Increasing concern over students’ growing debt to attend college is causing more students to question the value of a college education. This debate should cause school administrators “to respond to the marketplace” and abandon their policies that violate students’ First Amendment rights.
More and more people are expressing concern about the growing amount of debt that college students have incurred for their schooling. Last October USA Today reported that Americans crossed a threshold, and that Americans (not just college students) now owe more on students loans ($1 trillion) than on their collective credit card debt. Earlier this month, the New York Times wrote about a student who graduated from a private college in Ohio and is now $120,000 in debt, works two restaurant jobs to pay her $900 a month loan payments and is moving back with her parents to save money. She cannot find a job in her field of study. The Washington Post reported on May 29, 2012 about “debt without degree,” that nearly 30% of students with school loans have dropped out of school. Rajeev V. Date, the deputy director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, likened excessive student borrowing to the recent housing bubble before the economic collapse in the housing market, the New York Times reported.
This growing student debt bubble is causing some, like Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson, to question whether every student should attend college. Samuelson asks whether a college education is really the only pathway to make each person into productive members of society? He points out how in past decades, public high schools emphasized vocational training as well as college prep courses for its students.
But there is a deeper level to this debate. Endless streams of money breeds ideological arrogance in university administrators and professors. School officials need to face the real concern whether students will continue to borrow money for an education that belittles their traditional values and pressures them to abandon their beliefs. ADF has battled for years against state universities that suppress and ostracize students and student organizations because of their beliefs, especially for their Christian, pro-life or conservative political beliefs. Universities make it more difficult to convince students that going into debt for their education is a good deal when the universities silence students with pro-life views or who preach Christianity or advocate that marriage is one man and one woman only, or deny funding to organizations because of their religious beliefs and banish them from campus because they require their officers and members to agree with the Biblical beliefs the students advocate.
At some point, growing numbers of customers (students) will say, “why should I borrow more and more money to pay state universities to deride my beliefs, censor me and the groups I belong to, or drive our organizations off campus?” State universities should not arrogantly assume that students will dutifully continue to increase their borrowing in order to subject themselves to such an ideological assault by academics who also violate their First Amendment rights. Universities have an opportunity to change their ways and present a better image to students by repealing these unconstitutional policies and explicitly commiting themselves to function as a marketplace of ideas by protecting students’ freedom of speech, free exercise of religion and freedom of association. If not, there is a market opportunity for some entrepreneurial universities to provide students a reasonably priced education that does not require them to surrender their beliefs at the university gate.
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