In the current College Admission Scandal some Hollywood actors have paid bribe money to get their children admitted into some prestigious institutions for which they are not qualified to attend. But colleges have been on the defensive for some time for reducing campus free speech, at least for conservatives and constitutionalists, giving predominantly one side of issues, and becoming bastions of progressive — even socialist — politics. Now they are accused of racketeering their students with devastating student loan debt.

The most recent accusation was made by Tucker Carlson March 18, 2019. Most of what he shared I witnessed as a full time faculty member for forty years. In remarks entitled “Fixing America’s $1.5T Student Loan Mess” he noted that student loan debt is now larger than “the entire GPA of Spain, of Sweden or any of the 54 countries in Africa. Apart from mortgages student loans are the biggest source of personal debt in this country, more than car loans and credit card bills.” It is enough debt, he says, “to stunt the entire generation of young people.”  

Today the average college graduate owes $37,000 up from $20,000 just 13 years ago. “Student debt is rising far faster than the earnings of the American workers…” For law school graduates it is $110,000 and for medical school graduates it is nearly $200,000. Carlson adds, “Over all, two million Americans owe over $100 grand in student loans. Imagine starting life that far behind.” Many with this debt never finished a degree. “Instead of improving their life by attending college they wind up poorer and in bondage. And not just a few of them but millions and millions of them.”

But students do not have to go to college or incur this debt. Aren’t they alone responsible? No! The culture tells them at an early age that college is the ticket to prosperity and self-worth. This is reinforced by parents. Going to college is also promoted by the universities as it justifies their positions and campus expansion. It is mostly about money and numbers.

So why blame the colleges? “Right now the federal government allows young people to take out an almost unlimited amount in student loans.Colleges know this, of course, and they hike their tuition to capture as much of that money as they can. Young people have little choice but to go along with it. Colleges control access to the credentials that we are all convinced are necessary, mandatory, to achieve success in the modern economy.” This is why Carlson calls it a racket. “These are the gate keepers of modern society and are ripping up every kid who passes through those gates.”

But this is only a part of the racket? The colleges and universities promote powerful lobbyists who swarm Washington for more unlimited student loan monies from which they benefit. Instead of lowering tuition they use the money to hire mostly more administrators and build more buildings. “From 1987 to 2012 the number of administrators on college campuses more than doubled. It’s far bigger than the increase of actual students going to college. College administrators routinely make six-figure salaries… College presidents often get seven-figure salaries. Their pay is probably the only thing in America rising as fast as tuition costs.” Essentially they are getting richer at student loan expense. They also have hired massive staffs.

Where else does the racket money end up? Carlson invites us to “Drive through rural America and see how well they have done. In a sea of poverty and despair you will notice gated islands of affluence. These are colleges. Outside the gates people are unemployed and dying of opioid overdoses. Inside the gates it looks like the rift on south beach. If you haven’t been to an American university lately, see it for yourself. Everything is new. There has been a building boom under way for decades on campuses. All of it funded by debt that is destroying a generation of American kids.”  

So what is the answer? Require colleges to co-sign student loans—to share the liability. Right now “colleges get rich no matter what happens to the kids. Kids are on their own. If students get a degree and a decent job and repay their loan that’s great. But if they drop out of college and their degrees turn out to be worthless, as so many are, and they can’t repay what they have borrowed. So what! Colleges don’t care. They have no stake in the outcome. Colleges get all the benefits and none of the risks. That is the definition of a scam… It should not be legal.” 

If colleges had to co-sign for loans and be liable for defaulted loans they would implement checks on eligibility for the loans. These might include higher GPA requirements for loans, or loan amounts based upon previous success. As more than fifty percent of students drop out of college the first two years, government financed loans might be limited to junior and above levels of college when natural law has already identified those who are ready and will benefit from college. The truth is no one should get a loan to go to college until he or she is self-disciplined enough to stick and have some idea what field is attractive to them and why.

What Carlson has portrayed I have seen.

-By Dr. Harold Pease. Dr. Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.