Student loan debt in this country now exceeds $1 trillion, which is a catastrophic burden on graduates, even in a good job market. We are the only western nation that does not provide state-supported higher education for its students. Yes, we have public colleges and universities, but their tuition is almost as high as that at private schools, and they are rife with political interference from state legislatures.
Empower the Department of Education with a new mandate. Grant them hundreds of billions of dollars, exclusively for the hiring of new faculty in tenure-track positions in the arts, sciences, and engineering at all pubic colleges and universities. All the land grant state universities and colleges have budgets for construction of new facilities that would provide additional classroom and laboratory space for the large influx of students. Mandate that no money can go for sports positions or coaches, except for bona fide instructors in physical education. Mandate also, as a condition of the grants, that the schools will be free from legislative meddling in hiring and teaching.
This would at a stroke cut new student loan debt close to zero, and would eliminate all of those bogus internet colleges that take federal grant money to finance their evil empires. The private universities would be on their own, and should do fine. Perhaps students might be enticed to go to their local state college, rather than attend East Jesus Bible School or Anal Roberts University, which graduated Michelle Bachmann.
This country has lost an entire generation of scholars, most with PhDs, who graduated into a collapsing academic marketplace. We have an enormous pool of floating adjunct professors who will never receive a full-time tenured position. They are doing the heavy lifting at colleges and universities today, depriving those schools of talent that can grow with the institution. Thousands of professors in the country can attest to the difficulty recent graduates have had in finding meaningful academic positions.
On a personal note, when I graduated from college in 1959, I came out debt-free. Two scholarships covered all my tuition expenses. My wife graduated 2 years later, also debt-free as a result of scholarships. My application to grad school was accepted, and I received a New York State Regents Teaching Fellowship for two years. Serving as a teaching assistant made up the balance of my time and tuition in grad school. Conditions of the fellowship waived any repayment if I entered teaching as a profession. I did so, and came out of school with a BS, MA, and PhD without owing any money.
This is not to blow my own horn. I was able to do it not because of superior smarts, but because opportunities were made available. Man, I grew up poor white urban trash in NYC and would not have been able to go to college, much less grad school. New York State had liberal Republican and Democratic governors who initiated these scholarship and fellowship programs, and funded them for decades. Programs like these can and must be done again if this country is to survive. Maybe #OWS will get on board. Would President Obama?