There’s a good reason why Joe Biden is being coy over student loan relief over in the US. That reason being that it’s a particularly silly policy. For it’s entirely regressive. It’s a subsidy from the general tax pot to those who, on average, will make higher earnings over their lifetimes.
Why should anyone support such a policy?
The promise of what higher education can offer is broken. Even if you personally have paid off your loans, or your child or friend didn’t have to take them out, that does not change the fundamental truth. You cannot look at the statistic that nearly 45 million Americans now have student debt — with an average debt of $36,214 — and think otherwise.
The only solution is student loan forgiveness, which could theoretically be achieved through executive action or legislative resolution.
The average graduate makes more than the average non-graduate. So, why should all be subsidising the graduates?
At which point we need a political theory to explain this journalistic – and it is near every journalist everywhere that supports it – support for the idea. That theory would be based in the idea of averages.
Sure, the average graduate earns more than the average person. The average graduate easily comes out ahead on the deal too. Here’s the cost of college, the extra earnings from the degree are more than that – it’s a profit.
But averages can conceal. The people who really make out on the deal are those doing STEM subjects. As we all know there’s not one single graduate in any STEM subject working for the newspapers. Cannot be given the reporting we get. What we get are the arts and grievance studies graduates doing the journalism. And arts and grievance studies degrees aren’t worth the cost.
To add injury in the US it’s usually necessary to do a Masters in journalism before you get hired by a newspaper. So that’s another two years of – higher – student loan to pay off in a shrinking profession with falling wage levels.
Which is why the journalistic class is so desperate to have student loan forgiveness – they’ll benefit.
OK, so that might be thought a tad cynical but I do insist that it explains all the observable evidence. But let’s put that aside and consider the base point here.
The argument in favour of a degree paid for by someone else is that it makes society richer that the degree gets done, the person is so educated. The only way to measure this is that the amount paid for the now degreed labour is greater than the cost of gaining the degree. This is true for STEM subjects, largely so at least, so there is an argument for public subsidy to STEM degrees.
This is not so for arts, grievance or journalism degrees. Therefore there should be no public subsidy for arts, grievance or journalism degrees. Actually, the cost disparity is such that there should be no arts, grievance or journalism degrees.
So, we can now see what a fair deal would be. Close down 80% of the academy – at least – and have public subsidy to those degree courses that remain. Can’t say fairer than that now, can we?