Letter to the editor

Spinnaker

Bart Greene
Bart Greene

This is response to David Jaffee’s letter to the editor, Student Loans: The New Debt Peonage, March 14, 2013.

Professor Jaffee likens student debt to involuntary servitude. He implies that students are forced to buy a product, college education, at an exorbitant price and to finance the purchase by assuming debt that will cripple them for many years after graduation. What is lurking, unsaid, in his diatribe is that “society” should provide college education free or at a fee that does not cover the cost of providing it. He fails to mention that UNF is a relative bargain in the universe of colleges and universities.

The decision to attend college is an economic one. A prospective student must make a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether it makes sense to pursue a particular course of study. The cost is the tuition and the opportunity cost of spending time in college rather than in the workplace. The benefit is the graduate’s enhanced earning potential and the life enhancement that a well pursued education provides. Of course, not all majors offer the same prospect of economic success. It probably makes more sense to pursue pharmacy than sociology.

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. Tiger Woods dropped out of Stanford. John Roberts graduated from Harvard Law School and became Chief Justice of the United States. Each of those men made a rational economic decision which turned out well.

Mr. Jaffee says that “students are promised that a four-year university credential will guarantee employment, material success, and economic security.” Perhaps he will be good enough to identify the person at UNF who made that promise.

In the 1960’s, when I went to college, it was fashionable to rail against the “system” and to call for “power to the people.” Professor Jaffee’s letter is silly, but I thank him for the nostalgia trip.

— Bart Greene

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