Saturday, September 27, 2014

Solutions begin at the beginning

Everyone knows student loans are a big problem here in the US, but real solutions are hard to come by because few people are willing to admit (or maybe they just don't know) where the problem is coming from. It's basic supply and demand: if my income increases by $x when I enter any market, I'm far more likely to enter that market. This was the logic behind student loans at the beginning; if you want more people to go to college, provide an incentive.

Inevitably, increasing the demand for a given product or service will also increase the price associated with it. So we did in fact increase the amount of people in the country who are pursuing higher education, but at the cost of increased tuition, extra fees, and expensive textbooks.

To deal with the increased price, policy-makers decided to up the amount of federal aid offered. Of course, since (for the most part) everyone who wants to go to college is going at this point, this doesn't increase demand by adding any new people to the market. Instead, we just increase the amount that schools can charge students before those students will get fed up and leave.

So of course student loans are going to be a problem. The very act of providing them means schools can jack up the price, which means students need more money. Since nobody likes the thought of denying someone access to education, more loans are offered, which raises the price even more. Ironically, the real effect of these loans is that it takes a great deal of money to college without being financially crippled for life, which hurts the poorest in our society more than anybody.

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