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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