1.6 Trillion in College Debt–More of a Reason to Rethink the Whole Issue

As the college scandal has revealed recently in Hollywood, it wasn’t just Felicity Huffman and Lori Lughlin who believed that college was a stepping stone culturally into a better life and that all it took to get there was money. I can think of literally thousands of people I have personally spoken with over the last three decades who thought just as they did. They didn’t care what their kids really learned in college, only that they attended and that the name alone would take them to great places in life. To accept that premise you have to accept that it doesn’t matter what you do in life, its who you know. And that in knowing people that there is power in that. I of course have a completely opposite view of what makes what in the world and I have had those notions early in my life. I started to see the clarity of the scam as far back as the sixth grade and the older I became, the more my thoughts were confirmed. I attended college, I lived on the University of Cincinnati campus for a while and nothing about any of those experiences changed my mind. They only confirmed what I already knew and over the years more people are coming to realize that what I have been saying all along was true and now they are ready to admit that the 1.6 trillion in student loan debt that our country currently has, which is crushing for a lot of people, wasn’t worth it. In fact, it was just the latest scam in a long list of snake oil salesman type tactics that have been unleashed on the human race, and people have a right to be angry about it.

I have written extensively about the college experience and how it came to hold such a prominent, if undeserved place in our social pantheon. Click here to review. I feel I can say that because I would consider myself an academic. There are likely few people anywhere who study as much as I have and continues to. The difference is that I see institutional knowledge as a limiting factor as opposed to individualized exploration. My beef with college is that it costs too much and is the wrong kind of knowledge that is being offered to students in relation to the world we are living it. It’s not the work certainly. My view of college is that it’s a huge waste of time because of all the drinking and socializing that goes on there. I think there are two things that ruin people for most of their lives, puberty, and their post high school years where all the choices of the world are open to them, and they end up picking one of three meat headed options, death by college, death by the military, or death by a non-college degreed middle class life in a factory and learn at age 18 and 19 to never set their sites for the stars but for some rusty truck for which they are the third owners with 200,000 miles on it, and are happy about it. All three of those paths are the embodiments of ancient institutionalism that has permeated our human culture from the dawn of mankind, and they all suck. There are many more paths available to individuals, but it takes courage to walk them. And to be honest, that path is not for the weak at heart.

But the nature of the scam of college was that people like Felicity Huffman, who was a Hollywood lightweight intellectually, a neurotic suburbanite who likely puts a bicycle helmet on her kids just to go to the end of the driveway and lives her whole life in that fearful bubble were told by the institutions that if only they paid a lot of money to the colleges, then there overly pampered children could grow up and be good people with good jobs and that their terrible parenting would go undetected. Well, obviously that has not been the case. I suppose I had the good fortune to learn all this very early which opened the door to me on how things really worked in the world. I was bored with college, out of my mind bored. If I could have taken the average four your course and compressed it into one quarter I would have. So in those years I got myself into a lot of trouble, in the business world, and it was fun. I learned a lot, far more than any class on business. I met a lot of multimillionaires and became friends with them. I was invited to several lunches where these guys dropped $11,000 for lunch and didn’t even think about the cost. I had never seen a $2,000 tip stuffed down the shirt of a waitress before and with these guys it happened all the time, and the waitresses were always very happy to see them. But I learned from them how things really worked, which I had suspected all along. I was around 22 years old at the time so it was a very interesting time for me. College was pretty boring in comparison. And I was with these guys because I understood their language. It was all about risk taking and having the guts to ride out when those risks failed. But you had to take a shot. The risk reward ratio was what it was all about—and you can’t buy that with a college degree.

The degree would prepare people to work for one of those guys, but it didn’t make you one of those people, so my contention has always been, why would you do it. In all honesty, I probably have paid over a half a million dollars for my education, if opportunity cost were a factor. I certainly took the path through the forest with the most thorns, snakes, and other treacheries, but there was always more gold there too, and well worth the journey. But I’d rather pay that than to be six figures in debt to a stupid college that is running a scam that it sells with their sports programs then has nothing for their students to do when they graduate. For some people getting their foot into the door of a real job makes that big investment worthwhile, but the real education starts when you begin that job. Everyone knows the game whether they want to admit it to themselves or not, which they don’t. But Lori Lughlin was only doing what everyone else was, buying her kids social prestige. Only because she had more expendable income than other parents did she take it steps too far. What she did ruins the snake oil sales appeal, so our society had to draw a line somewhere, especially since so many people are now on the hook for a college degree that costs as much as a house, and they don’t have a job that justifies it.

I admire anybody who gets an education and completes what they start. But the college costs have been leveraged out of range of their real worth do to their monopoly on what they were really selling, social status, a position that our political structure nurtured along for their own objectives of institutional control. Now I understand that not everyone is meant to be like those guys I talked about having lunch with when I was 22, or the people I most enjoy associating with now. Those are the real titans who make or break economies. Everyone else is just trying to get a job with them. And that isn’t worth over 1.6 trillion in national debt.

Rich Hoffman

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