We Don’t Need No (Free) Education

So President Obama wants to make community college free. One wonders if a community college economics class is in order for him. Maybe then he would understand that labor is still a supply factor in a supply/demand chart.

I’m going to say something that is hard for many to hear, and is something that is not politically correct -- college isn’t for everyone.

In a national economy, we definitely need people who do not go to college, as well as people who do. We need non-college jobs, like plumbing, garbage collecting, and general contracting, to be filled. And I’m not being too elitist -- some of these jobs pay more than my degree-requiring one does. Moreover, small-business owners are the backbone of our economy, creating more wealth and jobs than most other industries combined; and most small business owners do not require a college diploma to do their jobs.

And we also need people to serve in lower-paying positions. To be sure, the cost of living is way out of control in places like L.A., New York, and San Francisco, but in many places throughout the country a minimum wage is still a living wage for young singles. We need McDonald’s positions to be open to people who’ve simply graduated high school (or maybe some who didn’t even get that far) -- let alone to be available to high school students as part-time positions.

But aside from the fact that we do actually need some people to not graduate from college, our university system is in bad shape. Our higher-education system has created a generation of debt-bearing, underemployed, and American-dream eschewing people. As a millennial myself, I am very worried what the future of my job market looks like.

Let’s start with the fact that my generation owes way too much in college loan debt. In fact, take "too much" and multiply it by a thousand, and you might be getting close.

College loans are starting to be bad deals. But the reason a loan debt is so bad isn’t because colleges cost too much, but rather because people aren’t able to get the jobs they need to pay the amount they borrowed. If a person earns a degree, and cannot find a position that utilizes his learning, or one that pays him a "white-collar wage," he may not be able to pay back the loan.

But that’s not even the debt I’m worried about. Our national debt is almost twenty-trillion dollars!

I was sitting in a waiting room recently, and I struck up a conversation with some of the older people around me. And the topic went to politics, and the national debt was brought up. Though sympathetic, the people around me basically said, "It’s not our problem." And they’re right: this extreme debt will not be paid by the over-60 crowd, or by Obama’s generation. It will have to be paid by ours. And we can’t afford it. Even if we all gave 100% of our earnings to the government for over a year, we still wouldn't be able to pay off this debt.

When one starts saying "college should be free," they’re not remembering that nothing is free. It will be paid for either out of taxation or borrowing. And either way, we already can’t afford the national debt we have, especially as our college degrees get more meaningless.

And that’s the next problem we face -- underemployment.