By Katie Kieffer
Bernie Sanders relies on Millennials’ youth to sell his promise to make college “free.” Here’s what every American—young and mature—needs to know about college debt before voting in November.
“This is 2016! In many ways, a college degree is equivalent to a high school degree… We should have free tuition at public colleges and universities. That should be a right of all Americans regardless of the income of their families!” Sanders declared during last week’s Democratic debate.
Sanders knows what year it is. Great. We figured that out two months ago. What he didn’t admit to the Millennials in his audience is that, as a U.S. Senator, he is fully aware that more subsidies will only exacerbate their pain.
If Sanders conceded that the subsidies he proposes will encourage universities to inflate prices and offer substandard educations, he would expose himself as a fraud. There’s a reason why his base is under the age of 35. For the first decade of his political career, Bernie’s current Millennial voter base was not alive. For the second, they were in diapers and sandboxes. For the third and fourth, they were in school.
“They didn’t know a lot about Bernie Sanders,” pollster Stan Greenberg told left-leaning Salon last week while discussing his latest study on Millennials. If Millennials did know who he is—and what he knows about student loans—I contend they would drop him cold. Like a breakup on Valentine’s Day.
For 45 years, Sanders has peddled lofty promises and patted himself on the back for “public service.” He’s no Mother Teresa, or Washington outsider. He plays the game of politics so well that most young Americans don’t realize he’s playing.
He’s a millionaire with two homes and a wife with a federal bank fraud case looming over her head. She also received a $200,000 severance after retiring from a comfy job as a college president. On paper, Sanders certainly doesn’t look like a man who could be trusted to fight collegiate waste.
90 college professors and higher-ed influencers have publicly posted their names to BernieSanders.com, endorsing his “College for All Act” because it will end “the exploitation of adjunct labor” and “strengthen faculty tenure systems.” Wait. I thought he was about helping the students.
Bernie’s 1st Big Lie: Free Tuition Increases Your Career Success
“Degrees are always secondary to skills,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said two months ago. “In hiring at Facebook we care what people can build and do.” She also discouraged young people interested in “working in the tech industry” to pursue a graduate degree like an MBA, calling such degrees “not necessary” and “[not] important.”
Bernie is scaring Millennials into believing that they must vote for him and get a subsidized higher education—or fail at life. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley has the opposite message. So, who’s right? Short answer: not Bernie. Long answer: Steve Jobs.
“Health clubs and climbing walls and cafés and cinemas,” are the projects that colleges and universities are building with the “unlimited flow of federal dollars,” National Association for Law Placement executive director James Leipold tells TIME.
Translation: you can subsidize colleges until you are broke (wait, our country already is!) and you will never incentivize colleges to improve their educational system so that when students do graduate they are hirable and workplace-ready.
Today, business students in Ivy League schools are hiring outside writing tutors. Employers are wringing their hands, saying Millennials don’t know how to analyze numbers or communicate like professionals. In truth, my generation should have mastered these skills in high school. If we had, Bernie wouldn’t be calling college the new high school.
Bernie’s 2nd Big Lie: Tuition Subsidies Increase Your Quality of Life
In 2010, President Obama slipped through new student loan subsidies within the same legislation that gave us ObamaCare. He ramped up a program called Income Driven Repayment (IDR) that was started by Bill Clinton and tinkered with by George W. Bush. Many college students are still unaware of this program, though the current administration is aggressively spreading the word. As one job counselor told TIME, when Millennials hear about IDR they: “think it’s too good to be true.” It is.
There are five different IDR programs. Generally, a student with federal loan debt can cap their monthly payments at between 10%-to-15% of their monthly income. (If you make $100 a month, you owe $10 a month.) Additionally, all of your remaining debt will be erased (courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer) after 20-to-25 years. So far, 4 million students are enrolled in an IDR program.
And then there’s the big kahuna of student subsidies: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). This is for IDR recipients who commit to working in “public service” for a period of time after graduation. Working for the EPA counts. Ditto for the IRS. In other words, you don’t need to work for a homeless shelter. You can work in a posh glass building in Washington, D.C. and qualify for the PSLF. Then, like magic, your remaining debt balance will be wiped clean in just 10 years!
Undergraduate dependents are limited to borrowing no more than $57,500. But graduate students—pursuing what Sheryl Sandberg calls useless MBAs—can take out an unlimited amount of debt. So, students are quickly learning that the easy way out of six figures of graduate school debt for a useless business or law degree is to work for the government for a few years.
The IDR and PSLF subsidy programs are a massive disservice to students, who deserve better than being channeled to work for the government. 70% of Millennials aspire to be entrepreneurs. But subsidies pressure them to choose monotonous jobs in bureaucratic work environments where they will learn to be sheep—not innovators.
Just when you think you couldn’t possibly add more to programs that sound “too good to be true”—even to Millennials—Sanders is literally promising to expand these subsidies. He says he doesn’t want students to pay a dime. In truth, students will pay. They’ll pay with the most valuable resource of all: time.
If you grew up dreaming of starting your own business or private legal practice, you now will feel pressured to work as a cog in the wheel.
A Better And Simpler Solution:
Phase out all subsidies for higher education. Force colleges to compete on merit. Encourage online-based learning. You will see college tuition drop exponentially. At the same time, students will graduate with what tech firms like Facebook say they really want: skills.
Bernie Sanders is not a sensible grandfather figure like Ron Paul, whom Millennials were correct in trusting. Paul prioritized exposing fraud over winning. Bernie stays in the shadows, and prioritizes winning.
It’s up to you to prioritize yourself over Bernie’s political ambitions. Do yourself a favor and tell your friends, especially your Millennial friends, about Bernie’s big lies. We didn’t get the “hope and change” we were sold last time around. Instead, we were told that we couldn’t “make it on our own.” We can do better than to go from helpless to hopeless.