Thursday, September 21, 2017

College Student as Serf

By Professor Doom

            Confessions of a College Dean is a surprisingly popular blog, as he never really confesses to anything. I’ve known a few Deans that were downright criminal. I’ve shown many an upper level administrator engaging in morally reprehensible acts that, even if the Dean didn’t perform the acts as well, at least looked the other way. There really should be a thing or two he could confess to.    
            Granted, he’s still working in higher ed, and posting under his real name, so I don’t expect him to expose much right now…but someday when he gets that golden parachute he’ll finally start talking. I hope.

            Nevertheless, a relatively recent post came close to revealing what higher education is turning into:

            Already many of our college kids are stuck in debt slavery, with student loans too great to be realistically paid off before death, but there’s a movement to place an even greater burden on our students: residency requirements.

Now, capital is more mobile than ever, but we’re building barriers to keep people in place. Both New York and Rhode Island have passed “free college” programs that come with post-graduation in-state residency requirements. Rhode Island is all of two counties; that’s pretty restrictive. At this point, states are starting to look not only at institutions as tools to accomplish policy goals, but at citizenry the same way. Why educate them, the argument goes, if they’ll just up and leave?

            I’ve written before that a surprisingly easy way to escape student debt is to flee the country, and it’s sad that our former Land of Opportunity is turning in a country people now escape. I can respect the Federal government shutting down this way of escaping crushingly unfair student debt, but now the state governments are getting involved.        

            We’ve had similar restrictions for a while. For example, it’s common for state schools to have scholarship programs in Education, offering free tuition in exchange for a guarantee of the student to teach in the local schools for at least 2 years, or the like. I’m not wild about indentured servitude, but, for a student dedicated to becoming a teacher, this is an excellent way to avoid the debt, and at least the student ends up with a degree that directly leads to some sort of job. State money for state employees had a balance to it I can’t deny.

            But now the deal is changing, extending the deal to all sorts of degrees. So how do you justify enslaving the serfs, forcing them to stay in-state even for cheapo community college degrees? The Dean sees that the justifications will be coming soon enough:

The dangers of both policies are clear. At a really basic level, they invite -- sometimes almost compel -- reciprocation. If New York keeps its “human capital” but New Jersey doesn’t, at some point, someone in NJ will notice the imbalance and try to right it. That may trigger Pennsylvania. Then Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. Then…

            I’ve certainly heard people complaining about “brain drain” where college graduates in one state leave to head for greener pastures. A state government that cared about its citizens could solve this problem, or at least attempt to do so, by simply observing those greener pastures in other states and changing things so their state is every bit as fertile.

      That’s a hard field to plow, I know, and certainly difficult work. The easy thing is just to erect walls and force the serfs to stay on the state lands.  
            Can the gentle reader imagine what our country will look like once these policies are adopted in general? We’ll have “serf-catchers” grabbing people who escaped into another state, seeking freedom. Eventually we’ll see history repeat itself with Dredd Scott-like court cases.

            The Dean likewise has little trouble shredding the madness of residency requirements:

Residency requirements, if they spread, would also greatly shift the balance of power when companies play states off against each other in bidding wars for relocations. As hard as it is to move for a job -- something I know personally -- it’s that much harder to see the job move away and know that you don’t have the option to follow it. That already happens between countries, but moves between states are much more common.  Allow capital to move but tie workers to places, and I’d expect to see ever more public funding get diverted -- whether directly, as through subsidies, or indirectly, as through tax credits or abatements -- to owners, even as wages go down.

            Please now stand and applause as the Dean says something the likes of which I’ve never heard an administrator say convincingly:

And at a really basic level, the idea confuses means with ends. People aren’t supposed to be tools to realize goals of the state. The state is supposed to be a tool to realize the goals of people.

            Of course, that’s where it ends. The Dean realizes residency requirements are wrong, but doesn’t understand what happened to create such a draconian rule: insanely high tuition forces students into serfdom. Similarly, he doesn’t mention why tuition got so high: the Federal student loan program. And so, the Dean won’t say what would obviously be self-destructive to his eventual golden parachute plans. Being mere faculty, I have no hope of retirement, and so I’m not corrupted by the student loan money, and can say the obvious here:

End the Federal Student Loan Scam

            The comments section has posters suggesting we should just make community college free. While certainly not as harmful as turning our college students into serfs for nothing (which in turn is arguably better than making them debt slaves for nothing), it’s still a terrible idea, as I’ve shown in detail how most community colleges are pure scams serving no benefit whatsoever to the community. Honest, we just need to get government out of higher education at all levels…but that option never seems to come up, even as literally every piece of information you can find in community college is available, for free, online and in most public libraries, and 90% of community college is already in the “free” public schools as well.