A few days ago I posted a blog about student loans and the bubble that will soon burst. In the article, I showed how government backed student loans have been a major factor in the high cost of education.
Today’s Lansing State Journal’s front page reports on a development at Michigan State University, which is only a few miles away from our home. “MSU top faculty see higher pay raises” is the headline of the article, written by Matthew Miller.
The article reports that four Cincinnati researchers were lured to MSU in 2009 and 2010. Their starting salaries then were between $175,000 and $210,000. As their salaries have been determined to be on the low side, they are now going to receive substantial raises. One justification for this is that they have brought in more than $8 million in grants.
A table accompanying the article shows that MSU typically pays professors $131,200 per annum, while Associate professors receive $90,900 and Assistant professors have to make do on a mere $71,000.
I have no doubt that these salaries are justified in order to attract top people from other institutions of higher learning that pay more.
It is also no wonder that so many university professors are liberal and support big government. After all, they have done very well out of government. They likely assume that if the government controlled everything, we would all be better off.
But these salaries contribute to the student loan bubble. Last week, it was announced that neighboring former Lansing Community College students are defaulting on their loans at a rate of 17.2%. A few days later, MSU increases the pay of some of its top employees.
Do we see the connection here? Rising costs are simply passed on to students. Students can pay because they can borrow excessively from government. Most students, being young and inexperienced, don’t realize there will come a day when they have to pay it all back. Almost impossible in the present job market, unless, of course, they end up employed by a government-funded university!
It’s time for a level playing field. Only true free enterprise will give us that.
Abolish government backed student loans and demand for education will drop. That will bring the price of education down to a realistic level. Simple “supply and demand” will always work – it’s a law of economics, sometimes distorted by governments to try to get votes.
“Islam is growing in militancy and intolerance, evolving again into a fighting faith, and spreading not only through proselytizing, but violence.
“How to justify the charge of intolerance?
“The Taliban blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas. The Sufi shrines of Timbuktu were blown up by Ansar Dine. In Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, Christian converts face the death sentence.
“In Nigeria, the Boko Haram attacks churches and kills Christians, as in Ethiopia and the Sudan, where the south seceded over the persecution.
“Egyptian Copts are under siege. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians in Iraq have seen churches pillaged, priests murdered. In Indonesia, churches are being shut on the demand of Islamists. Sharia law is being demanded by militants across the Middle East, as Christianity is exterminated in its cradle.”
(“How America can deal with militant Islam”, by Patrick J. Buchanan. The American Conservative. 26th April)
“Many Americans often ask me the same question: What about the Muslim family next door who are really nice people?
“To this question my answer has always been: Some of the nicest people I know are Muslims, but that must never blind us from understanding the risk we are taking when we allow the building of hundreds of mosques financed by Saudi Arabia and allow millions of Muslims to migrate into America at a time of a fierce war against Islamic terrorist groups and nations.
“The existence of nice and educated Muslims should also never blind us from seeing the deep problems with the ideology of Islam and its jihadist goals that are enshrined deep in the psyche of Muslims.
“Yes, our problem is with the Muslim jihadists, but so-called “moderate” Muslims have often been silent enablers and defenders. Terrorists could never be as powerful as they are without the support and prayers of Islamic nations, governments and people.”
“Islam is the only religion on earth where the followers are required to kill Allah’s enemies and do revenge in his name. The Quran also says that vengeance and retaliation has been prescribed for Muslims.”
(“Muslims should rise up and reject terrorism,”by Nonie Darwish, Investor’s Business Daily, April 22nd)
Assuming that Lansing, Michigan, is typical of national trends, there’s a crisis brewing when it comes to student loans.
Lansing is the home of Lansing Community College. East Lansing, a city that borders Lansing, is home to Michigan State University, so higher education is a big factor in the local economy. Not too far away is Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan. Both universities are Big Ten universities here in the US.
These institutions of higher learning hardly suffered after the financial collapse in 2008. A friend once described Ann Arbor as “a reality free zone.” But reality has a habit of eventually catching up on people, institutions and countries. They can’t avoid trouble forever.
“Student loan defaults on rise at LCC” ran a headline in today’s Lansing State Journal (April 26th). “The recession years brought a boom in enrollment to Lansing Community College and a boom in borrowing.” IOW, they did not suffer like the rest of us.
Continuing: “In 2007-08, the year before the markets collapsed, LCC students took out just under $29 million in federal student loans. Three years later, that number topped $68 million. More borrowers were borrowing more money.”
Ironically, the reason why more borrowers borrowed more money was the recession itself. People lost their jobs and went back to school for further training. (That, of course, has led to a great deal of disappointment as, upon graduation, the jobs aren’t there, leaving many to feel higher education is not worth it. That could be a further problem for colleges and universities in the future.)
Anyway, “of the 3,779 former LCC students who began repaying their student loans between October 1, 2009 and September 30th of the following year, 653 of them went into default over the next two years. That’s 17.2 % . . .”
A few weeks ago, it was announced that student loan debt had reached over $1 trillion. The President promised to do something about it, which, likely, will simply result in government taking over some of that debt, adding to the country’s financial woes.
What’s needed is a deeper look at this problem.
A television news program this week showed that thousands of Americans are now moving to Canada for higher education as the cost is roughly a quarter of what American institutions charged. That’s a staggering difference. While the rest of the country had to economize after the financial crash, academic institutions continued to raise their prices for tuition, room and board, as if nothing had happened.
Is it possible that student loans in the US have actually enabled higher education to keep charging more, knowing that the kids can always borrow the money from Uncle Sam? Never mind the kids, after they get a degree, they will be earning good money and will happily pay it all back!
However, that’s not happening any more.
Millions of young people can’t find a well paid job, can’t afford to buy their own place so they go back to Mom and Dad, can’t afford to marry and start a family, hence the falling birthrate. Post-WWII expectations are no longer guaranteed.
Student loans are only part of the problem. But they are a large part of it.
What’s surprising is that the local rate of defaults is only 17.2%.
At some point this bubble is going to burst and the consequences could be worse than when the housing bubble burst in 2006.
The news today that the United Kingdom managed to avoid a triple dip recession during the first quarter of the year comes as a boost to morale, even though the growth rate, at 0.3%, is pathetic. 0.4% less and everybody would be lamenting the triple dip. (Question: are stats reliable enough to measure growth that accurately?)
The UK isn’t the only country in the European Union struggling economically. There is even greater suffering across the water in the Eurozone countries, those European nations that use the euro as their common currency.
Spain’s unemployment rate has risen again to 27.2%, over six million people; while the rate for those 25 and under is a staggering 57%. At the same time, the French unemployment rate has just grown for the 23rd month in a row.
It’s not surprising that the public is losing confidence in the European Union, which is failing to deliver on its promises. There is little or no confidence in the austerity measures that some countries have introduced. An article in Wednesday’s Guardian (UK) highlights the problems:
“Public confidence in the European Union has fallen to historically low levels in the six biggest EU countries, raising fundamental questions about its democratic legitimacy more than three years into the union’s worst ever crisis, new data shows.
“After financial, currency and debt crises, wrenching budget and spending cuts, rich nations’ bailouts of the poor, and surrenders of sovereign powers over policymaking to international technocrats, Euroscepticism is soaring to a degree that is likely to feed populist anti-EU politics and frustrate European leaders’ efforts to arrest the collapse in support for their project.
“Figures from Eurobarometer, the EU’s polling organisation, analysed by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a thinktank, show a vertiginous decline in trust in the EU in countries such as Spain, Germany and Italy that are historically very pro-European.
“The six countries surveyed – Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, and Poland – are the EU’s biggest, jointly making up more than two out of three EU citizens or around 350 million of the EU’s 500 million population.
“The findings, published exclusively in the Guardian in Britain and in collaboration with other leading newspapers in the other five countries, represent a nightmare for Europe’s leaders, whether in the wealthy north or in the bailout-battered south, suggesting a much bigger crisis of political and democratic legitimacy.” (“Crisis for Europe as trust hits record low”, Ian Traynor, Europe editor of the Guardian, 24 April).
Things do not look good for the European Union, a 27-nation democratic club that has helped Europe avoid conflict for over 50 years. Will the EU survive? Or will it fall apart? If the latter, what will replace it?
It’s important to remember that, while there are similarities between Europe and the US, there are also some major differences. Chiefly, that whereas the United States has been a unitary nation, a federal republic, without a serious blip for almost 150 years, since the end of the Civil War, European countries have seen a great deal of turmoil in that time period.
150 years ago, most of the nations that currently comprise the European Union, were monarchies, or ruled over by imperial monarchies like Austria or Russia. During the last 15 decades, they have experienced social upheaval, wars, and revolutions in a way that America hasn’t. The United Kingdom is an exception, being stable for over three centuries.
The point here is that we should not necessarily expect democracy as we know it to continue on the continent of Europe. Can Spain really withstand 27.2 % unemployment? Many Spaniards must remember the dictatorship of General Franco, which only ended I n 1975. There must be nostalgia amongst some for a return to the conditions that then existed, prior to the EU. This will also be the case in Portugal and Greece, where fascist dictatorships ended about the same time.
The peoples of the former communist countries of eastern Europe will also be looking back nostalgically to the time of full employment, under communism. Of course, they never really had full employment, but every citizen had a responsibility given them by the state, even if it was only sweeping the streets.
Change does not have to be the result of economic problems. There is a sense among many Europeans that politicians have imposed a racially mixed society upon them against their will. There is also disillusionment with radical changes in society like gay marriage (see quote below this article). There is little or no trust in government or its institutions.
European history teaches us that violent upheaval can suddenly come, overthrowing a regime overnight. France in July 1789, Russia in February 1917 are the two most notable examples. But, remember, in 1848 virtually the whole continent experienced revolution as uprisings toppled almost every government, or forced radical change upon their leaders. In 1989 something similar happened in the East, when communist regimes fell like dominoes.
Let us not be naïve in assuming that now these countries have democracy, they will stay that way. When democracies fail to provide basic needs, like employment and housing, people will look for alternatives. At such a time, any demagogue or rabble-rouser can promise paradise and they will believe it.
In Russia, a 300-year-old dynasty was overthrown as a result of a shortage of bread and the riot that resulted from it. Twenty, forty or sixty years of democracy can suddenly change. Everybody knows enough history to be aware that Europe hasn’t always been democratic – it can easily be non-democratic again!
“Paris: Revolutions are often sparked by an unexpected shock to an already weakened regime. As commentators in France remark not only on the crisis engulfing François Hollande’s government but also on the apparent death-rattle of the country’s entire political system, it could be that his flagship policy of legalising gay marriage — or rather, the gigantic public reaction against it, unique in Europe — will be the last straw that breaks the Fifth -Republic’s back.”
(“Why France’s gay marriage debate has started to look like a revolution,” John Laughland, The Spectator (UK), 27th April).
"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened." — Sir Winston Churchill