The Nasty College Debt Disease

College debt enters late night comedy. From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

“Essentially, student debt is like HPV. If you go to college, you’re almost certainly going to get it, and if you do, it will follow you for the rest of your life.”

While that’s not exactly the sort of joke you repeat to grandma, it’s a pretty good comparison. College debt is sort of like human papillomavirus. It’s not necessarily horrible, and everyone else seems to have it too, but it’s sometimes horrible and it really does impact your life.

He’s probably focusing too much on for-profit colleges here; the college debt trend is really and destructive even if we only include real colleges; for-profit schools occupy some outer realm of bad behavior.

“I will say this for for-profit schools,” Oliver said. “They’ve just given us all a first-class education in the depths of human depravity.”

College debt for everyone is increasing. But the rise in college debt for students attending real colleges is complicated.

The average American college debt rose slowly over decades as a result of several different public policy changes, including the increasingly health care cost of academic employees, declining state funding for higher education, and a massive status race among institutions of higher learning. The rise of the for-profit debt was pretty recent and was all about decreasing regulations on such institutions during the administration of George W. Bush.

But the more on this we hear about this the better off we are. Academic debt is becoming a huge problem for this country and one in need of real solutions, specifically less debt.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer