Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How illegal immigration perpetuates the student debt trap

    One of the complaints of many of the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters is that they have mounds of student debt that they can't possibly repay.
    As a society we now encourage everyone to go to college. Not only that, we send a message that the more education, the better. So after college, why not grad school?
    Not very bright? No worry there; there are plenty of colleges for the not so bright. And whatever college one wants to go to, the federal government stands ready to pay with a guaranteed loan. After all, no one should be shut out from attending an expensive private school. So lots of marginal students are attending very expensive colleges, with loans that can never be discharged in bankruptcy.
    There are a couple of reasons we are encouraging everyone to go to college. One big reason is that policy makers confuse correlation with causation. For example, in jr. high smart children have started taking algebra in seventh or eighth grade. Studies show that children who take algebra in seventh or eighth grade all go on to do well in college. Therefore, educators (in California, for example) decide that all children should take algebra in eighth grade, on the assumption it will cause them all to do well in college.
    Of course, it doesn't work that way, because correlation isn't causation. When only a few children take algebra in eighth grade it means they are taking it because they are really smart. Their later success in college has only a little to do with having taken algebra early and a lot to do with the fact that they are just plain smart. Meanwhile, forcing a bunch of average and below-average kids to take eighth-grade algebra actually harms them -- they just aren't ready for it.
    The same is true for college. Having a college degree is associated with having a higher income. But much of this is because smart people earn more, and smart people have tended to go to college. As part of trying to send everyone to college, most schools now offer "remedial" classes. Nobody bothers to tell these marginal students that their chance of earning a degree is roughly one in six -- that might discourage them. All most of them will earn is a mountain of debt.
    This is where the illegal aliens come in. One of the reasons people are so desperate to go to college is because the elites have adopted policies that have encouraged millions upon millions of illegal aliens to enter the country and work at low-skill jobs for low wages. This has depressed wages for low-skilled Americans, which has led many people to think their only option is to go to college. The problem is that many can't make it; others get their degree and still aren't all that hireable -- except that they now have to try to pay off tons of educational debt with a low wage job.
    Get rid of the illegal aliens and wage levels would have to rise dramatically. All the jobs that "Americans won't do" would have to offer wages high enough to make Americans want to do them. Marginal students would be able to take a job doing manual labor and make a decent living.
    Make no mistake, for many people college is a great choice. But it's not for everyone, and by pretending it is we perpetuate a cruel hoax on millions of Americans who end up facing a life of debt peonage while receiving few benefits from their expensive college sojourn.


Anonymous said...

The Mennonite communities in Mississippi prove your point. They end "formal" education at the seventh grade.

Professor MacDonald is not one to "pussyfoot around the periphery" when "choosing" to target an "exceptional" group of folks that have brought on this "immigration imbroglio." It was by design!

He goes for the jugular, nailing'em to the cross in the process.

Btw, since your joust with "Pike" over at "Freeland" on the feasibility of a "fence" on the southern border, I haven't seen your posting in the comments section?

Have you been sacked, too?


Col. Reb Sez said...

I still post on Tom's blog. Pike was the one who got nasty.