Putting Politics Aside – We have a Republic to Save


A Pulitzer Awaits the Arizona Daily Star

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A recent Wall Street Journal column on the scam of the federal student-loan program brought to mind the financial, governance, and ethical mess at the University of Arizona (UA).

The Arizona Daily Star’s coverage of the UA mess has been commendable, thanks to reporter Ellie Wolfe.  A Pulitzer Prize awaits her if she ties UA’s travails to the moral hazards created by the federal student-loan program, a program that has been implicitly endorsed, if not explicitly endorsed, by UA’s faculty and administrative staff.

The Wall Street Journal column in question was written by the superb columnist Allysia Finley.  (“The Big Bank Elizabeth Warren Loves,” April 14, 2024). Finley drew two conclusions about the federal student-loan program that seem hyperbolic but aren’t:Never has there been a bigger taxpayer scam than the federal student-loan program.

The student-loan office is the biggest government monopoly and predatory lender in U.S. history.

How is this related to the UA?  Because it stands to reason that student loans have distorted UA’s finances, economics, academic standards, admission numbers, and graduation rates. It stands to reason because empirical studies have documented the distortive effects on higher education in general of billions in federal loans sloshing about.Certainly, the billions have not resulted in the UA and other universities being more efficient, productive and cost-conscious.

Nor has the money transformed the bastions of social justice into paragons of justice.  To the opposite, colleges have become grifters by taking money from students who would be better off in trade school instead of college, who have little chance of graduating, who are in degree programs with little financial payoff, who can’t pay off their student loans, and who, thanks to the munificence of President Biden, can now expect taxpayers instead of the college grifters to eat the loans.

This is justice?  This is ethical?

Research leading to a Pulitzer could delve into such important questions as the following:

The Global Campus

Would UA have made the questionable acquisition of the on-line “university” known as Global Campus if it were not for student loans?  Related questions:  How many Global Campus students have outstanding loans and in what amount, how many of these students can expect to graduate, what is their loan balance upon graduation or dropping out, and what are their expected earnings, by degree, if they do graduate?

The Brick-and-Mortar Campus

Similar questions as above could be asked and answered about loan balances, graduation rates, and expected earnings of students on the main campus.

University Costs Before and After the Tuition-Loan Bonanza

What were the key metrics and financials at the UA before and after the federal student-loan program became entrenched and caused a skyrocketing of student debt?  What was the amount of administrative overhead before and after, the amount of capital spending on country-club amenities for students before and after, the amount of money spent on athletics before and after, graduation rates before and after, tuition fees before and after, and the cost of room and board before and after?

Political and Ideological Effects

How has the loan money and other government monies affected the political and ideological leanings of students, faculty, and administrators?  Have they become more or less in favor of redistribution, collectivism, and bigger government?

In addition to the above, parallels could be drawn between the rising cost of college and the rising cost of mortgages and housing.  The tuition-loan program played a role in the former, and government housing programs and policies played a role in the latter—along with the Federal Reserve’s years of quantitative easing and zero interest rates, which drove up asset prices to the benefit of owners of assets.  Now, to counter the inevitable economic distortions resulting from the government’s economic distortions, the Fed has raised interest rates, thus making mortgages more expensive and reducing the supply of houses.

Distortions beget distortions beget distortions.

If Arizona Daily Star reporter Ellie Wolfe were to use her talents in exposing the truth about student loans, she might win a Pulitzer.  Even if she didn’t, her work could become a template for other newspapers and could put Tucson in the limelight as a center of excellent journalism free of political bias.

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