Some thoughts on student debt

(Via John Green's Tumblr) ThinkProgress published some interesting stats about student debt today, from the New York Times.

1. The number of students who have to go into debt to get a bachelor’s degree has risen from 45% in 1993 to 94% today.

2. There is now more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the United States.

3. Over the last 10 years, tuition and fees at state schools have increased 72%.

4. During the late 1970s, Ohio spent 17% of their budget on higher education and 4% of prisions. Today, Ohio spends 11% on higher ed and 8% of prisons.

5. This year, national, state and local spending on higher education reached a 25-year low.

I've talked to a lot of people in my generation who think the whole college debt thing isn't a big deal.   I can sort of see where they're coming from, in a funhouse mirror kind of way.  Students are presented all the information, and make a decision about whether to go down that road.[1. And if they've already got a degree in finance, they even understand it!]  Why should the government subsidize the education of its citizens?

That last sentence is the one I want to focus on.  The government should subsidize the education of its citizens.  I mean, who in their right mind doesn't think that's a good idea?  An educated citizenry is an asset.  There's no sense in which it is not.  Like roads and an electric grid, the government should provide adequate education to thrive in the world.  If it doesn't, then the United States is not providing its citizens opportunities to thrive.