Guest Post: Students - You Are Exploited Debt-Serfs

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

Students: You Are Exploited Debt-Serfs

Students and parents, wake up: your only salvation lies in political engagement and action.

Of all the exploitative systems in the U.S., none is more rapacious than the Education Cartel
. Like the proverbial frog that is unaware that it's being boiled because the water temperature rises so gradually, college students and their parents are unable to recall what higher education was like before students were herded into debt-serfdom.

Apologists for the Education Cartel like to blame Corporate America or the banks, but the reality is that the Federal and State governments and the employees of the Cartel are willing partners in the exploitation and fraud
. How did we get to the boiling-water point where students are expected to take on $100,000 or more in debt to attend college--even a mediocre one?

Answer: immensely profitable Government-backed loans
. If the Central State wasn't partnered with the Education Cartel, today's debt-serfdom would be impossible.

The partnership plays out on multiple levels. The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that "Liberal" U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi is fighting vigorously to defend the debt-serf-based empires of for-profit "colleges." Why? because these billion-dollar empires give her hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions (duh!).

("Conservatives" love for-profit "colleges" for the same reasons, of course.)

There is nothing remotely educational or liberal about an exploitative Cartel that provides no measurable value to its students while graduating 10% of them. As reported in The New Republic, when General Accounting Office (GAO) investigators posing as prospective students applied to 15 major for-profit "colleges," every one made misleading sales pitches.

The largest for-profit, the University of Phoenix, graduates less than 10% of its students within 10 years.

You may not get any useful skills or a meaningful diploma, but you will end up with $100,000 in debt that can never be written off. Loans imply risk: nobody forces a lender to take on the risk of lending money to a borrower. If the borrower ends up being unable to pay his debts and declares bankruptcy, the debt is wiped off the books and the lender loses the money that was at-risk.

Thanks to the Central State's partnership with the Education Cartel, student loans cannot be dismissed even in bankruptcy. This makes them unique in the world of credit and debt.

Banks lobbied the Central State for guaranteed, no-risk student loans, and the Government was pleased to oblige. The Status Quo fully supports colonizing the "home" population of vulnerable students and turning them into debt-serfs that banks can hound til death and beyond; they're much more pliable and less troublesome than foreign populations who might rebel against the Imperial lash. (This is drawn directly from the Survival+ critique.)

The Education Cartel has mastered the art of propaganda. You can read hundreds of media stories on the plight of K-12 education in the U.S., and the only salary numbers you will find are those for entry-level teachers--usually poverty-level wages below $30,000 in low-income states and in the mid-$30,000s in coastal states.

This careful pruning of published salaries naturally creates the impression that teachers everywhere are toiling away selflessly for poverty wages.

But this is not the case for senior teachers in high-wage states. Courtesy of correspondent Anthony T., here is a database of Illinois teachers salaries, compiled from data provided by the Illinois Board of Education (ISBE). Here are a few sample salaries:

Salary: $172,163
Position: High School Teacher
Full/Part Time: Fulltime
Percent Time Employed: 100%
Assignment: Physics (Grades 9-12 Only)
Years Teaching: 30.5
Degree: Master's

Salary: $163,526
Position: High School Teacher
Full/Part Time: Fulltime
Percent Time Employed: 100%
Assignment: Driver Education
Years Teaching: 32
Degree: Master's

For comparison's sake, this is twice the salary of an Associate Professor at one of the top public universities in the world, the University of California.

These high school teachers' salaries are more than triple the median household income in the U.S., which according to the Census Bureau is $49,777 annually.

This is not to suggest that all teachers are pulling in salaries in this range; the point is the Education Industry is extremely selective about which wages, pensions and benefits packages (for teachers and administrators) get publicity.

Apologists for the Education Cartel always compare these salaries with bloated CEO compensation. In other words, $170,000 a year and $120,000 a year pensions (not counting medical benefits) are "cheap" compared to $30 million pay packages.

Missing in this snapshot is the relative scale: there are about 5,000 CEOs of publicly traded companies which can support bloated CEO pay, while there are 22.5 million public sector employees, millions of employees in the Education Cartel and tens of thousands of bureaucrats, senior teachers, etc.

In other words: let's say we just expropriate ALL corporate profits for Central State spending. Corporations skimmed $1.6 trillion last year, record profits, and companies without GE's tax-avoidance Panzer divisions foolishly paid some $350 billion in corporate taxes, leaving $1.25 trillion to be expropriated.

Given the $1.6 trillion Federal deficit and the states' $150 billion deficits, that means taking every dollar of corporate profit would still leave us a $500 billion Government deficit. If we look at government expenses, we find that roughly 80% are personnel-related: salaries, benefits, pension costs, outside consultants, etc. Most of the Federal entitlement and Defense spending is also direct transfers to beneficiaries and employees.

One person's "waste" is another person's $150,000 a year salary and $100,000 pension.

Since the Federal government spends $3.8 trillion and state and local governments spend another $1.5 trillion, then we can estimate that the State (all government) accounts for $5.3 trillion, or 36% of the entire U.S. GDP.

The state of California currently spends $3.3 billion or 3.2% of its annual budget on the University of California system.

In other words, it's not that there's "no money for education"--it's that trillions of dollars are being squandered on other "priorities" like prisons, $1,000 per gallon fuel in Afghanistan, $170,000 a year "defense consultants," pension payments, etc. etc. etc. Public-sector toadie California Governor Jerry Brown is out whipping up support for his "increase taxes or else you all die" campaign by threatening students with higher tuition and fees--as if they haven't already been stripmined for years by skyrocketing fees: Brown warns of soaring UC costs in all-cuts budget.

In other words, if you don't give us more tax money, we're going to nail students--even though the UC system accounts for a meager 3% of the state's bloated expenses.

This is propagandistic thuggery at it's best/worst.

Meanwhile, The S.F. Chronicle published an article stating that 30% of K-12 spending had nothing to do with what goes on in the classroom--it's all educrat bureaucracy
. On the university level, here is a chart illustrating the same trend in the UC system: administration headcount climbs regardless of any other conditions, as do administrative salaries:

Students, wake up: the reality is actual classroom education is not a spending priority, on any level
. The priority is herding you into lifetime debt-serfdom. The state of California is whining that it's broke and can't support its public universities, yet the UC system absorbs a trivial 3.2% of its budget.

Where the state once subsidized about 2/3 the cost of its public university education, that has shriveled to 20% as tens of billions are funneled into bloated pensions and skyrocketing healthcare benefits for retirees and current workers.

As education costs outstrip inflation by leaps and bounds, who's looking at where the education funding is going? Those benefiting from the Education Cartel are like the nephews and nieces living in the alcoholic, abusive, rich relative's rotting mansion. They are silent about the abuse because their only goal is to get their share of the swag.

How many educators refuse to oil the debt-serf machinery? How many are willing to publicly broadcast the endless gaming, graft, fraud and grifting that plays out in the Education Cartel? How many speak truth to power as bloated administration costs crowd out classroom spending?

How many other public-sector employees are calling for cuts in the 97% of the state budget which isn't spent on the university system so more funding can be channeled to the top-tier education that everyone agrees is the future of our economy? How many voices are there in favor of slashing administrative headcount and costs back to 1996 levels so the funding could be redirected to classroom education?

Expecting the system to reform itself is a futile fantasy. Expecting tuition costs to double every few years and students to fill the gap with another trillion dollars in borrowed money is not just self-defeating for society, it is rapacious. Courtesy of the excellent, here is a chart of inflation from 2000 to Q1 2011. In a low-inflation decade, tuition has more than doubled. This is the acme of unsustainability. Students loans are the only sector of credit which is expanding, and they now exceed $900 billion.

By all means, blame the rapacious banks for student loans, but please note the banks' partner is the enabling power and the enforcer: the Central State, and the Education Cartel which feeds off the rising costs and debt-serfdom of its "customers," the students.

Oh, and don't forget the mainstream media, that willing handmaiden to debt-serfdom. My oh my, the vaunted, self-glorifying Washington Post reaps most of its profit from its ownership of a for-profit diploma-mill, mostly funded by debt-serfdom and Central State swag: How Team Obama is Wreaking Havoc on The Washington Post.

Wake up, students and parents. It's time to become politically aware and politically active. You're not going to escape debt-serfdom passively accepting passage to the slaughterhouse. You'll have to demand radical changes of institutions and fiefdoms which "came to do good and stayed to do well," and demand an affordable education for the real world instead of a gatekeeper's worthless stamp of approval.

Related entries:

The Ratchet Effect: Fiefdom Bloat and Resistance to Declining Incomes (August 23, 2010)

The Irrationality of Public Teachers' Pay Scales (January 5, 2010)

It's Time to End the Student Loan Rip-Off (February 25, 2010)

The Lifecycle of Bureaucracy (December 2, 2010)

Inflation Is Rampant in Tuition, Healthcare and Property Taxes (December 1, 2010)

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hugovanderbubble's picture

MuniBonds CDS ready to get long...


Most of US states runs under default mode...but who cares...

jus_lite_reading's picture

When I was earning my masters many moons ago... there was no such thing as student debt, let alone 90% of the nation being underwater.Muni CDS are troublesome. Danger ahead for sure.

Good thing... things are speeding up in Japan.

The sooner QE3-infinium comes along the sooner the banksters get pushed out.

morkov's picture

i hope educational inflation wipes out fashionable teaching trades from teenagers-internationale curriculum

Beam Me Up Scotty's picture

To top it off, said students like to run around and protect said system. Look at Madison.

Fred Hayek's picture

Yup. It's like the Stockholm Syndrome, for god's sake.  I remember when I was in high school and college, I regarded all my teachers and professors and the administrations of which they were a part as vaguely my enemies.  I had no illusions that they *all* deeply cared about me and my education.  They were in it for the money at least as much.  Somehow these nitwits now are naive to the point of lacking sentience.

Zero Govt's picture

Student brains as soft as shit? ...that's exactly what a State education is designed for

AldoHux_IV's picture

Morally latent and rapacious is how to describe not only this scam, but the scam that has become the democratic process and policymaking in this fucked country.

Popo's picture

Yet another example of how government assistance *always* leads to higher prices.   Homes, education,  etc.

Helping people 'borrow' money they don't have to be able to 'afford' something simply drives the price higher.  It's so painfully obvious that it's excruciating to listen to politicians talk about "assistance".

The only game in town in America is debt.   Debt, debt, debt.   Housing, credit cards, education.   The creation of demand that would not otherwise exist.   Artificial stimulation of the overall economy, and serfdom for the suckers.

If you play the game you lose.   Do not, under any circumstances play the game.. unless you plan to default.  In which case:  You win.

gordengeko's picture

"Challenging the myths of modern schooling"

Alex Jones also had a good segment on our education system not too long ago.

NotApplicable's picture

Thanks to Mr. Gatto, I was convinced to overcome my inertia and pull my kids out of school.

-Michelle-'s picture

Thanks to Mr. Gatto, our kids will never darken the doorsteps of a school.

I'm always amused when people say that they'd homeschool if their local school was bad but their school is one of the good ones.  I don't even bother trying to discuss the idea that the entire system is a trap, "good " school or "bad" school.

RockyRacoon's picture

I think you just described the political situation as well.  My Senator is great, but yours sucks.  So, I'm gonna keep voting for my crook.

-Michelle-'s picture

I think you are correct, sir.

Fred Hayek's picture

I've got one of his books.  It's really eye opening stuff.  Imagine the shock of the educational establishment when they gave him some sort of teacher of the year award and they subsequently realized that he's against the whole pathetic edifice.

slaughterer's picture

The above sounds a little like a Steve Eisman presentation about reasons for shorting the for-profit colleges.

velobabe's picture

Truthdig -Why the Unnited States is destroying its educational system , chris hedges. 4/10/11

gordengeko's picture

“The greatest evil perpetrated,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

Great quote by a German Jew.

forexskin's picture


also try:


it made the rounds at my step daughters U, and she gets it on the debt thing - finally.

NOTW777's picture

worse than the debt and cost is the brainwashing and indoctrination

indognito's picture

Right on. Way too much institutionalized thought is instilled and not enough critical-thinking development.

j0nx's picture

Ahh the hallowed halls of higher education where liberalism takes its root and starts to sprout. Pretty much any job beyond grocery boy or cart wrangler at Walmart requires a college degree these days though so you are forced to play their game unless you are independently wealthy or don't mind asking people if they want paper or plastic.

4xaddict's picture

Doesn't U Phoenix only graduate 10% of students because most are online courses people complete along with their other work commitments and also just those wanting to try something new.

The entry requirements being so comparatively low are always going to attract many more of these kinds of students than Ivy Leagues where those who "really" want to study have had to jump through hoops already to show their commitment levels.

It's like drawing comparison gyms and saying they are a rip off because so few of their clients end up sticking with it and getting fit etc.

I would be interested to see how a serious private university's graduation numbers stack up compared to a faux-university like U Phoenix.

CHS' work normally always timely and informative but sensationalizing things like this just detracts from the overall content. Sounds more like a general gripe than a serious issue.

There is little doubt a very heavy debt burden laboured onto new grads in the US however it's partly the responsibility of the student and parents to weigh up the costs vs the career benefits at the time surely. We can't hand feed every decision to people.

There is reality and it lies somewhere in between this article and the current system imho.

bob_dabolina's picture

University of Phoenix is not a college.

You will never convince me that it is equivalent to a college education.

A trained gerbal can get a degree from UoP

I am Jobe's picture

Educations no matter where you get it from is becoming useless. Pile on debt is the only thing folks will have to show for. The propganda machine continues. UOP at least provides a education for folks who think they want to advance albeit things whih I do nto agree with and what makes other instituitions  great, Professors who has been in teaching all of their lives? So in essence a text book problem solving world. Great more idiots in the making.

4xaddict's picture

Most of the decent content you can get from the web for nothing and encourages people to all think they're arm chair experts however society is missing the key ingredient in any solid education - what to do when things go wrong rather than how to theorize about the most efficient ways to achieve synergies according to Professor Wankmasters laws of business.

Text books all seem to be missing the troubleshooting guide for when things don't go as planned.

Shameful's picture

Even public state university have a horrid graduation level.  I attended Party State and I believe at the time I believe was running a smooth 41% graduation percentage.  Since been gone a few years looks like my alma matter has DOUBLED instate tuition prices, not bad for being gone 3 years...friends telling me they are set for another big rise in the 20% ballpark this next year to.

pan-the-ist's picture

Public state universities have a horrid graduation level because every soccer mom thinks their child needs to be college educated.

The college system in this country is in a bubble because there are a lot of unprepared adult-sized children who attend classes there.

If you send your little irresponsible idiot to college, the college will be happy to take your money and present information to them, but don't blame the college when little Johny fails to take responsibility for his education.

4xaddict's picture

people blindly think that education means a safe secure future however they never seem to do the research into demographics and growth in the sectors they are considering studying.

People have forgotten how to think for themselves.

pan-the-ist's picture

Exactly - who's responsibility is it to tell the student there are no jobs in elementary education, but that's a hell of a decision to make and a large sunk cost.

The problem, as I see it, is that kids are swept into college after high school.  Most of them should spend some time in the real world before they go, so they know why they are there.

andybev01's picture

Not every baby is an 'Einstein', people.

That goes for yours as well.

RockyRacoon's picture

Trade schools!   See what a plumber, heat/air, painter, sheet metals, trim carpenter, brick/stone/tile setter, electrician, mechanic, or a welder is paid.  And I don't mean the union guys.   Local fellas who show up, do the job, get paid, and feed their families.   They do quite well and are the real backbone of the labor force.   I have had a real estate broker license since the mid 1970s and had an HVACR license for many years.   The building downturn has made a lot of the less skilled workers, or less savvy business oriented, hit the pavement; but the real pros always have work (or can go where the work is).  I've worked with a lot of these fine guys (and women) and they are our national treasures.

ElvisDog's picture

Part of that is because of the monolithic propaganda from Obama all the way down how the only road to success in America is through a college education. Probably 99% of parents and their children believe this meme.

RobotTrader's picture

Hilarious how the most resilient stocks today are the "Metrosexuals":




That basket of stocks must be the "Trade of the Decade" plays.

Plus, they are Fed-sponsored and TPTB-supported.

Richard Head's picture

Let's see you post some evidence of an actual trade, just one.  Otherwise all your posts are full of shit.

Mises's picture

FSG...there's your trade

topcallingtroll's picture

I post numbers with my trades. I have given robo the benefit of the doubt for too long. I am quite positive he.doesnt make a living day trading like he claimed. He should put up numbers like me.

anony's picture

That's it?

No seriously endowed femme fatales?

And WFMI is not a metrosensual institution.  Their Asian pears, coupled with a bottle of their eau de vin, and steeenky fromages, is to die for.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

"No seriously endowed femme fatales?"

I think even Robo is getting tired of Robo's act.

slaughterer's picture

You forgot LULU, robo.  Up half a percent today and metro as all the other. 

Cow's picture

Your post has nothing to do with this article.  As usual.

anony's picture

College/University for the most students is the new Senior High School.

A playground for professors who abhor students and teaching, students who find learning tedious, and since curiosity about important matters has been substituted for b.s. that passes for curricula these days, it's more of a pleasant purgatory for most so-called students and scholars.

The ones serious about their education are a fraction of the entire nationwide student body. 

pazmaker's picture

I will agree with you...however there are some exceptions.... Local state community colleges are much more affordable and accesable without going into debt.  Many of them teach real world skills that can be used.   ex:  x-ray tech, sonographer, electrician, HVAC   etc.

ElvisDog's picture

My take is for many students college is daycare for young adults. Four years (or more) of Friday parties, hooking up, and copious consumption of alcohol and other drugs.

RobotTrader's picture

I'm wondering if TPTB is trying to turn the dollar here and cause a meltdown in foreign currencies.

Rick Masters's picture

Where do you think the dollar goes in the next couple months Robo? Think it will breach 72 or will demand destruction kill oil and send people back into cash and treasuries as a safe haven (I  still belive the dollar is the safe haven simply because other currencies are in worse shape not because of the Benankenstein monster.)

lynnybee's picture

Oh, if ever there was a posting that speaks to me, this is it.    This country's precious young people were TARGETED !   ....targeted by the BUSH ADMINISTRATION & all the monied interests ... target our youth with cheap money & unlimited credit & be DEBT SLAVES.    When I was young, NO BANK in their RIGHT MIND would have ever lent out unlimited credit !!!  

Not only did they plunge our youth into debt, but, now these young people are so saddled with student loans that they cannot afford to buy houses !!   

"Wouldn't you like to borrow more money, little girl, little boy ?   Pay it back with cheaper dollars !   Investing in yourself is the best investment ! "  ~~ except over 8,000,000 jobs were offshored during just the past ten years ~~  

going to college is going to go the way of the baby boomers ~~ colleges & universities expanded now it is also their turn to contract ~~ goodbye worthless professors.    

bob_dabolina's picture

oh fuck

Bushs fault. That gets so old.

Holodomor2012's picture

He works for the Vatican you know?