Private education is expensive. It always has been and probably always will be. What is less static is our nation’s relationship and reliance on credit. A couple of generations ago, earning a private college acceptance letter was not necessarily a golden ticket. Resources were gathered and if loans were taken they were most likely to cover gaps not to foot the bill. Those who could not gather the funds chose public universities instead.
Our national orientation towards credit and consumption has changed dramatically over the decades. “Affordability” has more to do with credit limits then bank accounts. It is easy to see how this philosophy migrates into the higher education arena. There is no other large purchase we make that maintains its value. Cars depreciate the moment you drive off the lot. Houses, well we’ve seen what can happen with housing. Perhaps impressionist (or Andy Warhol) pieces increase in value, but the insurance will kill you. Even diamonds and gold can fluctuate in value. But education is permanent. Add to that how sentimental people get around college (Hail to thee my alma mater) and about their children; and you’ve got yourself a low-sugar shopping experience.
There are people walking around with far more student debt than they can manage. No one will dispute that. Looking to private colleges to lower their costs, makes for great headlines but misses the point. The issue is actually not the cost of the private education; it’s the affordability. If the college chooses to charge a gazillion dollars a credit and there are people who can pay that amount, there’s no problem. The problem is with debt not cost. It’s time to take a good long hard look at the creditors and set limits. Grown people (with jobs!) have limits on how much they can borrow, children should as well.
We need to force the issue of educated consumerism. Community colleges and public colleges and universities are still quite reasonably priced (in the grand scheme of things.) Forgiving debt is not sustainable and ignores the real issue. Higher education is no different than any other purchase. The key is to find the most suitable choice within one’s budget.