OPINION COLUMNS

Turning college students into a commodity

By Jim Hightower | Published Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Let’s take a trip deep into the magic kingdom of “Laissez Fairyland” and prostrate ourselves before the infallible and inscrutable force known as the free market.

While this awesome deity cannot be seen, the high priests of free-market fundamentalism insist that we mere mortals must simply have faith that its mysterious workings are always in our best interest. Yeah, sure, your holiness. We saw how well that worked out for us wandering pilgrims after you true believers deregulated Wall Street, which then crashed on our streets.

Well, get ready. Free-market purists want us to have another ungodly religious encounter with their omnipotent deity. Looking at America’s trillion-dollar student debt crisis, these spiritualists had a burning-bush revelation.

The crisis can be healed by letting the magic market (aka Wall Street) lay its hands on the funding of college education. Get the government out of the student loan business, they preach, and let global speculators invest directly in students by covering their tuition. In other words, turn students into just another Wall Street commodity to be purchased by the wealthy.

But venture capitalists expect fat returns on their investments. What do they get back for covering some kid’s tuition? A chunk of the kid’s future, that’s what. After graduation, students’ incomes would be attached by the financiers. And, since the free-market doctrine dictates that investors should always seek to maximize their returns, they would have a direct interest (and maybe even a legal right) in making their investees pursue careers that make the most money for them.

The first thing to know about the free market is that it’s not free, and turning Wall Street loose on college students will turn them into chattel, effectively indentured to investors.

Jim Hightower, an OtherWords columnist, is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

One Response to “Turning college students into a commodity”

  1. We just got the banks out of this, and now the Razor sharp wits of Wall Street are not happy and want back in. With the the huge amount of Republicans in the house and their attempt to take over the Senate this just may happen. If it does another step towards Corporate slavery will be accomplished. Jim Tower is absolutelu right. I just got done paying off student loans for my wife of 60+ years old when she started back to school at 40. The problem with bank backed student loans they don’t care if they loan to reputable school or a fly by night paper mill. My wife ended up with a little of both and it did not do her any good. I would rather see the principle and interest paid back directly to the government and new and more loans made to the students, I would suggest strongly if you choose a career in jounalism or a art design or whatever, change it to any engineering subject, physics, chemistry or education. You can minor in art or journalism.

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