Something is totally out of kilter in academia. The University of North Carolina has raised a record $447 million in alumni gifts, donations, and endowments.

“I’d say we had a pretty loud year,” boasted Chancellor Carol Folt to a throng of faculty and staff.

Student debt has reached a staggering $1.2 trillion, even outpacing credit card debt.  To put the magnitude of this debt into perspective, the United States spent $1.7 trillion to finance the Iraq war.  It’s an enormous drag on students and their families and an albatross hanged around our nation’s economic neck.

Here in North Carolina, the General Assembly has cut $697 million from the UNC system, only to be replaced by raising tuition costs and increasing further the painful burden of student loans.  The effect is devastating.  Graduating seniors are finding it difficult to land good, high paying jobs which is exacerbated by having to pay back loans averaging $30,000 plus interest.

Even more troubling, those students who drop out before graduating can’t even find a job that pays minimum wage.  How are they going to pay back their loans?

So, what’s to be done about the sad state of our higher education system?  Perhaps we should examine what’s causing the high cost of education that is growing at a rate three times greater than inflation.  Why not transfer a portion of the alumni largesse to subsidize student tuition?  It could be in the form of scholarships and outright grants?

Let’s face it.  If something isn’t done now to remedy the crush of student debt, higher education will be affordable only to the rich.

— Walt Mack


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