A long time ago, college was something that you could pay for by waiting on tables for four years. Now, it’s part of the big three horsemen attacking American society: ballooning health care costs, the retirement of baby boomers and the need to suck up a huge debt to pay for four years of education. Here’s a snippet from a nice long piece by Lee Munson about how this depression is different from the first big one to hit America. I think he’s needlessly pessimistic about our chances– there are a number of ways that things are better– but I’m astounded that the cost of college is now mentioned in the same breath as health care or retirement. It shouldn’t be the same order of magnitude but somehow it is.
Finally, the US faces a demographic problem it did not face during the Great Depression, or in the same way in the 70s, because of our ballooning costs of health care and other entitlements and benefits. In the 1930’s there was no retirement or thundering herd of people living off portfolios and not working. We had no cost containment questions relating to healthcare or the pervasive need for all young people to go to college and indebt themselves or their family members for years.