The burden of investment

The current method of paying for a public degree is overly burdensome on the student.

 

Though post-graduate employment numbers remain low and tuition continues to rise, at least two private universities are willing to go to the extreme to receive payment from students.

On April 29, the Minnesota Daily reported that the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University have both sued former students because of Perkins loans — which provide low-interest loans to needy students — that went unpaid. While the University of Minnesota declined to comment on whether it had sued former students in a similar situation, the Daily article did note that it can withhold transcripts from students with unpaid loans and will also resort to collection agencies to collect payments.

While these tactics may seem harsh and unforgiving — at least for a public university — they are less surprising when given the broader context of how higher education is paid for.

While politicians at both the state and national level like to throw around rhetoric like “investing in the future” or “producing human capital” with regard to public colleges and universities, the reality is that, though subsidized, students purchase a higher education from the state just as they would purchase a car, home or service. As the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board noted earlier this year, higher education runs on a funding model where all of the risk of the “investment” is placed on the student, not the state.

Instead of this model, where students are punished if they cannot pay back their loans shortly after graduation, public universities could let students pay for their education throughout a longer period of time, and the payments  could be based off the income of students. The state would then show an actual interest in the success of each student and thus be making an actual “investment.”