Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: College

The Case for Combining Tuition-Free College with Debt Relief

This week, Bernie Sanders launched his campaign to annihilate all $1.6 trillion in student debt. This far exceeds the amount Elizabeth Warren promises to alleviate ($640 billion). Warren pledges to eliminate up to $50,000 in debts for those making less than $100,000 per year. Those who owe more than $50,000 would still have to pay the remaining balance, and those earning more than $100,000 would receive smaller reductions. By contrast, Sanders vows to eliminate all outstanding debt. Sanders also promises to use federal money to make public colleges and universities tuition-free. Warren’s policy on tuition relies on state governments to provide a large percentage of the funding, and that means that Republican governors and state legislators would be able to refuse to participate, in much the same way that they refused to participate in Barack Obama’s Medicaid expansion. This would create a two-tier system, in which Americans living in blue states would enjoy educational rights denied to Americans living in red states. The Sanders plan is the only plan predicated on the principle that further education ought to be a universal right of all Americans, regardless of where they live or how much money they earn.

But there are those who resist the Sanders plan, arguing that cancelling student debt and providing tuition-free college subsidises economically inefficient behaviour and rewards people who made mistakes. Others argue that debt relief is regressive, because college-educated Americans tend to be higher income than those who did not go to college. I think both of these arguments are wrong. Here’s why.

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An American Class Divide: The Aristocrats v. The Professionals

In the United States we usually don’t like to think about ourselves as members of economic classes. Most of us, when asked, identify as middle or upper-middle class. But of course there are class differences, and in recent years we’ve started to talk about them a little more. People like Thomas Frank have drawn attention to “the professional class” as distinct from “the working class”. The professionals go to college and get degrees in things like engineering, medicine, law, finance, business, or computer science. They get access to those prized STEM and management careers, to the jobs in the court rooms, on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley. In contrast, members of the working class often don’t go to college. In recent years they sometimes get uneconomical degrees and end up underemployed with lots of debt. But while the professional/working distinction is important and needs to be drawn more often, I’d like to take some time today to draw another distinction, between the professional class and what I’d like to call the “aristocrats”.

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The Republicans are Trying to Use the Tax System to Attack Their Political Enemies

We’re seeing lots of good pieces which point out that many of the claims the Republicans are making about their tax plan are not true, that the plan favors the rich at the expense of the middle. But today I want to make another point about the plan, one that doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it merits. You see, it’s not just that the Republican plan helps the rich and hurts the middle. Those distributive consequences are real, and they matter, but this goes deeper than that. The Republican plan specifically targets liberal and left-leaning groups in the country for tax increases. It is an assault on the political neutrality of the tax system.

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Simon Sinek Doesn’t Understand Millennials

I’ve seen another viral video about Millennials doing the rounds. This one features Simon Sinek, a 43 year old who has leveraged a BA in cultural anthropology into a lucrative writing, speaking, and consulting career. Sinek, like so many others, attempts to explain what’s wrong with Millennials. His theory is persuasively presented, but nonetheless makes a series of basic mistakes.

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How ISAs Allow Rich People to Exploit College Students

A friend of mine at Purdue University recently informed me that under the leadership of former Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN), Purdue has become the first major American university to offer Income Sharing Agreements (ISAs) to students as a new alternative to traditional student loans. ISAs are exploitative and morally disgusting. Here’s why.

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