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Federal student loans make kids 'debt peons'

Those concerned about the value of a college education may be interested in David Wilezol and former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett's new book, "Is College Worth it?"

Reviewer Arthur Herman in The Wall Street Journal says their answer is yes in the end. But they lay out a string of ghastly revelations, including:

* The cost of attending a four-year school has risen by four times the rate of inflation since 1990.

* The average pay for college grads has fallen by 5 percent since 2007-08. Almost half the graduates work at jobs that don't require degrees.

* In 1991, one in 10 households had some student loan debt; today, one in five households do.

* College administrative costs, per student, rose by more than 61 percent from 1993 to 2007.

* In 2008, 81 percent of Americans thought college was worth it. Today, that figure is 57 percent.

"Leaving aside a few elite institutions - and degrees in high-demand fields like math, science and engineering - never have so many charged so much for so little," Herman wrote.

Bennett and Wilezol put much of the blame on federal student loans.

"Those have ballooned by 60 percent in the past five years alone to more than $900 million, while grants-in-aid, like Pell grants, have tripled in value over the past decade," Herman wrote.

"Knowing that Washington is going to pump in money to make college more 'affordable' only encourages colleges and universities to raise their tuitions and fees and ignore cost efficiencies, including administrative and bureaucratic bloat," Herman said.

"The search for loan-subsidized customers encourages schools to lower academic standards, inflate grades . . . and offer more 'pop' courses and trendy majors so that students can glide along and earn an easy degree.

"Meanwhile, those who have dined on such lighter-than-air academic fare wind up saddled with debt and increasingly unable to find a job that can pay it off."

This is damning stuff, and there will be outrage in some quarters.

It should be remembered, when that breaks out, that's there's plenty of reason for outrage over the situation American kids have to deal with now.

Today's college experience is turning them into what Herman called "debt peons."

The politicians who have grandstanded about making college "more affordable" should be taken to the woodshed for that.


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