William Bennett, who wants parents and students to take a hard look at the cost of college and its benefits, claims in his new book that a better education can be found in a coffee shop or parents' basements.
"The relevant questions are: What do people do when they leave this school? What kind of jobs do they get? How much money do they make? What fields? What do they owe?" he told Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview. "What are the honest records of this school? Quite apart from the puffery we get in the catalog, what's the real record?"
Bennett – the former Secretary of Education and author of "Is College Worth It?" – said online courses can be utilized, and he addressed the issue of crushing student loan debt.
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"There are a lot of people that think the president's going to move [a] big forgiveness provision for everybody who's got student loans, since this is a big part of his political base," he said. "That … would mean the burden would fall on the taxpayers."
Bennett stated that the more money the federal government puts in, the higher prices go as the availability of massive amounts of student aid increases the price of college.
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"It's exactly the opposite of what people think," he said. "It doesn't help the problem. It hurts the problem. It puts gasoline on the fire. Colleges will tell you, 'We charge top dollar to our wealthy kids and their families, but that's so we can afford scholarships for the poor kids.' "
The statistics he presented included figures from 1970, when 12 percent of the bottom quartile in the American economic ladder went and graduated from college. In 2010 it was 7 percent.
"The higher the prices have gone, the more supposedly available money there's been for the poor, the less of it has gone to the poor and fewer of them have gone to college," he said "It's become a middle-class, even an upper-middle-class entitlement. The prices continue to go up. A poor kid gets a Pell Grant for $12,000, but he's going to a school that costs $25,000 or $50,000. So it doesn’t help him. This is kind of the shame of this because it's all done under this liberal banner of helping the poor."
Bennett went on to state that we're not matching education with the needs of the economy.
"By the year 2018, there will be 14 million jobs available, good jobs, well-paying jobs that will require more than a high school degree, but less than a college degree," he said.
"There are jobs out there in radiation technology, in air traffic control, in nuclear technology, in all sorts of jobs in the technical sector where a two-year degree will do you very well. You will start off at a good salary and you can make more and more. If you go to a liberal arts college, major in Women's Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology, my major, Philosophy, you can get out and get nothing. You won't even be a talk radio show's assistant."
Another issue addressed was how many graduating seniors from high school are emotionally ready for college or if they know what they want to be.
"Almost everybody's better off waiting," he said. "Almost everybody who waits and goes later says it was a good idea. Go out and get a job. See what the real world is like. Find out who you are outside of that make believe world of high school that is the case in so many communities in America. Join the military. There's a place you can get some job training, serve your country, get a pretty good deal, too.
"Or try a community college. It's close by. It's local. It's probably inexpensive. Find out what you're interested in. Take a whole array of courses before you make this big four-year commitment which is so expensive and might not be worth the money and the time."
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