are de-facto agree/disagree buttons on reddit. As a forum it's completely useless to discuss anything beyond cat pictures and funny gifs.
For example, you can post the same remarks criticizing functional programming in a post about C# or Java and get upvotes, while the same post in a Haskell discussion will be downvoted. You can try the experiment yourself to verify it.
This applies to companies as well - you will be upvoted for pro-Microsoft or anti-Google posts in a news topic about Microsoft, and the reverse in a news topic about Google. This is because people who use Microsoft products will be very interested in Microsoft news, but not interested enough in Google news to go and downvote opinions they disagree with there.
It's simply unreasonsble to think that the value of a comment is independent of its context.
Just the same as Reddit. It's a deeper issue than just being 'reddit', and it's more about online discussion in general.
Then people could turn on or off some way to see which posts are heavily agreed or disagreed with without downvoting interesting posts just because you disagree. You could even have a system where you mark people you respect and then only see which posts they agreed with to get a more personal feel? Might be an interesting discussion board idea to pursue.
There are several factors that ensure better Signal to Noise ratios in communities.
Protective Moats, specific technical subject matter, for example.
Essentially it boils down to difficulty to engage, or non trivial effort required to engage.
The factors you mentioned have little impact on the behavior of the sub, which is mostly influenced by the people and norms of behavior, over the UI.
I had in mind people who go on planes to disprove the earth being round, who believe crystals have actual healing powers, or people who refuse proven cancer treatment.
Sure, there are plenty of pseudo scientists out there that promote their political or economic agendas, but you can't discredit all science because of that.
Right now "hard" science is the best way to explain things around us and the universe. Sure, often it is wrong as new science gets discovered, but that's how human knowledge evolves.
As for the "soft" sciences (anything social/psyc, etc), that's a completely different matter. They are more prone to trends, fads and more personal biases, hence I would put them in a different category.
This is not necessarily true, and I would urge caution when making such generalizations. There is junk social science and there is also plenty of junk "hard" science. Examples of fake data, political and personal biases interfering with the scientific method, occur in all fields. Some "fads" eventually become accepted fact. It took 100 years before plate tectonics was accepted by the majority of the scientific community, there are many such examples.
Don't universally discount social science: it is just as important as physical science. We actually need more social scientists to help understand the reasons behind anti-science movements in the first place, and to help legitimize science as a process, critial thinking, and to debunk illogical arguments.
And if social scientists want to "help legitimize science as a process, critial thinking, and to debunk illogical arguments.", they should start with fixing their own reproducibility crisis and p-hacking crisis before instructing other people on science as a process.
I am merely cautioning against over generalization that just because there are some high profile examples of bad social science, there is still a lot of very good social science happening and it would be a shame to ignore it.
The titans of a scientific field still valued arts, and history, and culture. And derived value from it.
Hell, I'm a working scientist and one of the most valuable classes I ever had for thinking about the world was a feminist art history class.
As a member of society I need you to take care of yourself. You are a burden on society if you don't have a productive job paying your own way. We provide a "safety net", but the less who use it the better. Too many people using the safety net will make society break down. We believe is education required to be productive, so we subsidize education to get more productive people in society.
Or to put it simply: If you love art, get an art degree.
You can study Computer Science while also learning a bit of art history, or architecture, or psychology, or the sciences, or business, or...
And doing so might even make you more valuable to your employer, to yourself/your family, and to society.
> You are a burden on society if you don't have a productive job paying your own way... We believe is education required to be productive, so we subsidize education to get more productive people in society.
This mode of thinking is a great way to churn out lots of well-behaved, competent corporate employees. From this viewpoint, it follows that the path to the upper class is reserved for the already-rich.
You are not a burden just by not having a "productive job, paying your own way". You are a burden if you deny people their essential human dignity, by forcing them to conform to your vision of what they should be in order to eat. You are a burden if you take for yourself a surplus and do not use it to supply those with a dearth. You are a burden if you lie, cheat, steal, and assault. You are a burden if you do not respect and appreciate the hundreds of people working in harmony who helped each other to ensure you survived to adulthood with enough education to write your own opinions.
If all you do is sit on a couch with a cannabis vape and a game console, you're no burden to me. Some people keep house cats, and have no problem feeding them without getting much of anything in return. A "non-productive" human may yet do something. It might not be great, but could be at least marginally useful, if we allow them the time for their calling to mature and motivate them to action. Or they could just be a dud for their entire life. I don't really need to make a monkey dance in order to throw it a nut.
I don't particularly need you to take care of yourself. I may even be willing to pitch in with others to take care of you, on the conditions that you first do no harm to others, and then that you give back in whatever way you feel you are able. But that generosity only extends as far as what I think you may need. If you want something extra, you're going to need to give a little more before you get it.
We are way past the era of "no work; no eat" edicts. Thanks to our machines, we don't have a labor problem any more; we have an information problem. The systems in place for connecting creators with consumers, to everyone's mutual benefit, have never been entirely adequate, and haven't scaled very well to a world of 7.6 billion people.
I'm really not belittling your degree. I value such degrees highly. I also don't think they should cost so much, nor that the student-loan bubble should be allowed to facilitate charging you so much for it. Ideally fixing the system wouldn't eliminate such degrees, they would just decrease the cost to something reasonable.
I self taught computer science and programming, so now I have a good salary and a much more comfortable life.
I feel my bachelor's was pretty special since it was a liberal arts degree and my employer seems to recognize the difference between me and someone who didn't go to school and/or just studied STEM exclusively.
I was very lucky to have scholarships, that made it easier on me when I was younger. But wanting to go back for CS made it impossible later in life without getting in debt. And I refuse to get a student loan. It's sad that when someone didn't get lucky with a well off household or scholarships, they have to cripple themselves into debt.
I think a lot of people don't realize how little they will earn with their degrees compared to how high their debt load will be. That's not including people who fail to even finish their degrees.
I always thought this was an excellent idea.
I remember helping my sister with her philosophy home work, and being surprised by the amount of elementary logic and set theory being taught.
But some departments are less analytic (e.g. departments heavy on  and  aren't too difficult to find in the US). In those departments, the mode of thinking is very different from what you'll experience in a CS course.
And in both cases, taking a lot of humanity courses will teach you how to write well. Which is definitely a skill that a lot of CS majors lack.
(Also, a course of study in analytic philosophy can definitely help round out a CS major that's too light on the theory courses.)
It usually saves 2 years compared to doing them separately and you get 2 degrees on the final piece of testament.
I found it tremendously useful as my "humanity" was my Physics degree to complement the Comp Sci. Plenty of philosophy in the hard sciences when you learn the history and where we are going.
> Scholarly work really helps shape the way you look at life for the better.
Like what? What scenario did you encounter and how did your studies help you? Otherwise it sounds like a vague claim that every religious institution would make.
Studying for a degree involves more than just reading a book. A good degree (no matter what major you choose) should leave you with the skills and capabilities to learn and teach yourself new skills. This - not the knowledge gained - is by far the most valuable takeaway that I have from my studies: Oh, I need to learn about the problem space X. How do I start, research, teach myself things about something previously unknown. School teaches knowledge, university learning skills.
My opinion is that many (I'd say most but I'm not certain) of the universities in the US are pretty good.
If we could objectively measure the tangible benefits of a degree and replicate it with a low cost alternative - it still wouldn't carry the same prestige because it's not exclusionary. I think the greatest barrier to truly accessible education is our status seeking behavior.
> the way you look at life for the better
Do you feel your outlook has improved, or are your life outcomes measurably better, and how?
Additional question: was it worth the $37,000 in debt, and do you think that perhaps we could achieve the same better-ness with less debt?
Yeah it's like when people defend hazing. "Oh it builds character!" No thanks please.
I dont feel this is the case, and I wouldnt say its priceless. its on average ~30k$ + 2 years of extra course work, and honestly, we are getting very little bang for our buck.
it has little impact on my career, but cutting my tuition nearly in half, and giving nearly 2 years back to me would be huge.
I honestly think art schools are going to start running into problems convincing people it's a good idea to pay 60k a year for minimal ROI.
My cousin wants to go into stage drama, and I don't want to tell her to not pursue her dream, but I think it's a lot to ask her to put herself in debt for years for a piece of paper that says she can act.
FWIW I majored in ECE, got a job as a software engineer with 100k salary plus benefits, and I'm ~140k in debt. I definitely overpaid, but my salary gives me a way out. People who came from my alma mater who majored in drama can't say the same.
That's awesome! I wish more people had smart person to sit down and explain these things to them.
Don't worry, your salary gives them a way out too. And I'm not just saying that to be snarky, I think it's very likely what will end up happening: you'll end up paying for their poor choices one way or another. If it's not directly via taxes to pay off their student loans, it'll fund their retirement.
Social Security benefits, without any other retirement savings, puts you right around poverty level. I would not consider that "retirement".
Being a software engineer, who makes more than many other professions, doesn't automatically make you better for doing so. It just means you've optimized for a specific system. Congrats! The world still needs plenty of professions where the pay sucks and college is required (teachers, civil engineers, LPNs), that are arguably far more useful/noble/whatever you want to call real value. Consider that when you're sending your kid(s) off to school, crossing a bridge on your way to work, or are in the hospital being cared for.
Politically, the story would be something like this: why should you, a multi-millionaire SW engineer who hasn't paid taxes on your 401k not pay your fair share so that these other folks can spend some time with their families? After all, they were the victims of predatory lending! Close the loophole that allowed your opulent lifestyle!
And remember, 401ks are a multi-trillion dollar market of untaxed dollars. Do you really think tomorrow's politician in 30-40 years is going to miss that, never mind their constituents?
Of course taxes are going to go up. Plan accordingly. If you've put millions of dollars in a pre-tax retirement account, you're a fool if you think it's coming out at anything near current tax rates. You're banking on a political climate that cannot exist existing. That's your fault.
And before blaming your average citizen, look how little anyone cares about what citizens want regarding net neutrality, a tax bill that is going to gut entitlements to support tax cuts for the top 1%, and so on.
 https://treasurydirect.gov/NP/debt/current (~20 trillion dollars in US gov outstanding debt obligations)
They already did. The GOP tax bill specifically targeted our demographic as a way to finance tax cuts for the wealthy and businesses. The GOP doesn't even deny it.
Like it or not, we are the scapegoats for all the problems afflicting the poor. And it's not a stretch to believe the GOP is going to use popular support to extract every dime from us until we are homeless too.
Enough Puerto Ricans might have moved to Florida already to turn the state blue. Won't know until next elections.
It's interesting that you believe people with $5M+ networth would have service workers as neighbors. :)
My former next door neighbor had to move far away because she just couldn't afford it anymore, but probably at least a half-dozen families on my block could plausibly have net worths in the $5M range. In a neighborhood like this you see $70k and $10k cars parked next to each other.
I currently save at a 50/50 mix of 401(k)/Roth 401(k) just in case the scenario you described comes true. I expect that as I age I'll contribute more post-tax dollars to my Roth and fewer to my 401(k).
Further, a lot of 401(k)s at larger companies that use Fidelity (at least, possibly others) have a feature where you can allocate money into a general brokerage sub-account, where you can invest in anything you could if you opened an IRA at Fidelity.
This Bogleheads post had some good replies about why this is the way it is in terms of contribution max:
It is what it is and, until I find something decently high-paying, doesn't really matter in the short run.
Shame on you for working in tech and not a more noble profession. I recommend that you resign from your job next week and become a high school math teacher.
(I got a job in tech because I feel it adds the most value to the world so I'm not a hypocrite)
Quite a self-contradictory statement. I mean, if the world was in such a dire need of said professions in such quantities, then their pay wouldn’t suck in the first place.
It is the definition of value. Value is the compensation others are willing to give you in exchange for your goods/services.
Value includes far more than that. It includes all kinds of tangibles and intangibles, including compensation in exchange for absolutely nothing, such as in the case of nonworking shareholders being paid dividends, such dividends arising from the expropriation by owners of surplus value created by workers.
Workers are paid wages for creating said surplus value using the company’s capital. If the shareholders’ capital were indeed not necessary for producing said surplus value, then why wouldn’t the workers create it by themselves, thus avoiding the expropriation?
Workers are paid wages to produce. Wages, stagnant for the last forty-plus years, have proven unlinked to productivity, which has risen very sharply over the same time. Wages are also unlinked from investment risk, which compels no rise in wages when it retires.
> then why wouldn’t the workers create it by themselves, thus avoiding the expropriation?
They do - you have described cooperative ownership of an enterprise. To tie back to value: given the fundamental conflict of interest under capitalism in the apportioning of value between creators and expropriators, I think we should expect cooperative ownership to grow in popularity.
It's important to allow that value reasonably includes the satisfaction of workers, customers, neighbors, and the taxpayers who subsidize the enterprise. It's understandable that these things would escape the category of "value" under a system that enshrines the satisfaction of shareholders as the prime motive of the enterprise.
A better data point would be to look around entry level or mid level in non development roles (sales, marketing, HR/admin, etc.) and see what majors are represented there.
The unfortunate part about this, is that I believe that if you remove the protections on the loans, many students now WILL default, because they have too much debt and are incentivized to do so, if they are one of the larger loan carriers. I'd say "bite the bullet, and that's what banks get for giving out risky loans" but we know that's not going to play out that way, especially since the gov owns a fair portion.
Making tuition free is nice, but the generation that took out loans isn't helped AND this does not reduce the college price problem. The price was inflated and there is no reason for them to decrease it. Kind of a parallel to health care here. That's the cost. I like this idea, even if I have to pay back my large loans, but I think the fundamental price issue also needs to be solved.
Giving a portion of your earnings is a decent method, but you already bring up the problem with that. And this also doesn't solve the price problem, in fact it encourages the price to keep going up. (We can even tangent into how schools are over charging gov for research, but I'll leave that for another comment)
Whatever we do, somebody is going to lose. And that's the problem with bubbles. We need to, as a society and government, decide who is going to lose. Problem is I think the majority of people think the banks [gov] should lose, for giving out such risky loans. But I don't think many politicians would agree. I wonder what the economists say.
> Making tuition free is nice...
I think it's funny that you have these two ideas so close together... The government owning most of the loans provides a very easy path to enabling free college retroactively: extinguish all the loans. The government doesn't have a profit incentive, so there's no reason that such a path should not be reasonable.
There are a lot of ways of socializing the cost of education, doing it retroactively opens up a whole can of worms.
I may be a little salty because I took the community-college-into-university approach to save on costs and made some sacrifices to send every extra penny I earned towards paying down debt.
But I also realize that the country is going to be much worse off if we continue to punish people for spending more than they could afford on university.
But, honestly, I'm not a huge fan of logic lines that sound like, "We can't help everyone, so therefore we should help no one." We should absolutely strive to help everyone we can. And if there's still a population remaining afterwards which requires help, then we can talk about why they weren't helped before and figure out whether and how to reach them also.
There are a ton of things I haven't figure out (follow my post history for more detail on what I have)
Seems bad for both the loan provider (at least in short term) and the student.
The "underwater basketweaving" so to say, may be at most 10-15% of current college graduates.
I think the solution lies more with reducing the cost of college, open source textbooks, more elearning, etc. Regardless of government funding vs subsidized loans, the cat is already out of the hat on a lot of price increases around campuses nation wide. It isn't going to be just as easy to just change the funding source.
I also sympathize with the trade school argument, but I don't think everyone going to college is a bad idea by any means.
I'm not actually disputing your suggestion that a lot of students obtain the degree as a placeholder--it's a problem--but depending on the university, it's far from easy, and I know lots of students who obtain lots of degrees as placeholders. Students perceive that the degree is easy based on introductory psychology, but in a lot of programs, it quickly turns into statistics, neuroscience, and cognitive modeling with upper-level classes. Students coast for their first year or two and then sometime by their 3rd year start struggling.
Anyway, one of my frustrations after my doctoral degree is the stereotypes about the field. I've certainly had more experience with computer science, math, and statistics than most undergrads with those degrees (math might be different). I've worked with comp sci undergrads, and without meaning anything negative, I felt like I was teaching them about programming most of the time, rather than anything the other way around.
And yet, because of my degree, somehow people just assume that I'm interested in past lives therapy or something like that. What I do is closer to ML/AI/epidemiology than anything else. I've published papers in the areas of information theory and statistics, and coded in a large number of languages across various paradigms.
One shift that seems to have occurred since I was in undergrad is this idea that you are your degree. It's pernicious. The liberal arts philosophy is sort of along the lines of "get a degree in philosophy," take your advanced maths and statistics, and then learn more of it later, because the specific degree doesn't matter. But now we see college as an advanced job training program, and people assume that you are only qualified to do what you got your undergrad in. It's absurd.
I admit there's some limits--I'd wonder if an BFA could get deep experience in computer science, but who knows? I've seen all sorts of art projects that involve heavy coding, statistics / ML, and low-level hardware stuff, and know history faculty who are basically doing signal processing research. Coetzee, a nobel prize winner in literature, used to code.
At some level, the problem isn't these degrees all the time, it's the stereotypes about them and the people getting them.
about 65% of grads are in what I would consider, employable categories. STEM, Healthcare, Business, applied sciences (production/manufacturing type stuff), there are more but I cant remember now
about 25% of grads in what I would consider, employable but less so. Things like psychology, social sciences, histories, social work degrees, etc
then 10% are in the liberal arts/basketweaving area
While I will be the first to admit that degree is not necessarily an accurate predictor of success. I still think it is fair to say that even in the age of abundant student loans, in general most students ARE trying to pursue jobs that will make them employable. Even if they are misguided in some way, or don't hit the mark.
What percentage of mortgages went into foreclosure in 2008? One source I found said 1/54.
In Australia we have a system somewhere between this and a loan.
You go to (heavily subsidized) university, tuition is paid for by the government with an automatic interest free loan.
Once you earn above a particular (somewhat generous) threshold, your employer automatically starts taking a percentage of your income (depends on income) and pays it towards the loan.
There's no interest but the loan amount is indexed against inflation.
I graduated from one of the country's top universities with $24k AUD (~$18k USD) debt to the government and paid it all off early voluntarily. It used to be that voluntary payments got you a 5% bonus but that's gone now.
Also it used to be that voluntary payments got you a discount.
But getting rid of it does make it easier to borrow more money for a house, etc.
Vs open loans which little cost accountability. (well accountability via students for which this is the most extensive, longest term, financially complex, with highly variable ROI purchase they will have made in their life so far...)
Anyway it is a poor metric, especially compared to the US, because small countries are not well suited for consumer oriented tech companies such as Facebook. The home market is too small. Small Scandinavian countries tend to have tech companies in particular niches.
I am Norwegian myself and a lot of high tech here is related to the oil industry, making specialized software, hardware and instruments for it. Norway is world leader in this area, but few people outside the oil industry would know that.
Another problem for small countries is due to the small home market, our tech companies usually get bought by big American multinationals. That means a lot of tech done here happens under umbrella of some American company and doesn't show up as some independent Norwegian company.
Almost every single Norwegian tech company I have worked for has gotten bought out by some big American multinational. Video conferencing, secure authentication systems, 3D modeling of geology etc.
It is not unique to Scandinavian countries. Israel dubbed startup nation suffers the same problem. Few tech companies ever manage to get very big before they get bought by an American multinational. It is an issue that worries government there as being a country only made up of branches is not as profitable as having tech HQs.
Denmark is the home of BlueTooth, ZenDesk, Skype, and a company called Danfoss which you've certainly never heard of but provided microchips and motherboards for a large percentage of the world's tractors, district heating plants, refrigeration centers, and industrial greenhouses. Denmark is a technology powerhouse with manufacturing capabilities that outrank countries a dozen times their size.
This is absolutely not the case. Student loans have caps and they're incredibly easy to hit, especially if you go to a 5-year school where you're expected to pay tuition while doing 6-month internship blocks. Lots of people I knew in college (myself included) had to drop out in the first 2 quarters of year 5 because they couldn't get enough money to finish.
Edit: Just checked to see what the cap was at these days.
Back when I was in school, the unsubsidized loan max was 27k. Now its 31k. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans/subsidized-unsubsid...
we all want a successful life, and being good little free-market capitalists, we eagerly buy into the story that we can achieve success by simply buying a degree (hey, i bought three of 'em!) and letting the rest play out like our wildest dreams.
but of course it doesn't work that way because we didn't scrutinize the winding path between degree and successful life, because the shortcut between those two things doesn't actually exist (at least not any more).
colleges and universities have done a good job extracting most, if not all, of the value out of the higher education market, with the help of government distortions (guaranteed interest, unbankruptable debt). it's time to put to bed the idea that a degree equals success (it's also time to get rid of those market distortions). a few of us will get lucky of course, but pretty much everyone will need to create success the old-fashioned way: by working hard for it.
It'd be more correct to say that it's way too easy to get money while at college. An awful lot of college students believe that being in college means that they have a middle class lifestyle. It is cliche, but in my day (1989-1993) students were poor. You lived in a dormitory and ate in a cafeteria. Maybe you'd go to a bar once a month. And 99% of the time you walked everywhere.
I think easy of approvals for student loans combined with the 2008 recession and slow recovery led to a lot of people finding that student loans were a source of income rather than a way to pay for college.
Another part of the problem is that there's really no such thing as a useless degree. A person may never use what they learned from that degree, but the fact that they were able to earn a degree is still used by employers as a bar to judge potential employees.
Being able to get a four year degree does not signal that a potential employee is better than someone that doesn't. Especially the way higher education has gone in my lifetime.
It can't really be a bubble because there are no assets to be bid up in a run away cycle or that can have a sudden collapse. Bloomberg tells you what you need to know in the article but doesn't do it right upfront. The overwhelming majority of this debt is held or guaranteed by the federal government.
A bubble is one way to get malinvestment, but it isn't the only one. Here we have malinvestment but no bubble.
Or 4-5 years getting a piece of paper saying "Computer Science" when they can't do the work, because society says "CS makes money" and the CS department is happy to take it. If people with only a high school degree can't make a living, we need to either make college free, or make companies pay for it.
The two aren't mutually exclusive.
In a compassionate society, we'll encourage people to pursue art or music or mathematics or dance and plumbing or auto repair.
There are enough educational resources to go around; our economy just hasn't found the right shape to make good use of them.
I suspect that it's either because you're not listening or people aren't talking about it. I had 3 years of on the job engineering experience and an established, good credit history when I got denied a loan for my last year of undergrad at a state school. Mind you this was fairly recently and my only loan for school I applied for ever. I could be the freak accident but it doesn't seem all that probable.
We basically already have that system. If you get federal loans (which most people who take out loans do--90% of all loan disbursements) you can sign up for an income based repayment plan.
You pay back 10% of your disposable income (income over 1.5x the federal poverty limit), for 20 years.
If you make less than 1.5x the poverty limit, you pay nothing.
No. It's 20 years. https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans/in...
>the forgiven amount is taxable income.
It's only taxable up to the point of solvency. If you have a sizeable loan forgiven and you haven't made enough money to pay it over 20 years, you likely won't have enough assets to end up owing very much.
Also it's very likely congress will intervene in 10-15 years or so when a huge percentage of voters have this problem.
>income-based plans often result in payments that don't even cover interest, so the debt continues to pile up quickly.
If that's the case, you will never pay it off and we're back to debt cancellation after 20 years.
"'Students and parents have a pretty good idea of what majors pay the most, but they have a poor sense of the magnitude of the differences within the major,' said Douglas A. Webber, an associate professor of economics at Temple University who studies earnings by academic field. He points to one example: The top quarter of earners who majored in English make more over their lifetimes than the bottom quarter of chemical engineers.
But what if you never make it to the top of the pay scale? Even English or history graduates who make just above the median lifetime earnings for their major do pretty well when compared to typical graduates in business or a STEM field."
But then goes onto say the reason for the gender wage gap is not enough women choose STEM majors.
I think this comment here points to the issue of colleges -- most people have no clue what major they want to be or what type of career they want to pursue.
The result is that if they are pushed into a corner they do not want to be in, money would be spent and nothing of value would be gained.
What should be happening before college or at the earlier levels is people taking classes that allow them to explore but also teach them transferable skills.
Ideally, this is where G.E.'s should've worked. However, at the current state, they're just useless extra units that seemed be layed onto college students in order to keep them in school longer, and thus pay more tuition. In addition, most of the things they teach are not transferable - they're too specific / boring and after a semester, it's all forgotten.
Instead, the G.E. curriculum should focus on knowledge shared by every field, or that could be used in any career -- logic, data science, ethics, etc.
An improvement like this could justify the high-cost of a college education.
Being poor, in hindsight, was a blessing.
Depending on how the debt situation falls out, we might already have that. :-\
Next, we automatically bail out everyone with medical debt -> universal healthcare!
Socialise the losses, privatise the profits.
PBSNewsHour did a piece on this concept:
Purdue invests in students’ futures with new model of financing
"Unlike student debt, it shifts the burden — or the risk, I should say — entirely from the student to the investor."
"That’s because the terms of the agreement, called an ISA, are made well before students launch their careers. So, even if a student ends up in a low-paying job, the pay-back percentage stays the same."
(I don't know how or if any of this could be accomplished.)
This is just another way of wording how you're paying your debt and who you're paying it to.
I've always been prideful about money and don't like people paying for my stuff. So I wouldn't ask my parents to pay or co-sign, so I basically couldn't get a loan given those constraints (at the time, late 90s into early 00s).
I would go a bit further and say it is way to easy to get money for bad college. Looking at some of the ways for-profit colleges pitch pretty worthless degrees as a "path to higher pay" and simultaneously lay down the student loan application reminds me of the mortgage refinance market of 2007.
One of the problems with this legislation (this is now totally my opinion), is that it only addressed the funding side of things and not the spending side.
Right, and people in poor countries stealing money to feed themselves is a "food bubble", with the solution being a reduction in food consumption.
How come there is no "education bubble" in countries where college is essentially free? That would be guaranteed to create the biggest bubble of all.
Median Lifetime Earnings:
Cost of School and Lost Earnings vs High School Grad:
BLS on Pay by Education
The National Mortgage Lenders Association defaulted on their mortgage. Many business and corporations, large and small, go bankrupt and discharge debts.
Only individual consumers get trapped in non-dischargable debt.
No, the student is supposed to pay back his loan regardless of major.
The reason we have student loans is under the traditional credit system someone without a job and a credit history isn't going to get a loan at all.
The only problem is young people making poor choices (which is partially the fault of elders and predators) and taking out large loans to attend overpriced (for the value) schools/programs.
Because student loans are the one kind of debt that can stick through bankruptcy, so it's a great investment!
I can't speak for the overall society, but I know personally I noticed locally amongst friends and family that when student loans became more widespread under Obama local private companies stopped paying for their employers to get nursing degrees, or other degrees. My sister got her RN and Masters degree through a program at the hospital she worked at, starting as a receptionist when 16. I knew someone who was a dishwasher at a michelin star restaurant and they paid for his culinary degree and worked to develop him. He's running his own joint now. It seems now not many employers are willing to pay the bill for education as the government is there to do that for them. I can't say this is perfect.. it seems any way you cut it people are going to get thrown under the bus.
Personally I paid upfront for college after years of working various jobs, I cherished every class a whole lot more I feel. Sure it's history and political science that I majored in, degrees many would view as useless. I think said studies are more vaulable when you're older, after you start building a life/career as they can certainly add compliment to one's understanding of reality. That said, I'm not advocating people not go into said fields at a younger age, it's a tricky issue. I know I would have hated studying STEM related stuff when younger and even when I went to college at an older age. Now I'm working on aquaculture stuff.. go figure.
> “it seems any way you cut it people are going to get thrown under the bus.”
Incorrect, every other western country at least has a pretty workable system.
The rich (myself included in that statement) are doing just fine, and could shoulder a little more without major setbacks. The poor are already dealing with a system that is bringing social mobility to a halt.
I was poor, now I'm above average. I would say maybe upper middle class now due to my business ventures, but before school which I paid for out of pocket through jobs I worked + having to pay for life's other nonsense things, so I'm not totally sympathetic to others in the same situation. By poor, I mean I was living in a house I bought for cheap as it was a foreclosure in a poor neighborhood, working two full time jobs and going to school part time/half time (9 credits per semester). Had to pay for my own health insurance, car insurance (1988 beretta's aren't the most reliable of transportations), plus two children, one with medical conditions. So to me idk, like I said I don't have much sympathy and think plenty should be able to adapt.