Responsibility is so boring

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  • What do you think about #Collegedebtcrisis?

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  • Getting an American college education is a good deal

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  • People have the right to make choices they may regret—but the regret shouldn’t make them the government’s problem

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While the queries are intended to be provocative, they struck me as remarkably on-point. The thing is that claimants like being indulged, advocates like creating crises, and pols love to give stuff away. The fact is that getting an American college education for no more than ten percent of your annual post-college income is, by any historic norm, a ridiculously good deal. Moreover, by the time we consider low-cost post-secondary options and the fact that debt-laden students have frequently chosen to eschew cheaper alternatives for pricier options, one can argue that much of the problem is nothing more than students dealing with the consequences of short-sighted or unwise decisions.

It’s a free country, and people have the right to make choices they may regret—but the regret shouldn’t discharge their obligations or make them the government’s problem. The thing is, our leaders have little cause to tell voters to suck it up or to deal with it. The result is that advocates use cherry-picked lending figures to demand stuff, and craven pols eagerly express sympathy by ladling up the goodies—and borrowing to pay for ‘em. And nobody blows the whistle on any of this, because doing so is to assure that one will be labeled heartless, mean-spirited, an enemy of higher education, and, for good measure, an elitist.

Frederick M. Hess is the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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About the Author

 

Frederick M.
Hess
  • An educator, political scientist and author, Frederick M. Hess studies K-12 and higher education issues. His books include "Cage-Busting Leadership," "Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age," "The Same Thing Over and Over," "Education Unbound," "Common Sense School Reform," "Revolution at the Margins," and "Spinning Wheels." He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog, "Rick Hess Straight Up." Hess's work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, National Affairs, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on the Common Core, the role of for-profits in education, education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind.  Hess serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review boards for the Broad Prize in Urban Education and the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.


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