Millennials are the most over-educated generation on earth — while it’s not compulsory to get a college degree, it is almost required to earn one to enter the respectable, middle-class echelon of society.
This mentality, however, has created a student loan debt bubble of over one trillion dollars — an amount that staggers libertarian satirist P.J. O’Rourke, author of The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again), whose generation helped to spark the academic arms race.
“That is next, isn’t it?” O’Rourke said about the next economic bubble to burst. “And it is ridiculous. It mostly wasn’t worth the price that you guys paid or your parents paid or you will pay when the student loans.”
The value of a college degree responded to supply and demand: The more people who have a degree, the less current graduates’ are worth. O’Rourke paid a pittance to attend Miami University in the 1970s compared to today’s students.
“Your generation was sold a bill a goods about going to college, about what its real worth is,” O’Rourke continued. “And I don’t particularly blame baby boom[ers] on the whole for doing this, because when we were in college, we didn’t go to college. We were just having a good time. And it wasn’t very expensive in those days. I think college cost me all out, or all in, I should say, about $2,000 a year. That was room, board, spending money, tuition, the whole thing. Now, you gotta adjust that for inflation, but what — multiply it by five? We are still talking $10,000, and that was sleep-away college.”
The federal government hands off billions to colleges across the country each year in guaranteed loans, who immediately blow the cash on building new rock walls or extravagant dormitories to woo 18-year-olds graduating high school to sign on and keep the cycle going, O’Rourke pointed out.
“The problem here is the government has offered cheap loans and it’s offered a huge amount aid, Pell grants and so on,” O’Rourke said. “This has allowed colleges to jack up their tuition to huge huge amounts in order to get that federal … You guys have got to stop this. You know, college is just not worth this. College professors used to be badly paid and worth it. Colleges used to be modest institutions, they should go back to being modest institutions. Of course, you guys what central air in your dorm rooms, the little kitchenette and flat screen TVs, too. So you got yourselves to blame a little bit.
“But yeah, it is a rip-off,” he concluded. “I am assuming that that bubble with burst — and then also people are going to realize the degree somebody holds and their competence in their field don’t always match up very well.”
Catch the rest of TheDC’s featured segments from the exclusive interview with O’Rourke this week, and be sure to review previous parts of the interview.