Universities, the Business That Screwed America, Before and After COVID

Most businesses in America offer a refund policy. Some offer a satisfaction guaranteed or money back. Some will get you credit or rebook your seat on a plane. High stakes purchases like those for purchase of homes come with a period of time to take away contingencies and many legal protections to protect the buyer/borrower and seller. All of these industries have seen a large hit to their bottomline during COVID epidemic. But as they struggle financially, we feel that most of them are somehow also us, because we are struggling financially. However, there is one industry in United States that was unscrupulous about placing its customers in debt without protections, without money back guarantee before COVID epidemic or after.

I’m talking about the higher education, the universities.

No other industry, takes a young person who has rarely had more than $100 in their pocket, provides them choice of thousands of fun but useless majors, gives them “free” money that they then realize is unpayable debt when they are graduated, all in an effort to subsidize the few spots in impacted but well paying majors that most students stand zero chance of ever getting into.

This ponzy scheme was bad enough before Corona virus pandemic, but it has become far worse. Universities which charged for the idea of middle class and class advancement are the one industry which refused to refund students. Instead, they offered students an inferior product: online learning, without any compensation.

The callous administrators are not blind to what they do. They cover themselves with the rationalization and the beautiful mantle of advancing learning, while they are part of a system that creates an indentured servitude class of America with inferior knowledge and skills. No wonder middle class is falling and upward mobility is at an all time low. We are living at an age when more people than ever have gone to college but the earnings of the new generation are lower than the earnings of the old, and falling in real terms every day. The inflation for fun toys like TV’s have made it seem like the young have it good. So while the young have large TV’s they cannot afford a home, living with roommates long into their thirties, so much so that we don’t blink twice when this becomes part pop culture in shows like Friends and New Girl.

America has been investing less and less in education; the one true path to middle class. Meanwhile China graduates millions of engineers every year and has caught up and passed us in number of patents granted. We laugh at our journalists, writers and teachers and tell them that if they had wanted to earn more, they should have studied physics or engineering or medicine, when there are not enough physics, engineering or medicine spots and at the same time we demand better journalists and better teachers and writers whom we pay less and less every year.

Our education system isn’t broken, it is underfunded and over-reliant on banks and loans. Here are the things I and many others have long proposed:

1) We must reduce the amount we spend on weapons, police and military, or as I call it babysitting for American C-students, who couldn’t get a job out of college.

2) We need to divert that money towards building more labs, expansion of STEM programs. Don’t just tell students to major in majors that provide good income, create enough space in those classes so that could be a reality.

3) Provide more funding for schools in poor communities so they begin to look like the schools in wealthy communities.

4) Build more colleges so students can live at home and attend a good University near them reducing amount they have to borrow.

5) Community colleges offer community level learning, increase their standards.

One bailout that we gave to corporations and banks could pay for all this. If we have enough money for Goldman Sachs, we have enough money for the next generation. If we can shut up about our debt when giving money to Ford and GM and Boeing, we can keep our mouth shut when we fix blighted neighborhoods. The excuses we give when Black and Latino communities show they are underfunded are part of the same lying racist rhetoric that is obvious but hides under ugly obvious like that is plausible deniability.

But first, before we do any of that, the universities must act like all other businesses in the country: and refund their students. Online learning has an online price, and students should not pay a penny more.

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