Comment Of The Day: “Robert Bowman Redux, Times Two, But Ohio’s Nicer Than New York”

And now for something completely different, or at least not involving pandemic freakouts or politics. Isn’t that refreshing?

Reacting to the tale of the aspiring Ohio law grad with over $900,000 in student loan debt, Chris Marschner offered some guidance on how to look at student debt.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Robert Bowman Redux, Times Two, But Ohio’s Nicer Than New York:

I would suggest a different approach. Instead of financing students’ education, we begin allocating funding that gives preference to programs that develop talent. This is not to say that if a person truly wants to go into some esoteric field that may have little market value they cannot do so.

I only mean that those programs should not be subsidized, to keep tuition down as we could use those funds for those in programs of study that in fields that are graduating too few to keep pace with demand for those fields.

We always seem to approach labor cost issues from a demand management side instead a supply side. What if government subsidized the cost to become a medical doctor, engineer or scientist to equilize the cost of those programs to equal the upfront costs of an MPA, MFA or MBA. I would have no issue if the baseline subsidy rate was the cost associated with obtaining a quality Liberal Arts degree that included proficiency exit exams in math, science, reasoning, English and foreign languages.

We do not need thousands of General Studies majors that require no organized program of study. If you want to get a degree in Gender Studies or “Sports Management,” go for it— but don’t ask to have taxpayers subsidize it by guaranteeing your student loans and a reduced interest rate when the market for such occupations is relatively minute.

If we go a step farther, the average student tuition reflects only about a third of the total cost (Maryland). The remainder at the community college level comes from county and state subsidies. This is where the public sector has an important role, as the first two years are primarily when the student takes the state mandated courses of study. As we move up into upper division course work the state should create a subsidy schedule that addresses the needs of the taxpayers as a whole and not the individual student. If we need more health care graduates – doctors, nurses, technicians etc.—shift the funds to those programs instead of other programs in which the graduates cannot find, or have difficulty finding work. In short, instead of some massive “Kirwan” style subsidy program, we should evaluate ROI on education subsidies.

The goal of student loans is to help the student acquire  the ability to reason and how to learn. It is designed to teach you the tools of critical analysis and the facts that undergird the learning process. College cannot open up the student’s head and pour in all the facts known on a given subject. No school will graduate a proficient lawyer, doctor, accountant or any other professional. It can only graduate students who have the most minimal skill set necessary to enter into that profession. The ones that rise to the top in their professions worked at developing their thinking and learning skills in college and beyond.

We have thousands of people graduating with Poly-Sci, Psychology, and Communications degrees that cannot create any real lasting value without the individuals first obtaining substantial specialized training for the industry by the firm with which they  become employed.  Why subsidize education that provides little to no return on taxpayer investment?

I could go on but I have said this all before and that is why I left higher education.

5 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Robert Bowman Redux, Times Two, But Ohio’s Nicer Than New York”

  1. Criminy, the comments here are more erudite and thoughtful than the posts on most every other blog going, or most websites, for that matter.

    • Criminy, indeed. Thanks, Chris.

      My take on “higher” education is that it should be sharing space with the rest of the world which has, up to now, been relegated to narrow-track Vocational or Technical Institutes, excluded from the wider choices and, let’s face it, socially downgraded. There’s no reason why a would-be machinist or electrician, horticulturist, food management or microbiologist — talk about allocating funds to the “demand management side” — can’t share the same classes in math, business and economics, and access the rest of the offered curriculum … or a pre-med major can’t learn how to fix the plumbing . . . Not to mention how about adding back, and upgrading to adult level, a Citizenship or Government class for everyone? The universities and many colleges have a great deal of land to expand on … and the cattle would be happy roaming the sod where the football field used to be (I wrote in “just joking” and then realized I wasn’t.) It’s an idea I had way back in grammar school when the boys had carpentry and a stripped down automobile to play with and the girls cooked and baked and sewed (now there’s a skill that’s lost its usefulness!) and learned to touch-type, and out of both groups came several of each, not necessarily gay, who longed to swap classes, or take both.

      Okay, I quit dreaming. As OB says, EA has one of the better forums. And the various writing styles and angles of opinion attract readers and encourage them to participate. (It’s not all “regulars,” Jack. I see new names popping up all the time.) Hopefully, it will grow back to its old size so it doesn’t become just an “erudite and thoughtful” echo chamber. I’m also in favor of the wit and charm and down home honesty that commenters bring here, and which Jack models so well. Damn, it’s hard work sometimes, though!

  2. Congrats, Chris! Concise, authoritative and, basically, irrefutable!
    Case in point: I have been in physical therapy since spinal surgery in mid-2017. I spent 13 months in a wheelchair and have been walking again only since August of 2018. I still have balance and endurance issues, but the main reason for the progress I have made to date is the work I have done with skilled physical therapists. Now, the clinic I use (a non-profit) has two certified therapists and four assistants (PTAs) full time. Most of the time I work with one of the assistants under the “watchful eye” of a certified therapist. The assistant I work with the most has an undergraduate degree in Exercise Physiology. He is very skilled and dedicated. His undergrad degree was paid for by his parents and grandparents and his own part-time employment His ambition is to return to school and earn his doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT), but the least expensive program in our state is over $200,000 for the three year program. Many out of state programs are up to 50% more. The program is rigorous enough that working is not an option. This young man would graduate with a student loan debt that would be like having a big mortgage (and no house). And, competition for admission to these programs is keen.
    AS the population continues to age, the need for skilled therapists and other healthcare professionals is increasing. Three days a week, I witness the difference these folks make in the quality of life for their patients. This is just one more example of the types of programs that need to be subsidized in some manner.

    • Physical Therapist was one of the professions I almost included in my comment above. I too, have had the help of PT people in hospital and at home — I wouldn’t be walking today if I hadn’t — and knew almost all of them worked two or even three jobs and didn’t get paid a third what their health care office-sitting bosses did, all to pay down the school debt. What a shame!

  3. Thanks for the comments. Every now and then an issue pops up that I feel somewhat qualified to expound on.

    On the health care front, if we began to attack the supply issues of medical professionals by making medical schools and their related professional technical school cousins affordable we might begin to bring down the general health care costs without sacrificing quality. When doctors find the need to compete for patients price tends to fall and quality tends to rise.

    Every politician talks about investment in education but never the ROI to the taxpayer. Taxpayers understand the basic and obvious return that a reasonably literate citizenry brings but we are now having to make investment decisions at the margin in which more money invested does not mean any significant returns using current practices. We need to start asking what are we going to get for those educational dollars the politicians want to spend.

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