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TheStreet Open House

Forgiving Student Debt Won't Help Students or Fix Colleges

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- College is too expensive, graduates can't find decent jobs and pay off their loans, and students, parents and educators all share in the blame. Now, President Obama proposes to forgive more student debt and that will make a bad situation worse.

More than half of recent graduates are working as waiters, taxi drivers or some other occupation that does not require a college education. The number in minimum wage jobs has doubled since 2007.

Slow growth and a tough jobs market is one reason but as importantly, too few college students choose tough majors like nursing, engineering and accounting that enjoy a robust demand for graduates. Too many select easier subjects like politics, history and other liberal arts, and emerge with few practical skills.

Good jobs abound for technicians in health care, computers and other fields -- often educated at community colleges -- and the Labor Department finds most rapidly growing occupations don't require a bachelor's degree. However, parents fear their children, without a four-year diploma, will lack the flexibility to navigate a lifetime of changing conditions.

If students are lazy and parents risk adverse, university professors and presidents are worse.

Professors simply teach less and engage in more research of questionable value than in the past. In the 1950s and 1960s, a significant track record of publications was not required for tenure for most undergraduate faculty -- advancing the frontiers of science and the arts was mostly the work of professors engaged in post-graduate education.

Nowadays, professors at all levels must publish to win tenure, but much of what they do adds little value to either the practical world or the advancement of knowledge in a purer sense -- but requires lighter teaching loads to enable.


Once tenured, many don't publish much but still keep their light teaching schedules.

University bureaucracies are even worse -- presidents and deans often have staffs bigger than CEOs and managers running much larger businesses. And faculties, which make virtually all decisions by consensus, spend endless hours in committees advising presidents and deans, and are supported by mind numbing bureaucracies too.

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