A tight job market could help kill the taxpayer-funded college racket

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For decades, parents have sacrificed and students have gone into debt to fund college degrees that lead nowhere. But the college scam may be up soon.

Not thanks to any moral awakening on the part of college administrators. Instead, a tight job market is motivating more employers, including Google, IBM and some state governments, to scrap degree requirements for employees. Elon Musk, who decided “college is basically for fun,” has for years evaluated applicants at Tesla based on skills, not a diploma.

This trend should make college consumers skeptical about blindly forking over a fortune. For too long, Americans have been buying the idea that a degree in something — anything — is necessary to launch a career and join the middle class.

All the while, colleges have been raising tuition mercilessly, pushing families to take on more debt to cover the hikes.

Over a lifetime, getting a college degree pays off financially. That is, unless your major has absolutely no market value, as is the case with a large number of students borrowing for college. At New York University, students who take out federal loans and major in theater, one of the most popular choices, will likely earn an annual salary of only $29,054 three years after graduating, per federal data.

On that salary, it’s impossible to pay back a loan. And it’s a moral outrage that college advisers steer students to make such choices. An NYU student choosing an economics major could expect to earn $73,022 and a computer-science major would likely command $104,670 three years after graduating.

The US Department of Education offers a College Scorecard website, which displays what graduates from each college who take out federal loans are earning three years out. Students and parents should consult it. Just enter the college’s name and a major.

Political-science majors at Union College in Schenectady can expect to earn less than $50,000 annually three years after graduating, while students who choose economics or mechanical engineering will earn nearly double that.

Don’t count on colleges to forewarn students. Colleges are run for the benefit of the employees, not students, and certainly not the taxpayers that President Joe Biden wants to saddle with unpaid college loans. It’s a racket.

At the State University of New York at Purchase, theater is the second-most-popular major among students with federal loan debt. What are they thinking? A graduate can expect to earn only $36,161 three years out. After all, how many theater experts does society need?

President Barack Obama proposed rating colleges based in part on how well their graduates earn a living and pay back their loans. The powerful higher-education lobby crushed the idea.

President Biden's student loan debt forgiveness program will leave taxpayers holding the bag for students.
President Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness program will leave taxpayers holding the bag for students.
REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

A world without the arts would be dreary. But that doesn’t mean students should major in these fields, oblivious to how little they’re apt to earn, and taxpayers should end up holding the bag. 

Economically savvy students are already switching to STEM majors — science, technology, engineering and math.

Regardless of majors, students are being saddled with the soaring cost of noninstructional bureaucracy. Call it the higher-education gravy train. Students are merely the pack mules hauling in the federal loan money to keep the train running.

Diversity, equity and inclusion officers are a big part of the cost. A survey of 65 prominent universities found they have more DEI officers than history professors: on average, 45 DEI officers at each school. That’s enough to form a human chain if a conservative attempts to speak on campus.

Michael Thaddeus, math professor and former department chair at Columbia University, reports, “We now have about 4,500 administrators on the main campus, about three times the number of faculty.” Thaddeus turned whistleblower, challenging Columbia’s US News & World Report No. 2 ranking. He says the university falsified what it spends on instruction compared with bureaucracy.

Falsified? Maybe, but the bigger ruse is the idea that an exorbitantly priced piece of sheepskin is the only way to launch a successful work life. Not necessarily. Caveat emptor to all buyers, including parents and taxpayers stuck with the unpaid loans.

Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York.

Twitter: @Betsy_McCaughey

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