We spend a lot of time talking about student loan debt and whether or not the government should bail people out who hold it. What we don’t spend enough time addressing are the reasons for that debt.
There are multiple factors that have created the current problem, which is bigger than people merely not being able to pay their debts. Colleges and universities have become vastly more expensive than the average person can afford. They offer a plethora of degrees that have little to no real-life value. And we ask students at 18 years of age, before their brains are fully formed and before they’ve had a whole lot of life experience, to determine what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives, what degree is going to best help them get there and to figure out how to pay tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to afford it.
It’s a recipe for disaster. And to make matters worse, the federal government has been in the student loan business for decades now—creating a situation where demand for a degree is inflated while the supply stays relatively stable. That naturally causes prices to skyrocket.
It also means people can get loans for degrees that don’t have market value. (You’d almost never see private banks loan someone $50,000 to study gender politics). And it means schools can keep jacking their prices up far above what people could otherwise afford.
So, the government is really to blame for the bulk of the issue. But society also bares some blame. Too many employers continue to lazily rely on a person’s academic achievements when it comes to hiring instead of finding ways to measure their relevant work experience, skills, and overall qualities that might make them a good employee.
One-third of recent college graduates work in a field that is unrelated to their degree, which shows you just how irrelevant most of these degrees actually are. But people continue to pursue them, and pay for them, because frankly, it can be hard to get a good job without jumping through that very expensive hoop.
While we can’t mandate how people run their businesses, we can educate them on how foolish it is and how it creates problems that trickle throughout the rest of society. And we can mandate how the government makes these determinations.
Currently, many public positions needlessly require a college degree—only furthering the problems workers face in finding good jobs.
Enter SB1310 and its companion HB1109 down in the Florida legislature. Known as the “Expanding Public Sector Career Opportunities” bill and sponsored by Senator Nick DiCeglie and Representative Webster Barnaby, this legislation would allow for relevant work experience to be substituted for academic degrees in public jobs.
This would help break barriers for people who have not done the traditional college/academic pathway but who are otherwise qualified for public employment and it’s a common-sense solution to the student loan debt problem.
The government can choose to lead in this area and set a good example that hopefully others in society will choose to follow.
You don’t need a college degree for everything. Let’s stop needlessly forcing people into debt.
Disclaimer: Hannah Cox is a fellow with Americans for Prosperity, which is advocating in favor of this legislation.
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