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Sat Dec 19, 2015, 01:28 PM

Unsustainable student debt and free college tuition: Is Sanders right or is it just a giveaway?

Consider this: The student debt our children and grandchildren are burdened by has risen from over $26,000 just a few years ago to over $31,000 now. This problem is ubiquitous. This, coupled with the fact that over 14% of student loans default within three years and the lion's share of these defaults are from private for-profit 'schools,' then we see that we have allowed our system to totally fuck over the kids we supposedly love.

At the same time, employers are crying out for more and more and more skilled workers. Our young people should not have to make the decision to go to college or not by weighing the debt load they will incur versus lifetime earnings benefits. That isn't only unfair to our kids, but it screws our businesses because then they cannot find the college educated people they need. And the shortage is growing more acute each year.

Allow me to explain:

You can see for yourself how this has played out using some simple mathematics.

First, access the US Census American Factfinder Advanced Search. Go in there, click on 'topics' then 'people' then 'education' then 'field of degree' and you can get tables that show field of degree by sex by age. Simply put this on Excel, add the total of both sexes together by age band and you will see that:

- 52.7 million Americans that have bachelors degrees
- Of these, 31.4 million are aged 40 to 64, and only 21.3 million are aged 25 to 39
- What this means is that as 1.25 million degree-holding people 'age out' of the labor force each year, 1.42 million new degree holders come in
- This is a net increase of degree holders of just over 162,000 per year

That sounds OK, but it isn't the complete picture. Now, here's the simple math:

The number of jobs requiring a bachelors degree or above is expected to increase by 4.2 million over the next 10 years. This means that the net labor force demand for people with bachelors degrees is about 421,500 per year.

This is a deficit of nearly 260,000 degreed workers per year, and employers are already feeling that shortage.

We need to fix this problem to keep our economy competitive. This is the paradox for the poor capitalists, who are in a quandry. On the one hand, they want to eke out the uttermost farthing of profits. But on the other hand, if they can't find the people to produce their goods or services then they lose profits. Those poor capitalists!

Here's Bernie's Real Deal: We're not GIVING anybody ANYTHING they don't deserve, or that our society doesn't need by investing in free education for our kids. Also you'll note that Bernie's platform is 'free education in state schools to bachelor level.' This will cull out all the bullshit for profit non accredited fly by night schools that run commercials on late night TV and victimize the most naive among our children by hard selling a 'degree' with which the cannot find a decent job.

My conclusion: Bernie is right. College needs to be free. Current average student debt levels are unsustainable, and the high cost of education is in the process of causing an acute and ongoing shortage of skilled, degreed workers that our economy needs to remain competitive. Bernie makes, and we feel the moral case, but there is a hard dollars-and-sense business case to be made as well.

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