Who Will Banish the Madmen in Education?

By John Horvat II Published on February 18, 2018

Young people get blamed for a lot of things. They’re called snowflakes for withering and melting at the least criticism or politically incorrect commentary. They are deemed irresponsible and accused of merely “adulting” when they manage to handle the life decisions typical of adults. And now the Department of Education’s latest financial report finds them failing to pay for their college expenses.

Of course, not all young people fit into these categories. Many are not snowflakes. Others have learned to carry responsibilities and forego the “adulting” pitfall. The report from the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Education, however, does present damning evidence of young people’s dependence on government.

A Damning Report

The modern mantra is that all students need to attend university. Thus, young people continue to enter colleges in droves. As a result, they pile up massive amounts of debt, which they owe mainly to the federal government. Such student debt now stands at an astounding $1.4 trillion and growing.

The main reason for the coming $36 billion shortfall is the popularity of so-called income-driven repayment plans.

The problem is that more and more graduates fail to pay back their loans. Federal loan programs can only work on the assumption that they will be paid back. In fact, interest collected on these loans has always been more than enough to cover costs. For decades, the government has even shown a surplus — a rare feat these days from any government agency.

But the federal loan programs are now projected to lose tens of billions of dollars.

And young people are getting the blame.

A Financial Mess Laid at the Doorstep of Young People

The main reason for the coming $36 billion shortfall is the popularity of so-called income-driven repayment plans. Students can set their monthly payments based on a percentage of their post-graduate income. They can later apply for loan forgiveness after 10, 20 or 25 years depending on their circumstances.

Thus, the number of students in the program has soared to well over six million. The generous terms of the loans will guarantee that many will pay back much less money than their tuition and other costs. Large loan balances will be forgiven.

What makes this debt so alarming is that earlier government accounting reports failed to foresee its coming. The Education Department’s financial report cites systemic underestimates of defaults, interest rates and program enrollment. Suddenly, they need to scramble to find funds to fill in the gap.

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This financial mess is left at the doorstep of young people who are deemed irresponsible and government-dependent.

However, the real irresponsibility isn’t the young people who accept loans on such terms, but the government that offers them.

A Table of Free Cash

The students were guilty of entering a tent where there was a table with a huge sign that said “Free Money!” Perhaps some skeptical students resisted the temptation to pocket some cash. However, as they walked farther into the tent, they found administrators at more tables with even bigger signs and larger piles of money. They also saw many fellow-students who were helping themselves to the cash without being hauled away by police.

The students took the money. They should have known better since “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Parents and teachers should have taught them this lesson early in life. However, in and of itself, accepting the student loan was no crime.

In this case, the blame should go chiefly to the people behind the table frantically offering them free cash. In a normal age, people who lend money they know won’t be repaid would be committed to mental institutions. For years, however, they have found a comfortable place in government.

Time to Blame the Madmen

It is time to blame the madmen. The first cause of this problem is the federal education establishment that came up with and pushed these “free money” Ponzi-scheme programs. These loan programs should never have been approved because they are not loans but handouts.

Legislators do students no favors by shielding them from misfortune that is part of life. College students should not be put into a system that treats them like children.

It is time to blame those who cannot tell the difference between a loan and a grant. Such officials abuse and waste the taxpayers’ money. They teach students that acts have no consequences; others will always pick up the tab for their shortcomings. They teach students that a tepid effort to repay a loan will be rewarded the same as one honestly and faithfully repaid in full.

It is time to blame the madmen who are disconnected from the real world. Legislators do students no favors by shielding them from misfortune that is part of life. College students should not be put into a system that treats them like children.

Let the program administrators be blamed for their fraudulent advertising and criminal underestimating of the program costs and enrollment. They enabled the huge deficit. They are guilty of dereliction of duty. They spread everywhere the systemic irresponsibility so often found in gargantuan socialist bureaucracies.

A Broken System

The educational system is broken. It produces irresponsible students, in part, because the system itself itself is irresponsible. Alas, the students learn too well the bad lessons they are taught.

It is time to banish the socialist madmen doing mad things; not debt-shackle our young people. They deserve better.


John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.

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  • GPS Daddy

    It may be that a complete collapse of our economy is needed to deal with this madness. But the pain and suffering to come will be significant. We do not have the character today that American’s had back in the 1930’s. Yet, we face much worse crisis if we have another great depression. The longer we wait the harder we will fall. But the fall will be worldwide. Europe, China, Russia, the Middle East and the West all have a glass jaw in debt. We are inseparably connected now. We will look for one who will have “the plan” to get us out of this mess.

  • Rex Rhinesmith

    “Glass jaw in debt”…a more perfect description could not be found. Thanks!

  • Jfolk

    I believe there is an equal responsibility here. Many of the young people who accepted those loans have parents who should know better. And, many of us saw this coming after the big bad government offered all those poor people mortgages that they couldn’t pay back. Perhaps it is best to teach our children, and our adults, that there is no such thing as “free money” and they should beware of anyone offering same. The bottom line is that most people want to take the easy way out and know by experience that the government will more than likely bail them out if they just wait long enough.

  • James

    Student lenders, even for private loans that have no taxpayer money backing them, get special treatment in bankruptcy, thanks to excellent lobbying.

    Treat student loans the same way in bankruptcy as credit cards and lenders will learn to behave—or else.

  • bbb

    At Easter this is a perfect time to reflect, to soul-search and to rejoice that Jesus Christ lived and died for us and our salvation.
    In one sense it is a blessing to have so many kids wanting to attend so many colleges in a nation that allows such a choice.
    In another sense we can be overwhelmed with choices and higher education somewhere along the line betrayed its own lofty standards and twisted its mission so that many young people graduated with degrees in “art appreciation” and “women’s issues” and “transgender issues of African tribes,” etc.
    The price tag for such degrees was the same as ones in accounting, engineering, medical occupations, law enforcement related careers, etc.
    And as we look at the campus of today it is a Taj Mahal of recreation centers, massive Olympic swimming pools, modern dorms and parking garages, on-campus movie shows and bowling alleys.
    And that is why they are expensive. College is being sold as the “ultimate experience.”
    How could parents NOT want that for their child?
    Yet, those who truly follow Christ’s teachings know that materialism takes a back seat to our growing in wisdom and stature and college is no cure-all for youthful growing pains. And such parents are often condemned socially, although more and more young people are witnesses to their own maturity coming NOT from college but from real life experiences.
    Waiting to attend college should be the trend, but college recruiters are taking busloads of junior high kids to the magical kingdom campuses and selling utopian ideology at early ages. Public school teachers are in on the scam.
    Churches even get into the “go to college” game and this is one place that really needs to remind youths of Christ’s example of modesty and learning to know oneself better before jumping into a materialist debt that will have a strangle-hold on them for twenty years.

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