Boo Boo Borrowers

By Bill Maher

Remember when you were in college and, around exam time, the school would bring in petting zoo animals for you to pet and hold to reduce the stress of finals?  

No. Of course not. That never happened. We went to college on reasonable, repayable student loans because tuition wasn’t tantamount to a home mortgage, we did our work, we partied on the weekends, we caught crabs from that creepy girl who had a single room at the end of the hall and, at exam time, we’d stay up all night and cram and get a “C.”

At Washington University in St. Louis, they recently brought in petting zoo animals, like they have for years, to soothe the kids’ anxiety over upcoming exams and a bear cub named Boo Boo – cute as the dickens – promptly bit 14 of the kids, drawing blood. And now Boo Boo has to be destroyed so he can be tested for rabies and, if he does, the kids have to go through painful rabies vaccinations. And you thought that crab shampoo was an inconvenience.

When did colleges turn into these coddling diploma mills designed, not so much to prepare kids for the workforce and catapult them into the upper-middle class, as to “provide an experience” and saddle them with an adult-size debt load?

There are currently 40 million Americans with student loan debt totaling $1.1 trillion, according to Deputy US Treasury secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin. That’s more than the entire country owes on its credit cards. Sixty percent of college grads left school with student loan debt in 2012, as compared to just 30 percent as recently as 1993. The average college kid currently graduates – if he survives the bear bites – owing about $30,000 that will take ten or more years to repay.

If they repay at all. College loan delinquencies and defaults are on the rise to the tune of seven million borrowers and rising. People are getting these overpriced degrees they can’t pay for and defaulting on their loans, which trashes their credit scores, so they can’t borrow for a car or a house, and the whole economy is threatened. Thanks, capitalism!

Isn’t it always a bad thing when we turn the essentials, like healthcare and education, over to the free market, where greed and the profit motive ultimately undermine the initial purpose? It seems every time we do that the rich come out ahead and an undue burden is placed on the hand-to-mouthers.