a clear and present danger: the humanities

The US government currently has a debt of over $9.2 trillion dollars. In every measure of economic growth the US lags behind Europe and the emerging economic superpowers of India and China. At the same time, over $90 billion dollars will be spent in 2008 on financial aid. At least some of that money will go to pay for financial aid to students of the humanities, some probably at very expensive private schools. The economic policy of the United States encourages students to study any subject they wish, with no view to the ultimate goal – a return to society on its investment in the education of its citizens.

The increasingly dire economic situation in the US means it is time for action. The economic crisis is due in large part to spending on a war that, whether you support it or not, has far outstripped even the most wildly pessimistic initial estimates of its cost. It is also due to a lack of financial education in our citizenry that led thousands if not millions of people to believe that buying a house with a million dollar mortgage on a salary of $80,000 per year was not only possible but advisable. Many of these people would have benefited from government-subsidized finance or accounting college educations.

The average salary for a college graduate with a degree in English is about $30,000. The average salary for a college graduate with a degree in engineering can start at $68,000. Who is more likely to pay off a $40,000 student loan? Of course it depends on the individual, but the simple fact is that there should be some effort on the part of the government to encourage people to use financial aid to obtain degrees that result in higher-paying jobs; an employee who is paid more contributes more to the coffers of our nation in terms of taxes, productivity and usefulness of their output. The engine of our corporate economy is driven by the technical professions. Poetry will not win the war in Iraq.

In addition, the government should eliminate all financial aid for people who take more than 4 years to obtain a degree. They are delaying their entry into the workforce and thereby delaying repayment of their aid. They drain resources and attention away from the more capable and efficient students.

For these two reasons, the government must redirect financial aid to students who make the choice to (a) graduate as quickly as possible and (b) study science or engineering or math with the goal of obtaining a job with the maximum possible salary.

To me it becomes a question of subsidizing those professions that will help the United States remain the technological and scientific leader of the world. Private schools that value the humanities can dip into their endowments to reduce tuition for people who want to study linguistics, but as a taxpayer I want to see our nation’s universities churning out graduates who will get high-paying jobs and share the burden of high taxes with me.

The sole purpose of a university’s financial aid programs should be to churn out better, higher-paid employees (or better soldiers or technological innovators). There is no room for the pursuit of “thinking” in our schools. Those days are done.

(note: I am being sarcastic – I don’t actually think this at all)

(photo inflicted by Boris from Vienna)