Would You Like Some Crushing Debt With That Degree?

Wall Street-style predatory capitalism has taken over our education system, and it’s absolutely devastating a whole generation of young people.

When Latonya Suggs enrolled at Everest College, a branch of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges system, she thought she was taking the first step towards realizing her “American Dream.”

But tens of thousands of dollars later, she realized that Everest wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

As Suggs told Democracy Now! recently, Everest didn’t do anything to help her find a job after she graduated and was more interested in making money off her student loans than it was in making sure her degree was put to good use.

Latonya Suggs now has around $63,000 in student loan debt to her name, which is why last week she joined fourteen other former Corinthian Colleges students in refusing to pay back her student loans.

This is the nation’s very first student loan strike, and it comes just as the government takes action against Corinthian Colleges for running what it calls “an illegal predatory lending scheme.”

According to the government, “Corinthian lured tens of thousands of students to take out private loans to cover expensive tuition costs by advertising bogus job prospects and career services. [It] then used illegal debt collection tactics to strong-arm students into paying back those loans while still in school.”

In other words, Corinthian Colleges isn’t an education company as much as it’s a blood-sucking debt collection agency.

That, in a nutshell, is everything that’s wrong with the higher education system in this country.

Education is supposed to be part of the commons, something we all invest in as a society to make sure that everyone has a fair shot at achieving their intellectual potential – and to keep moving innovation, invention and the arts ahead in our country.

But since the introduction of Reaganomics, we’ve outsourced huge chunks of our education system to private for-profit corporations like Corinthian Colleges. And those private corporations have, in turn, morphed the education system into yet another arm of Wall Street-style predatory capitalism.

The dirty little secret, of course, is that the for-profit college industry is less about teaching anybody anything than it is about creating debt – debt that then be very profitably sold off in tranches – and even aggregated into derivatives – to banksters and wealthy investors.

Like every other part of our economy these days, the education system has become financialized, and for-profit colleges like Corinthian are really just phony shells for the latest bankster get-rich-quick scheme.

This is insane.

In no other country in the developed world are financiers and scam artists entrusted with managing the education commons.

Most developed nations actually make going to college free for all their citizens, so when it comes to how screwed up our higher education system is, the US really is exceptional.

This needs to change, and it needs to change now.

A college education is more than just the ticket to finding a good job – it’s the foundation of our intellectual infrastructure. And if we continue to outsource that foundation to greedy private corporations who then provide our students with a crappy education and a lifetime of debt, our entire society suffers.

Not only will eager students lose out on a chance to actually improve their lives, but the rest of us also lose out on the all the long-term national benefits that come with having a truly informed and educated society.

Higher education is a fundamental part of the commons. Let’s start acting like it and kick the banksters out of the classroom once and for all.