Student Loan Debt Shows Congress Needs to Reprioritize

By Neil Patel

March 21, 2019 6 min read

America's collective student loan debt now stands at about $1.5 trillion dollars. That's more than the entire GDP of Sweden. Apart from mortgages, student loans are the biggest source of personal debt in America. This staggering amount of debt is enough to cripple the U.S. economy and stunt the prospects of an entire generation. If you're wondering why the majority of Americans under 30 say they prefer socialism, look at this debt. Student loans are killing them.

The student loan crisis is a modern problem. Just 13 years ago, the average new college graduate owed $20,000 in student loans. Today, that number has jumped to $37,000. For professional degrees, the numbers go far higher. The average law school grad carries more that $110,000 in student loan debt. Overall, two million Americans owe more than $100,000 in student loans. And many of people paying off college loan debt never even received a degree. They tried to improve their lives by attending college. They wound up poorer and in bondage.

As a result, these people are delaying the vital life transitions that were automatic for earlier generations. In 1990, a quarter of young adults lived with their parents. Today, the number has risen to 35. The home ownership rate for millennials has dropped eight points from the generation before. Unable to afford homes, millennials are getting married later and less often. They're also having fewer kids. It's not because they don't want children. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who want children hasn't changed in 25 years. Yet fewer children are being born.

Young Americans want homes and families. Helping them get those things ought to be a top priority for us as a country. We can't begin to fix this problem until we reform the student loan system. Why haven't we done that? A hugely powerful lobby stands in the way: colleges and universities, whose lobbyists swarm Washington. Inside the gates of these universities, it's like the Ritz Carlton on south beach. Everything is new. There has been a building boom underway on campuses for decades, all funded by debt that's destroying a generation of kids. A hundred schools have endowments of over a billion dollars. They're hedge funds with schools attached.

What have colleges done with this money? Hired massive staffs of likeminded people, for one thing. From 1987 to 2012, the number of administrators on college campuses more than doubled. These administrators routinely make six-figure salaries. College presidents are often paid over $1 million annually.

Academic publishers are getting rich from the student debt boom, too. Prices of textbooks have tripled in the past 20 years. Printing hasn't gotten more expensive. Non-academic books are cheaper now than they were two decades ago. Students are a captive market. They're being exploited ruthlessly. Nobody says a word.

What's the solution? Here's one: Have colleges co-sign the loans. Colleges are incentivized currently to get kids in the door and to cash their checks. Co-signing would incentivize colleges to help kids get to graduation to actually teach the kids skills they can use to earn a living. Today, colleges get all of the benefit and none of the risk. That's the definition of a scam.

The second solution is to make colleges spend some of the massive financial endowments many are building to help the students pay less for school. These endowments are essentially financial investment funds run by the universities. Harvard's endowment is worth a whopping $36 billion. Total college endowment funds are worth over half a trillion dollars. These funds are built tax-free, meaning they are subsidized by average American taxpayers. Most tax-free foundations are required to pay out 5 of their total funds each year for charitable activities. That's how they justify being tax-free. Guess who's exempt from this payout requirement? Universities.

Maybe Congress could take 20 minutes away from the Russia hoax and posturing about climate change and fix one of the biggest problems this country faces by passing a law forcing colleges to share the liability on defaulted student loans and making universities pay down 5% of their endowments per year like every other nonprofit foundation. Congress should act now. The student loan system is going to collapse. Before it does, let's be very clear about who's been profiting from it.

Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel co-founded The Daily Caller, one of America's fastest growing online news outlets, which regularly breaks news and distributes it to over 15 million monthly readers. Carlson and Patel also co-founded The Daily Caller News Foundation, a nonprofit news company that trains journalists, produces fact-checks and conducts longer-term investigative reporting. The Daily Caller News Foundation licenses its content free of charge to over 300 news outlets, reaching potentially hundreds of millions of people per month. To find out more about Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

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