At a recent campaign rally the College Democrats had on campus, one of the main issues discussed was the rising interest rates on federal student loans and the increase in tuition in general. The gist of it was that the undergrads don’t want to pay as much for college (or don’t think they should pay at all) and the Democratic candidates were more than happy to take from the rich and give to the middle class. While this event was partisan, the general sentiment on campus is that tuition is oppressive and the government should do something about it.

First, in regards to interest rates on student loans, only a few short years ago the interest rates on unsubsidized loans (those given to everyone regardless of their financial status) were below inflation. My wife’s student loans, for instance, are locked in at 1.65%. Because the federal government not only backed up banks for loans that went into default, but also ensured these loans were profitable, the Department of Education was losing massive amounts of money. Raising interest rates (which are still capped at 8.25%) was the solution to at least bring some solvency to the program. At this, students cried foul.

The fact is, the primary beneficiary of a college education is the recipient of the degree. They make more money, have more career opportunities, and they enjoy a 4 (or 5) year long party.

Paying for college can indeed be difficult… so much more so for those families who don’t plan ahead. Students, for their part, seem unwilling to look at alternative ways to finance education. Starting at a community college, for instance, or at least taking summer classes to get ahead is out of the question.

Now these attitudes wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that many students don’t take their college education seriously. Many students attend college for the piece of paper, not for education as current surveys on the state of college graduates show (including ISI’s own survey). Many high school kids go to college because of the “aura” of college life, namely, parties, booze, and sex.

By insisting that someone else flip the bill, it only encourages students not to take seriously their college education. It is human nature not to value those things which were acquired with little or no effort.

The unfortunate reality is that by allowing these attitudes to continue, politicians and school administrators ensure the college graduates remain unprepared for the “real world” that is rightfully unwilling to put up with the “hand held out” attitude. We allow 18 year olds to vote, it’s time to start treating them like adults.

John Bambenek is the Assistant Politics Editor for Blogcritics and is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. He is a columnist for the Daily Illini and blogs at Part-Time Pundit deep from the corn fields of Illinois. He is the current owner of BlogSoldiers, a blog-only traffic exchange.

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